College. The four years of your life that are supposed to be the happiest years of your life. For some people, that’s honestly the truth. For others, not so much. In either case, what happens after those four years? Most of us spend that time living on campus, or close by, constantly surrounded by friends and a community who are all going through the same thing. After graduation, people move, get jobs, get married, have babies, etc. A lot of the time, this transitionary period brings a lot of emotions and feelings that we often don’t discuss, but having an open discussion about the end of college and what this means.
I’m going to preface this post by saying that I don’t have a lot of ties to my university. I was definitely very involved, but I was never in a sorority, I was only briefly president of a club, and the majority of my activities revolved around being off-campus. That being said, I still was an active participant on campus and I had friends and acquaintances on campus that I hung out with a lot. For 4 years, those were the people who I saw each day, studied with until 2am, and cried to about failed relationships. Some of these people are still in my life and some aren’t, but once you graduate, a lot of those physical ties are cut. You don’t see those people every day unless you end up in the same place and even still, people now have bigger lives and jobs that take up their time.
Imagery by: Yossy Akinsanya
A lot of graduates experience post-graduation anxiety or depression purely because while we are taught about how to study for finals, we aren’t taught how to cope with this sudden loss. I call this a loss because you do end up losing touch with a lot of the network we’ve spent 4 years cultivating and you have to suddenly readapt to a new environment after making a different place your home. Being unable to be in an environment like that is hard enough, but when you add in the rising costs of education and the really tough job market, are we just setting up early 20-year olds to fail?
Navigating this transition requires a real network behind recent graduates. It’s not easy to keep in touch with people, whether you are in grad school or working a 9-to-5. This transition is bound to have hiccups, even for people who seem to have picture-perfect lives on Instagram. You can be as prepared as you want for the next steps after college, but things still may not be perfect. That’s just honesty.
As I’ve transitioned into my job, I’ve found myself having to force myself to dedicate time to doing things I love, like photography. I became so consumed in moving forward with my life that I forgot about the things I did in college that I loved, which did not help my mental state. My life changed very rapidly between February to September. I decided to stay in Atlanta and work in politics instead of going to London for grad school. Without a place to live, I ended up moving back in with my mom. While I love my mother, that was not in my five-year plan and I had to cope with a lot of the constraints that happen when you go from living by yourself to going back living in my parents’ household. Let’s just say that transition has not been easy, but in the end, it will help me in the long run.
I’ve definitely gone through down periods where I end up crying to myself that I have no friends in Atlanta. Eventually, I stand in the mirror and remind myself that I do have people, but it’s not entirely on them to keep our relationships going. It’s a 50-50 partnership and I have started to make a greater effort in order to keep these relationships going. I’ve also had to make new friends, putting myself out there again, just like I did in college. As someone who is definitely an introvert, this is a real struggle. In restarting this part of my life, I joined a soccer club where I meet new people, started doing more with blogging when I want to be alone, and joined a few social clubs where young professionals come to meet new professionals.
While college does not teach you how to leave, it does invariably show you how to put yourself out there and be in a new social situation and find your people. In reality, everyone who just finished college is in this situation. If they tell you they aren’t, they’re lying to you. No one’s life is picture perfect and everyone is trying to find their place in this world just as much as you are. You’re not alone, we’re all in this together, to quote one of the greatest musicals of all time. It takes time to transition out of college, but don’t be afraid to reach out to people, even when you think they don’t want to talk to you. You never know when this may be the right time when they need someone just as much as you do. Deal with this transition at your own pace and just remember: you made it through college. If you did it once, you can do it again, especially with the entire world at your disposal now.