You think of your job and you think of all the other people you know doing more interesting things with their lives. You feel guilty about griping when you know plenty of capable friends who are still unemployed. It could’ve been you.
You deal with never seeing people you saw every day, and you’re consequently trying to figure out how to recalibrate your social life with the surprisingly plentiful number of fellow alums in and around your current metropolitan area. You try to laugh and connect with your coworkers at happy hour the same way you did with your collection of run-ins at Thursday night survivor hours, but it’s not the same. You think you should feel bad about not attempting to make new friends, but you don’t.
You adjust to seeing people out of the 18-22 year old age range. You bite your tongue before you use the word “old” to describe yourself around your 32 year old supervisor. She simultaneously laughs and grimaces when you do. You don’t look forward to your 30’s.
You want to live in one of those walkable neighborhoods and never drive, but you’re still filling up the car your parents gave you with $3.57 gas. You can’t afford that yuppie life yet.
You’ll have that life when you’re not still living at Chez Mommy & Daddy, or when you’re still not somehow as broke as you were a few months ago. You’re content with 10% of your paycheck is going toward your 401k as you imagine your septuagenarian-self sipping mai thais on a beach in San Juan. But you flinch when you see how much you’re paying in taxes and, just for a glimmer of a moment, you understand why people join the Republican Party. A significant piece of your meager monthly take home pay is going toward paying “the man” for the “glory days.” You remind yourself that the President just finished paying off his student loans and you feel better.
You visit grounds and everything’s just as you left it, it’s just not yours anymore. You throw jealous glances at people who clearly look like they were in high school a summer ago. You joke about how nice it is to be hanging out on the Lawn, the Corner, the neighborhood you used to live in, without the constant load of assignments hanging over your head like a wet towel, but you secretly miss studying. Sometimes you feel as if your brain has begun a process of slow atrophy since you left school in May. Sometimes you learn a language with some cheaper version of Rosetta Stone. Sometimes you pick up an old course book you were supposed to read in its entirety your second year and flip the pages. You smile at the frantic notes you jotted in the margins, probably minutes before class.
The nostalgia for school hits all-time highs when you scroll through your Facebook photos. While you scan the faces and comments of old, you listen to “Rivers and Roads” by The Head and the Heart.
To occupy all your excess time, you watch all the T.V. series everyone’s been telling you about, and you wonder how writers can come up with this mind-crack. You wonder why you can’t write mind-crack. You berate yourself just like you did when you watched those Olympians five years your junior achieve their dreams.
You’re still reeling a little since realizing you’ve reached the end of your life-plan trajectory, because, (and you’re not alone in this), you never planned past graduation. Freedom isn’t free of anxiety, or debt. If you did plan, maybe they’re just postponed for some later date. Hopefully they’re not too far away now. Maybe those plans will meet you half way – somewhere down the road they’ll pull a godfather and make you an offer you can’t refuse.
Maybe you live in a place of your own, painfully writing that rent check each month, enjoying the independence but never expecting how lonely you’d feel. You call your mom. Like, actually initiate a call to your mother. It’s different now. Your parents are less embarrassing than you remember and way more of what they told you turned out to be true. You’re not even reluctant to say it. You’re adults together.
You’re an adult, you come to fully gather, and you end up buying tons of grown-up stuff that your 14-year-old self would hate you for spending money on: curtains, proper knives, and a crockpot you don’t know how you ever lived without. You find memorabilia that you probably shouldn’t own anymore- kitschy plates from your Grandma and captioned glasses from Urban Outfitters (in the vein of “Sotally Tober” or “I will out drink all you bitches.”) So you nest a little more wisely, and you can’t help but picture nesting with that special someone someday…long from now.
Except people you know seem to be getting engaged. You go to your first non-family wedding and you say to yourself, “So it begins.” Someone tells you to distance yourself from your borderline-best girlfriends in case they ask you to be a bridesmaid sometime soon, which is apparently very expensive.
You take trips to see now far away friends. Maybe you’re the one who’s far away. Maybe the risk of moving west, north or south was well worth it, and you couldn’t imagine post grad any other way, or maybe it feels like self-exile. Either way, you curse yourself when you pay for plane, train or bus tickets. You’ll enjoy how familiar everything feels when you’re home again and you’ll wonder why you ever left. But then, either by a gentle or harsh reminder, you’ll remember exactly why you left.
You wonder where you’ll be in five years (when you’re 27?!). You hope not as unfocused. You hope that what the past 8 months has been was just an orientation to the real world rather than what’s it’s actually all about, growing pains. Most importantly, you hope you figure out what identity you can replace with that of “student.”
You have a feeling it’s way too soon to tell.
By Bethel Habte