Life After College

It’s my first week in this place we call “life after college” and I’ve already learned a handful of things. They’re more like observations of this whole new world I am learning to be part of.

First, I found out very quickly what a strange phenomenon it is to go from being a Student to Unemployed. Yikes, that’s a scary one. It was easy in the past to say, “I’m a student.” And now, for the first time in my life, I’m not. I’m an aspiring writer. I’m a graduate. But, I’m unemployed.

Which leads to my next observation: The Question. “What are you doing now?” I mean, it’s a fair question to ask, but as I said before, I can no longer jump past the question with a simple – if not honorable – answer. Sure, I am in the 34 percent of the U.S. population with a college degree, but what am I doing now? “It’s complicated,” and we can leave it at that.

Next, I have now heard more than a few people say, “Well, get a job!” And with all my might, I suppress the response I most want to say. “Oh, get a job? Just get a job? Why don’t I strap on my job helmet and squeeze down into a job cannon and fire off into job land, where jobs grow on little jobbies?!” – Courtesy of Charlie from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Instead, I smile nicely and mutter something about trying.

Another observation I’ve had is the amount of mom’s I now see on a daily basis. I used to live in a college town with college students shopping at crazy college times. We could order pizza at 3 a.m. or walk into Walmart 10 minutes before it closed and still get all our groceries. Now, I go into any store (and not to stereotype) and the people around me are all stay-at-home moms. And I’m over here like, “Nope, no baby here.” It’s a whole new world out there at mid-day.

The plus side is that I now have the option to go shopping in the middle of the day! It’s great. I know it won’t last for long, but a girl can still bask in the sun or take a two-hour Target run if she wants, post-college.

And lastly, job hunting is exhausting. After reading the first hundred or so job entries, I almost want to nap and regroup later. I have this degree, yet oddly enough, I don’t seem qualified for most of the postings out there.

So, in the meantime, I can enjoy this period of Rest – knowing it might not come around again soon.

The Top 15 College Experiences

I took a commemorative walk around campus today, and as I circled buildings, I had flashbacks of crazy or fun or terrible moments throughout the years. I’m not the only one to accomplish many of these, and they sure wouldn’t have been much fun alone. These events were definitely worth the memories.

So, here’s a list of the 15 most college-like events I have experienced in these past four years (although there are many more).college

1. Waking up in the middle of the night to see my freshman roommate staring at me, naked.

2. Exploring new study niches around campus.

3. Falling asleep in the library after hours (and being woken up by a librarian cleaning).

4. Throwing up after my first neuroscience class because I was so nervous….and failing the class several months later.

5. Recording a music video of “Do-Re-Mi” at 3 a.m.

6. Dressing up as Scary Spice for Halloween.

7. Stealing plates/silverware/toilet paper/cookies from campus because we were out.

8. Crying to a professor about my grades.

9. Tanning on the front lawn.

10. Drinking campus water that tastes like metal.

11. Almost getting fined for building too big of a snow fort.

12. Climbing on the University Center’s roof.

13. Playing campus-wide Capture the Flag.

14. Getting food poisoning from dining hall food.

15. Finding a casserole in the dorm hallway.

…..16. Graduating – tomorrow.

 

Goodbyes and Growing Up

Lately, each day I have set aside time in the peaceful, quiet mornings to reflect on my college years.

It’s not much, but it’s helpful looking back on how I have matured through the processes these four years took me through. And while I wouldn’t be considered “good” at goodbyes, I’m saying goodbye in my own ways. I don’t like the sad goodbyes. I like the ones with smiles, knowing we won’t easily be forgotten or the smiles affirming how blessed our time together has been.

The process of growing up is to be valued for what we gain, not for what we lose.” – C.S. Lewis

Similar to goodbyes, growing up can be looked at as losing the things – or people – we desperately want to hold on to. Instead, goodbyes and growing up should be valued and revered for the how time has brought us to where we are now.

I could never have imagined the relationships I have formed with friends, roommates, classmates or professors. And if I would have planned my life out in advance, I would have missed a lot from the unexpected.

I can’t follow my own plans, I have learned.

This college was never on a Top 10 list, or even a Maybe list. It was on the unwritten, Do Not Go list along with several other schools that had too many hills or not enough nature paths. But what do I know? Turns out, this was the perfect school for me. If I would have followed my own plan I would have passed up on a lot of good things.

