What Returning For Graduation At My Alma Mater Taught Me About Post Grad Life
Feeling way older than you actually are
If you’ve ever been back to your college campus as a post grad, there are probably a few different things you felt – nostalgic, excited, hesitant, and above all, old. Yep, even at only a year or two out, you feel old. Going back to campus after graduation, even if your school is huge and no one recognizes you, makes you feel like you have a giant target on your back. You think everyone knows you don’t belong anymore. They wonder why you’re there and why you haven’t moved on.
In my first two years post grad, going back to UNH felt weird. Like I said, you feel old. Like, super incredibly elderly old. You have a job and bills and student loans and other random adult nonsense and you feel so removed from college life. Going back to UNH for graduation this year felt a little different, though. I hadn’t been on campus in almost a year and I was finally able to feel excited about seeing everything again.
With that said, I still felt old. We hit up the college bars Friday night (NOT MY IDEA) and I definitely felt out of place. It didn’t really bother me as much, though, because I now feel more settled in my “adult” life. So instead of playing it cool and trying to act like I belonged, I instead acted like this the whole time:
Finding Your Own Pace
In the past going back to UNH for graduation has made me feel a weird mix of sadness and jealousy that I fortunately didn’t feel this year. Usually this weird feeling comes from wishing I could be in the grads’ shoes again. You’re just starting out, the possibilities are endless, blah blah blah. I’d get these thoughts in my head of, ‘well if only I were 22 again I wouldn’t waste time stressing about whether I’m a real writer and I’d actually go for it and put my work out there.’ I see so many young people who have wild success and I kick myself for not pursuing more opportunities right out of school.
The thing is, though, you can’t always realize what you want without first going through that weird murky phase where everything stresses you out and you have no idea what you’re doing. You can’t always just be on this perfect path to success and always know the right decisions to make at the right times. That’s not possible. You have to be confused sometimes and doubtful and you’ll make wrong choices or do random things because you literally have no idea what you’re doing. That’s ok. That’s normal.
I’ve been learning to be ok with where I am. I used to beat myself up for not being that 22-year-old with a six-figure book deal. I’d see someone else do it and think I missed my chance. I’m only now realizing how not true that is. Someone else’s success doesn’t negate your ability to do amazing things with your life. No one’s path is on the same schedule and comparison is more likely to derail you than someone else’s achievements will.
College graduation speeches are always about chasing your dreams and making the most of every opportunity, but I think that sets people up for disappointment and self-doubt. I’ve learned that while it is important to go after opportunities, it’s also ok to slow down and explore the things that interest you and to spend some time learning about yourself. You don’t have to be constantly down on yourself because your dreams haven’t come true yet, or because you don’t even know what your dreams are.
Whether you graduated this month or five years ago or ten even, take a breath and realize it’s ok if everything hasn’t worked out yet. It will. Just try to enjoy the time it takes to get there.