The Things I Learned In Life After College

With graduation season ending, I find myself looking back on the last seven years of post-college life.

I was dropped off on the brick pathway outside the girls-only dorm at Mercyhurst College on Aug. 28, 2006, by my parents and first boyfriend.

The next four years went by so fast. I remember sitting in my two-bedroom apartment after everyone had left on move-out day of my senior year thinking, “What just happened?”

The bigger question looming was, “What now?”

I, unlike several of my classmates, had not spent much time applying for writing jobs and wasn’t too concerned about the future. This resulted in me treading in a pool with millions of other students nationwide just barely able to keep our noses above water once those student loan bills started rolling in.

It was a rude awakening, one that some college students will be in for in the coming six months. They’ll move back in with their parents (like I did). They’ll spend time partying and working in bars and restaurants (like I did) and remain blissfully unaware, away from the nine-to-five working world (like I was for a while).

“Maybe I shouldn’t have even gone to college,” I told my mom when she reminded me it was time to use my degree. “Maybe it was a waste.”

I’ll never forget the look on her face when I said that.

“Education is never a waste,” she said, now nearly 20 years into a teaching career.

She was right.

I met a woman at the resort pool near my apartment yesterday who told me both of her daughters, 23 and 25, are “completely lost.”

I nodded in understanding, both for what they are going through and what my mother must have thought in those lost days of mine. For some of us, the years following high school or college graduation are even more confusing than our teenage years. There is no one to tell you what to do or where to go. That can be an incredibly exciting — at times scary — thought.

I’m not writing from a pedestal that I’ve got it all together, but I do now more than I did five years ago and with each passing year, I realize how much my writing career has changed and the difficulty level to which it has progressed.

I don’t think I could have done this, made this move to write for the newspaper I’m at now, straight out of college. I wouldn’t have had the mental strength or experience that I do now, gained through trial and error.

Self-discipline also plays a major role in keeping alive the focus and determination required to succeed. That’s impossible to know until you’ve messed things up for yourself a few times.

Anyway, it is the thought of so many college students graduating this month that keeps me looking forward to the next decade with hope and optimism, like they are.

I only wish I could tell them not to waste any time, to jump into the workforce sooner rather than later, because time seems to go faster and faster with each passing year and sleeping in until 2 p.m. gets old the older you are.

But they’ll find that out from experience (like I did).