I wanted to drop out of college my sophomore year. Thankfully, I was persuaded to stay. And I will soon be a college graduate, with classes and lessons I would not have experience had I given up years ago.

My plans may be subpar, considering I would have missed a whole heck of a lot between just two decisions. But I can now look back at the university and all the formed relationships with a smiling goodbye, knowing we won’t be easily forgotten and have been blessed to be together.

So with goodbyes and growing up, I know definitively I have gained much more than I will ever be able to lose.

10-Day Forecast

What’s on the 10-day forecast, you ask? My college graduation.

Almost ceremoniously, my backpack ripped this week. It was a cry for help – telling me it’s ready to stop carrying books, notebooks and assignments. And I completely agree. I’m ready to take the weight off my back and do away with textbooks.

I’m ready for a new chapter. Not a new start, but a new piece to the puzzle.

Photo: Part of me wants to cry thinking of my last two weeks here, and the other part of me wants to dance on top of this sign in celebration.God has been preparing me for this. He’s been changing my worries into excitement, my plans into a purpose.

Most recently, I’ve seen how God was developing me for life after college: homework. It sounds like the craziest thing, but God knew I needed the push to release my grip from this university. I have been loving my classes, well most of them. I love writing articles instead of taking tests. I love practicing my interviewing skills rather than taking citation lessons.

For two semesters now, I have accepted my career-path change with motivation for the future.

And a month ago, just about the time I started thinking of all the “lasts” I’ll experience, homework became my downfall. I despised the way professors were making me, a 22-year-old student, write a summary of a chapter to prove I had read the required number of pages. I dreaded the petty assignments that held up only as busy work.

While these weren’t exactly new emotions since being a student, they were new in this field of fun technology, events and professors.

Little by little, I became okay with these feelings. They were helping me say goodbye to the town and school that has become my home.

In a few short days I’ll walk proudly across the stage. It will not only signify the end of my college career, but also the growth I’ve had throughout these four years. I can walk tall, knowing and thanking this college for the ways it has forced me to mature in ways I never knew existed.

I can walk tall – without tripping.

Morning Glory

I’ve learned many things throughout my college years. From how to make a pot of coffee to what it takes to write an essay worthy of an “A,” I wish I would have written them all down. I’m confident my list would have covered an entire wall.

Some of the lessons were about college life, some about my education and some about myself.

A good chunk of what I’ve learned is bound to stay with me a very long time while some will slip through the cracks.

During my freshman year, and into my sophomore, nearly any night of the week I could be found in the library. Surrounded by books and drowning in caffeine, I was awake until the wee hours of the morning – my prime time.

I did well under pressure but would get too distracted anywhere except those stiff, wooden chairs.

Three and a half years later, and a little wiser, I can barely focus enough after 10pm to look at my planner.

Living in a house with my own space, I don’t have much of a need to go to the library.

I can do my homework earlier than the day before.

I happily sleep 8+ hours for the majority of the week.

And contradictorily enough, my most productive time is in the morning.

It’s heavenly to me when I can calmly wake, start a pot of coffee/tea, read the news and work on homework.

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I think I’m ready to graduate now that I’ve found my peak hours. Saturday mornings aren’t filled with cartoons anymore but rather peace and quiet.

This is one lesson that’s sure to stick.

Giant Anthills

I can’t help but wonder how universities look from above. Not all metaphorically or anything, but literally hundreds of feet above us all in the sky.

Most likely, I’ll never know. What I do know is that even on the top floor of the student union, glancing down during busy times, all the students look like little ants. For a while there will be no one walking in between buildings and the next second there is a flood of students dashing out from their classrooms.

My little portion of life in college is full of anthills.

We’re all moving from one hall to the next, running out of classes like they’re on fire. Heading to study like it’s our mission. Working for some success.

Ants carry huge loads on their back trying to make a living for themselves. Just like students.

Classroom to classroom. Lectures to essay assignments. We are trying to make a living for ourselves. All the while, we carry the burden of our backpacks emotionally and physically on our shoulders.

Thankfully, I’m not an ant. Partly because I think they’re gross and partly because much of what they do ends up being insignificant.

I can make a difference, and I am significant in my anthills.

 

All Play and Some Work

As my final year of college is dwindling and “real life” is quickly approaching, reality is setting in.

