What I wish I knew about staying in my college town after graduation
You may have just started your senior year, but graduation is still looming in the distance. It’s on your mind when you start your first lasts. Your last first day, your last first assignment, your last first night out of the semester with all your friends at your favorite bar. It’s the proverbial elephant in the room, only it’s really more of a Harry Potter howler, sent by your parents to scream about your future career path. You’re constantly on the lookout, because you know that around any corner is a well meaning adult who’s ready to ask you about your future plans.
After a few weeks you’ll learn how to perfect a fake Miss America smile when you say you’re not sure what you’re doing in May, but the end of the year you’ll grit your teeth like a wild animal and wish you could tell them you were moving to a remote island a la Arrow to change your name and start fresh.
The overwhelming pressure to figure out your entire life in under a year might lead you to a big city, or you might freeze up and stay in your beloved college town. I chose college, and while I don’t regret staying in the city I loved, wish I knew what I was gaining and giving up. It was kind of like spring break forever, only with less Alien.
You’re going to run into everyone you know, all the time
You know how it’s basically a guarantee that you’ll run into the guy you were hanging with last night when you’re in disgusting sweats at the dining hall, with last night’s makeup smeared across your face? Imagine that, only with everyone you know on a daily basis after graduation. You’ll walk of shame by professors when you’re grabbing breakfast, and if someone breaks your heart you’re guaranteed to see them at the only twenty-something bar in town (20s as an age group, not a super chic speakeasy). At first it seems like you’re still in school in the best possible way, but once you start putting on full makeup to go to the gym because everyone you’ve ever met will be there.
Eventually, everyone has to graduate
Your first year as an actual adult means that everyone younger than you is still around… But they’re still around taking classes and spending time in grimy college bars, while you’re ready to pass out business cards networking happy hours. There’s way less pressure when you’re not forced to make a new set of friends the second you cross the stage, hat still in hand, but eventually, everyone moves on. People graduate and leave, only coming back for Homecoming, and you’re still stuck in the same place, perusing other lives on LinkedIn, and wondering if the grass is greener when it’s not your game day football field.
Embrace how cheap everything is but still save
You’re an adult! With an actual paycheck! (As meager as it may be). Before you start spending your hard earned paycheck on mixologist cocktails, realize that if you do eventually want to explore the big, bad world out there you need funds. What you’re making probably seems like peanuts compared to what you imagined adult life would entail, but if you save just a little bit of it you’ll eventually have a teeny, tiny nest egg.
You’re stuck somewhere between college and full blown adulthood
When I had my first interview for a grown up job after graduation, I flew to New York City and made sure to wear a blazer to look like someone on a millennial TV show about having it all. Once I arrived, my interviewee told me that it was actually an interview for an internship with a stipend of $12 a day. In NYC that couldn’t buy you anything, including the box I would’ve had to move into. I was in such a state of shock that I thought New York could never be for me.
Moving will always be a terrifying leap of faith, but you can still do it
While living paycheck to paycheck isn’t something I recommend because personal experience, I sometimes wish that I took the leap a couple of years ago when it seems like everyone else did. Being a writer/nanny/struggling artiste would’ve been easier at 22 than it is on the twenty-something side of thirty. I loved staying in my college town (especially since it was New Orleans). But sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to move away. Who knows? I love the life I have now. But I wish I had known some things back than.
[Image via Warner Bros.]