So I graduated from college. Yep. It happened. I did it in four years too. Yep. So there it is. I certainly learned a lot about politics, sociology, human behavior and history. Maybe I don’t know how to solve basic word problems or what causes fog but I graduated. Regardless of what I learned there really is nothing in the world that can prepare you for what lies beyond the hallowed halls of your university. The only way to deal with the real world is to go out into it. But what about the fact that there were people in the real world who, when we asked about life after college, just shrugged their shoulders and said enjoy to enjoy our time as well as a multitude other quaint pleasantries.
As seniors in college we understood that time was wearing exceptionally thin and we would have to get jobs and do something productive. It was okay to live with our parents still, but we really didn’t want to because sometimes you just want to eat cookie dough in your underwear. Now that’s indepedence.
What about all those fun images in beer commercials where there are young twenty-somethings enjoying their professional careers in large apartments… and beer! Beer! If only someone in the real world could have told me all the things I probably should have learned how to do once I got out of college.
Be prepared to be on the phone… a lot – When you get your own place and things break, it means you need to be on the phone asking someone in India (yes, I’m looking at you India) how to fix your Dell. Or you have to be on the phone with your bank wondering why there was a one hundred and twenty dollar overwithdraw fee. Has anyone ever tried to get their cable turned on? Or talked to your energy provider? It’s like trying to nail jello to a tree. These were all the phone calls that your parents made for you while you were still knee deep in your four year vacation.
You have to work to meet people – In the real world there are places to meet single and attractive young people, but nothing will ever compare to the undergraduate experience. College is a giant pot of spaghetti sauce mixed with hormones, alcohol, people coming out of their shells, just a dash of loud music, and a healthy amount of lowered inhibitions. You are constantly in the state of meeting guys and gals that you find worthy of your attention.
When you do graduate though you will need to work a little harder because you’re at work all week and when you get home from work all you want to do is rock back and forth in the fetal position eating cold Spaghetti-O’s while listening to The Cure in your bath robe. You have to introduce yourself boldly in the real world to really put yourself out there. In college you’re already there, all you need to do is go out.
You don’t belong at college bars – I know when you graduated you thought, “I could do this forever!”, but believe it or not, when you graduated, it was just the right time. Once that looming spectre of steamed brussel sprouts known as graduation is upon you, it becomes something you accept and it turns into a bittersweet brownie of redemption and pride. Once you’ve accepted this reality you can’t go back to college. It’s like Lucy and Peter Pevensie in “Prince Caspian”: sometimes you’re just too old for Narnia. Don’t believe me? I live down the street from Tulane University in New Orleans and you best believe I’ve tried to go to college bars and get back to Narnia, but I continue to learn the lesson that as soon as I walk in that I don’t belong anymore.
You can’t drink as much in the real world as much as you did in college – Everyone knows that college is a magical place where beautiful, smart, women flock and boys… and yes we are boys… boys are pretty much the same no matter what, but the point is that college is pretty flippin’ magical. And college magic enables its students to seemingly defy the odds of what a human being can physically and psychologically handle. This pertains specifically to alcohol consumption and required hours of sleep. Your inability to drink as much is twofold.
The first is the Harry Potter Theorem. This theorem operates under the principle in the Harry Potter series which states that Harry was protected from Voldemort during the summers in between school years as long as he called his aunt and uncle’s house his home. College is like this with drinking: as long as you call your college your home you are protected by a magic that allows you to do ridiculous things with only minor consequences. Yeah your hangover might be terrible on Saturday but of course you were going out in under seven hours. There was nothing a little brunch and more drinking couldn’t cure.
You try this shit in the real world and for some reason your hangover the following morning feels like the exact opposite of what petting a puppy is. I’m not sure what it is, but think about how great puppies are just as an abstract idea. Now think of the exact opposite of that. I’m thinking it’s a mix of the feeling when you put on a wet bathing suit combined with being Ann Coulter’s prom date.
The second reason you can’t drink as much as you could in college is that you’ll probably get fired from your job. Think about those days when you were hungover on the way to class when the most trivial things in the world seemed like brain surgery. You would do what is called the Hangover Haggle. This is a low-grade mental gymnastics where your responsible side tries to bargain with your actual, hung over self.
Responsible Self: Get up. We have to go to Ethics today. We skipped last week and Dr. Smith takes attendance because he will deduct points from our final grade for too many absences. Oh God, we smell like cigarettes and shame.
Hung Over Self: All right fiiiiiine. You’re such a douche. But we’re going to McDonald’s after class.
Responsible Self: No. Absolutely not. It made us feel even worse. Fast food does not cure hangovers. You need water, fresh fruit, and vegetables.
Hung Over Self: Chipotle?
Responsible Self: Fine. You know one burrito still has like 1,800 calories right. You’re not eating again today.
Hung Over Self: Fuck that. We’re going back for dinner before night class. And can we not walk up any hills today? I don’t think I can handle hills today. Plus I need my favorite sweatpants. Where are my sunglasses?
Responsible Self: No one will ever love you.
Now imagine if you had to go to work for eight hours like this. Woof.
Everything costs money – In college you have that summer savings to chip away at for your spending money. You worked hard for four months and it was really terrible but you made enough money to go on spring break in Cancun and buy shots for your buddies occasionally during the spring and fall semesters. You go out to eat when you want to, go to the movies and take road trips. But this is what you worked for. You worked to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Also, you don’t necessarily pay rent when you’re in college except when you live off campus, but your parents helped pay for that too.
However, when you graduate you start to notice that movies cost $9.75, groceries are really expensive, drinks cost much more outside the university area and Jesus Christ Canolis do you go through gas quickly. I mean everything you do costs some sort of money that you’re earning and have to earn unless you want to amass a fairly sizable debt. And that shit is really depressing because all the little things you don’t think about most certainly add up. There needs to be therapy groups for this kind of stuff. How did my parents do it?
Whether it’s a loss of a sense of frivolity or now that I have a degree, college seems like a faraway place that I will always look back at with a very deep feeling of melancholy, but all of us know that when we graduate we can’t go back. All our lives we had expectations: graduate from high school, go to college, don’t kill yourself, and finally graduate. What now? These lofty expectations that society has held for you since you were born have been fullfilled. I feel like a twenty three year old child, but college does a funny thing because it makes it so you have expectations of your own and instead of just fullfilling the expectations of society, you actually become a part of it. That is what is truly terrifying about graduation.
I left the stove on for two hours the other day and kept complaining my house smelled like burning meat. But these kinds of learning experiences are most certainly part of the journey. Maybe not the burning meat part, but we have to make our own mistakes, learn what works for us as professionals as well as active members of society and we must wholeheartedly embrace the seemingly less frequent moments of levity and joy that seemed to come so easily when we were undergraduates.