First of all, mourn the loss of college. Within the first five days of walking across stage and accepting your diploma, you are going to start feeling a sinking pit of despair in your gut. You are going to mistake this feeling for full-on depression, polio or gas, but it’s none; it’s a loss. The sooner you begin the stages of grieving, the sooner you are going to start feeling better.
There will be days when the only social interaction you have will be with the barista at Starbucks or the high school girl taking your drive-thru order at Taco Bell. Try not to let this get to you and strike up a conversation about the Norah Jones album next to the cash register or just flash a smile and see if you can get extra mild sauce for your solo dining experience.
Do not let yourself have too much free time. For the love of God, please, please do not let yourself have too much free time. In these periods, is when you will honestly feel that you are depressed/lonely/crazy. You will access your HBO On Demand service and the next thing you know it’s gone from Saturday morning to Wednesday at noon and you’re surrounded by jars of your own urine and 4 seasons of Entourage now show the taunting check mark of “watched.”
If you’re going to spend money you don’t have, only do so if going out with friends. Go to 24 Diner and get the milkshake and macaroni and cheese, try a new drink on Rainy Street, enjoy the company of friends and work on your conversational skills with strangers. Avoid going to Target and convincing yourself that you need the deluxe Blu-ray version of Downton Abbey, YOU DON’T; it’s going to be on Netflix within a week anyways.
Get a job.
It’s okay if you have to move back in with your parents. When you make the tough choice go to your bathroom and quietly sob while listening to Arcade Fire’s ‘Funeral.’ Try and think of the positives: you have parents who are willing to take you back when, legally, you’re not their problem anymore; free food; this is your chance to save up money so that you can stand on your own two feet or buy that plane ticket to Seattle; free food; you have your dogs unyielding love back in your life; free food.
Force yourself on people at work. Not sexually, but charismatically! Put on the robes of a clown and try to charm everyone you see. There will be moments where you can see people getting annoyed at the fact that you are cheerful at work, but if you are happy you will attract people who are happy as well and that will bring you that much closer to your life being Friends/Happy Endings/How I Met Your Mother/ Degrassi: Adult Lyfe Iz Hard!
When Jay Z’s management team asks you to get a 4X12 white candle from the West Elm 11 blocks away, DO NOT make the incredibly stupid mistake of thinking “linen” or “snow” is the same thing as white. THEY. ARE. NOT. White is specifically white in their eyes and if you mistake this you will be greeted with a prompt, “You’re pathetic,” at the freight elevator.
When you look at Facebook and think to yourself that everyone but you has it together, shut it down. Log out and get on Tumblr where strangers with funny gifs will ease your anxiety. And try to take in solace that what you are reading on Facebook is 97% the peak of their day. So screw them when they get a job offer in San Diego or post pictures from that Kelly Clarkson concert that you had no interest in going to.
This is one of the hardest ones. When it seems like every single freaking person you know is getting engaged, be happy for him or her. Don’t let their decision define you as “permanently single and unable to have a serious relationship,” remember that you were raised in the Carrie Bradshaw generation where being single past 21 is incredibly socially accepted and that they are the exception to the rule, not you. And if all else fails convince others and yourself that your father didn’t settle down until he was 40 and that you are destined to follow in his footsteps.
Sneaking Whole Foods cheddar biscuits into a matinee showing of Rock of Ages can be a little exhilarating and count as your rebellious stage.
Go on dates and don’t let the nervousness of putting yourself out there be intimidating. Just because a third of your friend group found their mate at a campus ministry doesn’t mean you had to. Find single friends that want to be fun and adventurous and play the game of “out of all these customers at Panera Bread, whom would you screw?”
See The Dark Knight Rises twice and listen, watch, and truly take in Batman’s message: do not let fear define or cripple you. You’re in your twenties and having it all together by next week is not an option. Don’t let the anxiety of life get you so terrified that you want to stay hidden in the bottom drawer of your dresser for a week, or just go back to your urine-jar-filled room and pretend that you’re safe with Turtle, E, and the gang. The hardest step is the first, and SPOILERS if Batman can escape the 6-mile radius of an atom bomb in less than a minute, you can surely make it through brunch.
When you are offered a 2-week gig in Nashville as an assistant for a cooking show, take it – even though you’re going to have full-blown panic attacks that last the entire duration of your 15-hour drive there and a near death experience at an Arkansas McDonald’s. This gig is not going to change your future in the way that you hope for it to, but you will have some fun stories at the end of each day and will have challenged yourself in ways you never thought possible. You’re also going to get to crash on the bedroom floor of your best friends new house and be there for the next steps of her incredible journey. This will help you regain a sense of the collegiate normality you feared was lost after you took those steps across the stage, and in this time of your life normality is what you need most.
Oh, and while grabbing for a large mirror to move out of a shot you will instead grab the boob of a 53-year-old German woman who will simply wink at you letting you know that both you and everything is all right.
You can read more from Zackary Wilburn on his blog.
Image via ShutterStock.