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Congratulations on graduating. I’ve been contributing to the modern wellspring of Internet garbage for more than four years now and I’ve learned a few things: every negative commenter has sucked at least one dick, when you misconjugate “your,” a college English major gets to feel useful, and that during graduation season, things get a bit dark. Just look around the Internet–it’s as if life ends after college. I googled “college graduation” and half of the results were about stress and why it sucks. I went a few pages in and I saw a BuzzFeed list titled “20 Ways To Bleed At Your First Post-College Job To Remember That You’re Still Alive,” and number five was to actually commit suicide. Things are getting out of control. I mean, look at PostGradProblems, the sister site to this one. (Sister site? Friend site? Fuck buddy site? I don’t know.) That site was built off of a hashtag that makes light of the everyday monotony of post-college work and the shock that goes with it. I get that. The guy at work who’s excited about 15 extra minutes of lunch is kind of depressing. Maybe your mom’s friend wants to set you up with her daughter, who is kind of fat. No matter what, things are going to be fine. Life is going to be great. I promise you won’t be the lunch guy, and I promise the next phase of life is going to be just as fun as the one you’re leaving.
That’s not to say everything will be the same. With growth comes the end of some things that are very awesome. You’ll never refer to another human as Saint Bernie because he looks like a sad dog and then beckon him to make you a sandwich because he signed up for something called “pledging.” You’ll never go out on a Monday night with as many hot chicks. You’ll never go to the gym with a pack of four dudes wearing matching homecoming T-shirts (you guys even cut the sleeves together) that say “We’re BETA than you” without irony. You’ll never look at 8 a.m., 6 p.m., or midnight the same way again. You’ll never live with as many friends at once. You’ll never think about something in your calendar and then think, “screw that thing,” and get no anxiety from it. You’ll never meet a girl in a bar and automatically have something to talk about because you both made the decision to go to the same school. I’m here to tell you that those things are great. You’ll look back on them fondly and you’ll rehash them again and again, but you will not actively miss those things. Those experiences and memories will be like having braces; you’ll be happy you had them, but having them again will feel kind of sad.
I know this because I’m going back to college this weekend for a reunion. I’m going to reconnect with a group of friends in memory of an old one. Not one person will play out that movie scene with the “in a bad place” guy smashing something to pieces as he cries and screams, “We used to have it all!” Because we still do. Life after college means more money. It means a new city (even if it’s the one you used to live in). You’ll go to bars where nobody knows your name, and that’s a good thing. It means new friends with their own circles of friends who have never met that sorority girl who calls you “yogurt penis.” It means reconnecting with old friends who know different holidays that you’ve never even thought of drinking on before. It means a job that will allow you to see what you’re really good at, and there will be opportunities that come with it. It means brunch and real “Sunday Fundays” and weekend trips and a Saturday you feel like you actually deserve and Tinder as a viable option for hooking up. There may be less good times, but you can also savor them more. Like a fine wine, you’ll chug them down and then slap the bag it came from.
Here’s the thing. When you finish college and move onto the real world, stuff will be uncomfortable because it’s new. I promise you that everyone you know and come into contact with feels the same discomfort. You will have the urge to scream about how horrible everything is compared to how it was. That’s good and fun but don’t let that scare you, don’t let that become your future. I recently met a person who regularly submits to PostGradProblems, and she ended every depressing sentence with “YOLO” like she was some divorced aunt trying to prove she’s still got it by referring to herself as a cougar in public. She just kept saying the post-graduation commiserations you always hear: “I miss college,” “I have HPV,” “I’m always tired,” “I’m just crazy busy,” “Remember [insert Disney channel reference]?” or, “Ughh boys.”
But she was only submitting to and perpetuating this groupthink built around misery. The more you say something, the more you acknowledge its existence and the more it’s true to you (think about every time your girlfriend wears a French braid). If you’re happy now, you’ll be happy in a year, and you’ll be happy in 10 years. Happiness, or a lack thereof, is not a physical construct. It cannot be proven or disproven, touched or seen. It does not “end” when something in your life ends; you have to LET it die. Yes, I know there are plenty of those people, too. Yet, I can say with certainty that anyone who believed their college experiences to be the greatest of their lives is a pathetic individual. In fact, those people probably spent their college years basking in the glow of other, more proactive humans, content to never create happiness for themselves. If they made their fun then, they’d be able to make it now, so they’re relegated to a fringe life, a fearful life, an entitled life. You are not that person. College may be over, but life is about to get a hell of a lot more interesting. Tough, but interesting. How you handle it is entirely your call.