It was bound to happen, I understand. I am becoming an adult whether or not I’m ready.

So, for my final winter break of college I knew I needed to make some money, but it was oh-so-nice to not have research papers looming over my head. I could take a nap without guilt. I could eat cookies in the morning (although that’s not as seasonally specific as you might have guessed). And I could work 40 hour weeks. 

I did work often, but throughout the five weeks of break I had plenty of vacation time. Not only did I fly to the Sooner state, but I also had the opportunity to experience the Caribbean sun. I thawed off frImageom this below zero weather pretty easily if I might say so. Returning to the frozen tundra of the Midwest was not fantastic, but it’s a fabulous feeling to walk around campus with an all-natural tan in the world of my pale friends.

Even as I am in sun-withdraw on this windy morning, today represents something greater: the beginning of the end.

It’s the start of my very last semester in college. I have waited for this day for years and now that it’s here, I’m shocked to say it’s saddening. The days of all-nighters, poptarts, and campus events are soon to be over. With five short months until commencement, I hope it feels a little longer.

Coming at you spring semester!

 

Another Year Comes and Goes

I know, I know. It’s the annual review-last-year-and-look-ahead post.

Well, yeah! It’s a new year, and I value looking back on the blessings and lessons of the past.

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2013 was filled with abundant laughter, adventure, challenges and everything in between. I mean, I traveled throughout Europe – which still shocks me some days. I had a taste of the post-college, 40+ hour work week this summer, while working two jobs. I was taking six classes during fall semester and somehow ended up with the highest GPA of my college career (to brag a little). Of course there’s loneliness that comes with being in a new country, fatigue with the money, and lost hours with studying so it’s not all smiles along the way, but lessons were learned. Overall, I would say it was another blessed year.

Looking forward, 2014 has the potential to be fantastic and invigorating, but also scary. I graduate college this year. Leaving UW-Whitewater is necessary, but I have officially stepped over the “Get me out of college ASAP” phase and into the “What, I’m actually done? Now what?” phase. Honest like Abe, it’s terrifying. I’m starting the job hunt which excites me yet gives me the creeps. My options are open as far as cities and jobs positions, I could end up anywhere. This time next year I have no idea where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing, but that’s part of the fun – right? Yikes.

Folks, a new adventure is coming.

xx

The Dreaded Finals

Finals always seem to slip my mind. Not the actual test-taking part, but the days leading up to it. Somehow, I learned to block those sleepless nights out of my memory. There are faint memories that come flooding back like freshman year, pulling all-nighters in the dorms, walking up and down the hallway in the middle of the night only to find the rest of the hall awake with me. Or thinking back to the sweet librarian waking me up at closing time, drool on the table, books wide open. Or study parties with friends, full of snacks and coffee.

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Well, it’s my senior year. I have made it (somewhat) successfully through six semesters full of finals. I have passed nearly all of my final exams, some I wish I had prepared better for, and others I regretted spending so much time on. What I have learned through maturity and previous experiences?

Time Management.

Priorities.

If I stay awake all night, the lack of sleep will stab me harder than if I crammed. I know my body by now, and I know how much sleep I need to be focused. Through the years, I have learned when to close the books and when to chug caffeine. I can gauge my limits enough to motivate myself to go take a walk, bake some cookies, or watch tv. I still make lists to plan for the best way to combat my free time.

This time around, lucky semester 7, It’s as if I’m an expert.

An expert finals preparer. An expert sleeper – I mean, study-er.

This is the college life.

 

Senior Update

Senior Year.

It’s taken a whole lot to get this far.

Seriously, let’s think about it. Year 16 of schooling? Yikes. Now, that’s just a lot.

I know some people like the studying, the learning, the not-sleeping. Nah – not me. I like being determined. I like having a syllabus to tell me how this semester will look. I like learning something that’s actually interesting. But I think it’s taken up a lot of my life. I know I may regret saying I’m ready to be finished with school in approximately 11 months when I need to have an income, but for now I’m ready to not.

The nice thing though? I don’t have a job. I have more time this semester than I probably will ever again. Six classes is a lot of schoolwork. It’s a lot of time in the library. But as far as the rest of my time goes, I’m free. And that’s kinda weird.

Journalism classes are sure keeping me on my feet, though. Something a little new. And I like it.

Until then,

I’ll be here.