Navigating the Post-College Limbo

No one warns you about how young you feel upon graduating college. Immediately after putting on that cap and gown, I fielded questions left and right about what I’m up to now and do I feel different and how I’m a real adult now, but–

Benefits of graduating: Sitting under a tree with no homework to complete.

For the most part, I’ve come out a week after graduation feeling very, very young. Age 21, college graduate; it sounded old until it didn’t anymore. I leaned on my mom’s shoulder yesterday and caught myself wondering if that’s something I am supposed to do anymore. Should I straighten up and act like other adults? The phrase “grow up, but don’t grow old” doesn’t have any real meaning to me. I’ve barely started the first one, let alone had time to ponder the second.

I am luckier than many of my fellow recent college grads. I have a job. Maybe not a totally “real” job, as some mumbling baby boomer might say, but it is a salaried position that has a hard end point of two years. It scared me less than the other possibility, where they wanted to me to commit to the career track. I liked the position, felt like I could do it well and be comfortable working there for a good long time. But then I went back to the feeling that I am too young. Twenty-one feels too soon to settle in when only a year ago I was planning my trip abroad to conduct student research. That wanderlust, that love of learning and talking to new people around the world hasn’t left me.

The woman at the career center, a few weeks before my graduation, said to me that our priorities change when we find new employment. I know, I thought at the time, that’s what worries me.

I have two months before my job begins: Two months to live at home in limbo between college student and independent adult. Each day I have to renegotiate boundaries and figure out how I can prepare for my next step. Here’s what I’ve discovered so far.

  1. Going home after graduation feels like a regular summer vacation between school years. I keep having to pinch myself and say “Hey you, you’re a college graduate.” One would think the constant questions of where I am off to next would trigger that feeling more naturally, but I have quickly figured out how to autopilot through that conversation as fast as possible.
  2. Financial boundaries are beginning to get murky. My parents have helped me tremendously through my time in college. My mom and dad have both provided me homes on breaks. My dad paid for my car and continues to pay out my car loans while I’m practically penniless. And I will likely continue to take advantage of my mother’s health insurance until someone kicks me off it. But there are little things now, building on the bigger understandings that my housing, my groceries, my whole life will soon rely on my financial decisions in a state or two away from home.
  3. I feel in my gut that I made the right decision to take the two-year job that I did. Already, I know that I feel comfortable back home, taken care of by my mother and harassed gently by my sister. My room looks the same, my cork board with my study abroad memories tacked up on the wall, my old and new books, and a cozy chair to curl up in. My diploma sits inelegantly on top of a side table, mixed in with my old life. The job I took is far from perfect. It will entail long hours and endless work, and I don’t know exactly where I will be sent yet. But I knew if I came out of graduation without a job, it would be easy to settle in and forget about my dreams.
  4. I like hard deadlines. They propel me forward, force an uncomfortable reality to take hold, and shove me out the door. Come August, I will have to leave whether I want to or not. I have to make the decision about what stays here and what goes with me when I leave home. I have to study for the GRE, because Lord knows I won’t have time to think about grad school once I begin work. And, knowing me, I’ll be madly preparing for what is to come.

Like the cliches go, one chapter must end before the other begins. Through this blog, I hope to tackle important challenges ahead with tips, tricks, and screw ups. Each week, I will take on one issue on my mind, whether that be budgeting woes, apartment prep, cooking solo, and more.

See you next week,



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