Coming to Terms with Graduating College

Four years ago around this time, I packed up my mom’s car with my belongings and drove 12 hours to Nashville, Tennessee for college. I remember the flurry of feelings I felt (say that ten times fast!) on the long drive. By the time the morning of move in arrived, I was teeming with excitement to go out on my own and start my college career. 

These past few days I’ve been seeing a lot of photos of my younger friends as they return to campus and continue the traditions of back to school. I’ve also gotten Facebook friendship anniversary videos for the girls I met on my floor those first few days of freshman year, who are now my closest friends - as if I need yet another reminder that I’m not 18 anymore.

 I think I am struggling to grasp the concept that I’m not going back to school. At first I was annoyed at myself for feeling sappy and nostalgic (my robotic tendencies get in the way of feeling emotions sometimes), but then I realized that every fall for the past 16 years, I’ve gone back to school. Further, my “norm” for the past four years has been going back to Vanderbilt around this time, so why would my mindset think any different this year? I think my heart and my head have trouble accepting that I’m done with undergrad, done with school, and moving on to adult life. 

While the reminders of missing my friends and being surrounded by familiar faces on campus may be disheartening, my other epiphany that is actually quite obvious is the fact that I’m never going back. There is no undergrad part two, and while grad school may be in the cards for me, the experience is unlike undergrad. For me, it’s coming to terms with the fact that the college phase of my life is over and done with. There is no last hurrah, that’s already come and gone. And while I lived with intention my senior year, trying to soak in the present moments and be grateful for my wonderful, crazy final year of college, there is still a part of me that longs to go back for one more Saturday night at Crazytown, one more sorority chapter meeting, and one last shitty lunch at the dining hall with friends. 

 Me + the girls who have been there for me since the beginning when we met in our dorm.

Me + the girls who have been there for me since the beginning when we met in our dorm.

After thinking about why I feel so nostalgic and emotional about this transition, one reason I think that I feel this way is because of my current status in between school and work. If I had already started my job, I would be bustling with excitement over the novelty of my role, learning new skills, and making friends. Instead, I’m going on walks around my neighborhood, reading books, and hanging out with old friends. This slower pace of life (which I talk more about HERE!) gives me plenty of time to reflect. After all of this thinking, I came back to something I have thought about in the past, which is my interest in eventually becoming a college professor. I have a serious love of school (#nerdalert), love learning, and seek to teach and inspire others, as people have done for me. Another possibility is that I could go back to school for a graduate degree, which would definitely give me that giddy back to school feeling. 

On the bright side, my friends from the other side (aka working life) promise that it gets better and being a functioning, actual adult is pretty damn good. I guess I’ll have to report back in a few months to say if I agree with them! 

My Retirement

At a mention of the word “retirement”, my mind immediately pictures a 70 year old man playing golf or an elderly woman enjoying a nice game of bridge. Retirement is the reward you get once you’ve raised a family, saved up enough money, and made your mark on the world. Generally slower paced and focused on savoring life’s precious moments, retirement has a stark difference between life as a twenty-something.

Currently, I'm in what I like to call 'Practice Retirement'. I've done absolutely nothing to qualify for the luxury of retirement, I simply have five months between graduating college and starting my job. I'm lucky enough to live rent-free at home, without needing to get a job to support myself while living back at home (thanks mom & dad!). 

 The only picture of me + my grandma from our trip to Iceland. I was having a blast, her not so much.

The only picture of me + my grandma from our trip to Iceland. I was having a blast, her not so much.

I’m not going to lie, on the 12 hour drive home from Nashville in May I thought to myself “oh my, what have I gotten myself into? How am I going to spend so much time at home without going crazy?!” Surprisingly, three months into my retirement I can announce that I am doing better than I anticipated. I think there are a few reasons why I’ve been able to live at home without running for the hills, but before I delve into those let me set the scene a bit more: my friends from high school have left the area, my parents work from home, and I live in the far out suburbs of a town where there isn’t a bustling young life or fun activities. Now that you understand my dread for being at home, here’s why I think I’ve been able to manage living at home:

  1. Mindset: Before I came home for the summer, I decided that I was going to enjoy this time at home and make the best of it. While being in a small town away from my friends isn’t exactly the dream life, I looked at this experience through the lens of gratitude. I am fortunate to spend this time with my parents while I can, focus on personal development, embrace a slower pace of life (which I struggled with but have drastically improved), and enjoy my favorite hobbies.
  2. Planning: I had two major trips this summer, one to Eastern Europe in July on my own and one to Iceland in August with my grandmother. The trips happened to be spaced out with a few weeks in between, which gave me enough time to recover + prepare without getting stir crazy at home. I’ve also researched fun things to do around Buffalo that I want to experience since I won’t be coming back here anytime soon once I move. I’m also planning some small trips to see friends + family. These mini trips + fun things to do at home give me something to look forward to which makes my time at home easy to handle. I also made a list of general things to do when I came home for the summer that I hadn’t gotten around to, like doctors appointments, teaching myself certain adult skills, etc.
  3. Hobbies: I mentioned this a bit in #1, but I’ve taken the time this summer to continue hobbies I love but haven’t had time for during college. These include yoga, painting, reading, and baking. These are all things I’m passionate about and love to do, but definitely require free time + energy. I’ve been working on furthering my hobbies and cultivating new ones to keep up once I make my big move this fall.

I think by the time October rolls around I’ll be eager to start work and a new chapter of my life, but for now I’m embracing the present moment and making the most of my time at home. If anyone else has moved home after college, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it in the comments.