Today I had to run to Walmart for a list of cleaning supplies and a gallon of milk, and I couldn’t pass the crowded school supply aisles without a pang of nostalgia. It’s hard to believe that it has been five years ago this month since I was a shy college-bound teenager shopping amid those seas of brightly color-coordinated college dorm decorations and school supplies. Sometimes it seems that many more years must have passed since then, and other times it seems more like it was only a few short months ago.
Nobody can actually prepare you for life after college. When you’re in college, you think you’re an “adult”; but in reality, college is basically a bridge between high school and the adult world. I learned so much in four years at college, but I think I’ve learned even more in the months since I graduated.
The “real world” is simultaneously exciting and terrifying. Nothing can actually prepare you for the massive life transition. I think that the term “Quarter Life Crisis” is a good way to describe the difficulty of figuring out how to become an adult. Learning this is something we all have to do on our own, but I think stories and advice from people who have experienced it can definitely help. I know it has helped me, and I wanted to share some of what I’ve learned recently:
1) I am braver and stronger than I ever thought. It’s amazing how much inner strength you can find when you’re forced to use it.
2) Some people in life won’t like me, and that’s O.K. I’ve worked with some difficult people. I can’t allow someone to make my life miserable, and it’s also a challenge to keep a positive attitude in a not-so-positive environment.
3) Being alone can be extremely painful, but God really is always there. It’s true.
4) My family is my biggest blessing.
5) Friendships will never be like they were in college. We’ve all read the articles about college friendships being different than other friendships throughout life. They are. Making friends after college is hard work. It can be discouraging, but it just takes a lot more effort and intentionality than it did in college.
6) It isn’t healthy to spend too much time being nostalgic. I’m guilty of this, and I have to tell myself not to dwell on past memories so much that I forget to look up and make beautiful new ones right now. This reminds me of the C.S. Lewis quote: “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”
7) Perspective is important. Another quote comes to mind, this time from Abraham Lincoln: “If you look for the bad in people expecting to find it, you surely will.” Surround yourself with positive people, and it will be easier to see the good.
8) No job is a waste of time or credentials. It’s easy to feel entitled; we did after all just finish a long four years of schooling to have a degree that supposedly gives us the right to have a job in our field. I think that one of the most important lessons I took away from college is that I need to always be willing to learn. And I can do that no matter where I’m currently working.
9) Fill your free time with good things. Instead of spending hours on Netflix, Facebook, Pinterest, Buzzfeed, etc.—which I have been guilty of many times—go explore somewhere you’ve never been, read a good book, volunteer, learn something new. Don’t waste your days. Life is too short.
10) And finally, don’t give up. Don’t be afraid of life’s changes. One Bible verse in particular has helped me recently: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). God understands our struggles, and He will always be with us.
I’d recommend making your own list of what you’ve learned recently (and feel free to comment some of them on this post)! My list definitely helped me realize that no time is wasted if you’re learning from it. And learning outside of a classroom is a different type of learning—one I believe that we will use for the rest of our lives. For all of you out there struggling with me through the “Quarter Life Crisis,” just breathe and know that life is a constant adventure, and we are never in it alone.