1. Take your time.
Whether you graduated 3 months or three days ago, it can still feel weird. That’s okay. Give yourself the time you need to adjust and come to terms with the fact that the structured life as you knew it is over. The world, your mom and the checkout lady at the grocery store will wait for you to gather yourself. They’ve all been there.
2. Get invested in your career.
20th Century Fox
Whether you start out at your dream job or have to make a few… sacrifices, throw yourself into it. You’re young and driven and have something to prove — so prove it by being hungry at work. If you’re at the place you want to be, go beyond the minimum that your boss expects from you. Show that you are an asset and eventually you’ll be treated that way. If you had to take a job to pay the bills, that’s okay too. You don’t have to love your job waiting tables or working at a call center. But take the time to figure out where you’re going and how to get there, then don’t stop until you’ve made it happen.
It’s easy to get discouraged, but I believe in you.
3. Find some hobbies.
For at least four years in college, you’ve been on a constant cycle of studying, working, drinking, repeat. It’s time to remember that before you went to college, you did other things. Is it art that you’re into? Going on hikes? Reading books? Dancing? Whatever it is that you used to love doing but gave up on because you didn’t have the time, pick it back up again. You have the time now to figure out how to identify yourself other than “college student” because, as we know, that’s over. Deep breaths! I promise there’s a person in there somewhere under that pile of text books.
4. Try something new.
This whole “discovering yourself” process may seem cliche, but just suck up your pessimism and do what I’m telling you. Trying new things is almost never a bad idea. It’s hard to convince yourself not to worry, to let go of all the objections you have on the tip of your tongue, but unless you think you’re going to get hurt, don’t be afraid to say yes sometimes. Join a kickball league, go to a restaurant you don’t like or ask someone you just met to hang out because you want to. It will be a good thing, I promise you.
5. Put actual work into your friendships.
Now that you don’t see your besties regularly at least twice a week, it can be hard to know what to do to maintain the same relationship you had — especially because it’s not like this is a summer vacation that’s going to end in August. This is how it is now. So put in the effort to call instead of text once in awhile or be the one to organize a brunch date. It may feel like you’re being annoying, but that’s what having friends is like now, and they’re trying to figure it out too.
Especially if you’re far apart after graduation, keeping up with friendships can be difficult. But simple things like starting a group chat with your pals or arranging a Skype session where you all drink wine and take online quizzes together can be an easy way to stay connected. You’re going to need them to complain to.
6. Learn to cook.
People tell you this all the time. They tell me too, and this is one I’m still struggling with. But now that you’re an adult, you can’t keep existing on ramen noodles and beer. It was fine in college, but it’s going to catch up with you sooner rather than later. So learn how to turn on your stove, and learn a few simple, healthy meals that can give you a break from the frozen dinners or popcorn you’re eating as a meal.
This will take time, but just take baby steps. Soon even your mom will be jealous of all your mad skillz in the kitchen (even though she is still the best and everyone knows it).
7. Go to sleep early.
More than anything, life after college is tiring. I was feeling like I needed to stay up until midnight every night just to prove that I’m not getting too old. But a shift to a new schedule where you can’t nap between your classes or sleep in until noon some days can be kind of a shock to your body, and sleep is important. So at least on work nights, don’t fight the urge to crawl into bed at 9, or just before 11. We won’t tell anyone. And let’s face it, sleep is the easiest thing on this list to check off.
8. Limit your habit of binging — on both Netflix and booze.
The abilities to watch the entirety of Parks and Recreation in a week or get black-out drunk three nights in a row are impressive. There’s no doubt about it. But eventually this is something you’re going to want to wean yourself off of. Take your time, but just know that it will be better for your health and the comfort of everyone around you if you’re not still doing this every other week. And it’ll make it so much better when it does, inevitably, happen.
9. Purge everything — from your wardrobe to your social media accounts.
Sometimes, change can be a good thing. It helps get you into a new headspace. When I moved into my first grown-up apartment, I reorganized my furniture, purged my wardrobe and changed the three-year-old background on my cell phone. Minor changes like this helped me remind myself that thing are different now, and I should feel different. Holding on to the same people and habits I used to have weren’t going to help me become the person I was meant to be — or whatever.
So get rid of clothes that you haven’t worn in a year. Update your profile pictures and change your Facebook and LinkedIn to say you graduated. Rearrange your furniture or buy some new art for your walls. You’re entering a new phase in your life. It’s okay to act like it.
10. Stay busy.
Not too busy — remember the sleep thing. But if you come home each day and just sit on your couch pining for the days when all your friends went out after class and your every spare moment was scheduled with something fun, you’re not doing yourself any favors. So keep busy with work, with plans with friends or coworkers, with hobbies and activities. Even if you’re just planning out your solo activities, keeping your mind occupied will help you, especially if you’re having a tough time.
11. Start a side hustle.
This goes with the stay busy thing, and with the getting invested in your career thing. If you have a lot of time and aren’t sure what to do with yourself, or if you’re working at a job that doesn’t get you where you need to be, or if you need money (a very real thing for those just out of college) then you need a side hustle! Find something you enjoy doing and get paid for it. If you’re waiting tables but your dream job is designing clothes, then don’t wait for the best job. Just do if yourself! Start an Etsy shop, get your parents to convince their friends they need your sick website building skills, or sell your dog-walking and house-sitting abilities to your neighbors. Whatever works for you, get to hustlin’.
12. Reconnect with your family.
When you’re in college, talking to your parents can sometimes feel like a hardship. But now that you’re out, it’s time to put a little effort into your relationship with your mom and dad and grandparents and whoever else you’ve been neglecting. They raised you, and they miss you, and it’s not going to kill you. They may even be able to help you through this likely trying time. Getting back to your roots after you’ve been in this vacuum called college can be a good thing.
13. Start a budget.
With all your newfound money (or with your recent shortage) it’s more important than ever to keep track of your spending and your expenses. Odds are you aren’t used to such large incoming and outgoing sums, so monitoring what a month actually looks like for you, instead of what you think it’s probably like, is nothing but positive. This is a simple step that can set you up for success in the future, even if it’s scary. You can do it!
14. Emphasize self-care.
After college ended for me, I got really into candles. Which sounds weird, but something about lighting a nice candle after work was over and while I was sitting alone in my apartment made everything seem a little better. Sometimes, you have to treat yourself to a big fat candle that smells like whipped cream and pear. Or a big sparkly bath bomb. Or a slice of cheesecake all to yourself. Whatever it is that you do to indulge, do it sometimes. It’s a good feeling, and good feelings are good.
15. Find a way to stay competitive.
When you’re in school, you’re surrounded by people who are all trying to do the same thing as you. You’re running a race and you want to be first — it’s kind of a high. You’re constantly being pushed to improve. But when you start working, especially if it’s not at a job you like, that competition fades away. It can be hard to stay motivated or feel that same drive. To keep it up, set little goals for yourself at work, or at the gym. Setting some kind of contest for yourself is a good way to feel like you’re going somewhere.
16. Give yourself a break.
Being 20-something is hard and scary. How to exist after college is not something you learn overnight. It’s hard to explain, but it feels a little bit like when you walk outside and it’s really bright and you have to blink for a long time before your eyes adjust. When you graduate, everything is bright and shiny and out of focus. It takes some time to adjust, and sometimes that means crying on a bench outside of the grocery store or driving down the interstate too fast and singing Lorde songs really loud. It’s okay. Let yourself feel it. You’ve been working very hard for a long time. So give yourself a break if this isn’t easy — it’s the least you can do.
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