FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year In: 3 Life Lessons from That First Year of Post-Grad Life

FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year In: 3 Life Lessons from That First Year of Post-Grad Life

We've published hundreds of stories from 100+ writers in the last three years, so we're highlighting some of these timeless posts in our new From the Archives series. Enjoy!

In the first draft of this post, I tried to lay out the reasons I feel like an adult now that I’ve been out of school for a full calendar year. The more I wrote, the more I began to contradict myself, and the more I realized I’m really just 22. While personal accountability and Home Depot are heavy on my mind these days, I still fuck up quite a bit. Believe it or not, paying bills and listening to NPR do not always equate to real maturity!

I turn 23 at the end of July, meaning I was the baby of my grade all through my academic career. Being the youngest (among other things) somehow made me feel uncool and likely had an effect on my ridiculous effort to prove just the opposite. Self-expression was key here. I found identity in a flowy skirt, Converse sneakers and a Rolling Stones t-shirt in the 8th grade.

“Woah, Lane, that look sounds way chill already—how’d you manage to make it even chiller?” you ask? Braces and a DIY hemp necklace, obviously! The universe had surely never seen anything this edgy. I remember feeling like a fraud but also a badass when asked, “Can you even name a Rolling Stones song?” and responding only with a panicked “yes—of course!” before fleeing the room immediately.

I can name close to 10 (lmao, boom) Rolling Stones songs now, but in many ways I still carry around that same confidence-meets-self-consciousness. It’s this stupid thing where I don’t care what people think about me so much so that I want them to know just how much I don’t care. I believe “caring” is what that’s actually called. So just to reiterate: sometimes it’s hard to feel like an adult.

Reflecting on the year, it bums me out to realize how hard I’ve been on myself. Whether that meant kicking myself for not living up to an expectation or kicking myself for being “too much” or kicking myself for not being enough, there was always a reason to kick. But the thing is, all we can do most of the time is try to exist as we are.

That said, I’ll keep this short and sweet with three pieces of advice for those entering their first year after college:

1. Stop apologizing.

A good chunk of your late teens/early twenties are spent feeling perpetually in the way—we can thank unpaid internships and not having a penis for that. It starts to feel accustom to attach an apology or explanation to any question, any emotion, anything. But then one day you take a glance at the world around you and realize that secure people don’t do that and that with every dejected “sorry” you are morphing into a human doormat. Don’t be a human doormat. Don’t focus your energy and words on justifying things that don’t need to be justified. You are allowed to ask questions and you are allowed to feel things and you are allowed to exist. We are all equals and anyone who has a problem with that should just do the world a favor and take a permanent nap.

On the other side of that coin, do know when to apologize. We can all be super dick-ish in our own ways. Own up to it and mean it and fix it.

2. That shit’s just gonna happen.

You know what? Let’s acknowledge this “look at me I’m an 80-year-old trapped in a 20-something’s body and I love knitting on Friday nights and it’s adorable and somehow this makes me better than you” movement. I’m not knocking anyone’s lifestyle, but sometimes in your early twenties, it is your civic duty to get into some compromising scenarios. Live a little and don’t let the world make you feel guilty for wanting to do so!

In the aftermath of weirdness, you have no choice but to own it. That’s all you can do. Surround yourself with people who keep you in check if you’re truly going off the deep end, but never forget that having fun and making mistakes in the process doesn’t make you damaged goods or less of a substantial person. Go easy on yourself.

3. Expect the unexpected.

Unpredictable—the blanket term for life post-grad.

Learn to stay leveled during the highs and the lows. One moment something may put you on top of the world, but you’d be silly to think that something else won’t knock you down shortly after. Taking a grounded approach to the good and bad instances keeps you sane. Nothing lasts forever—there is a lot of beauty to be found there if you allow yourself to become comfortable with this idea.  

This has been one of my favorite lessons. You wouldn’t believe how much of a relief it is to let go of staunch plans and expectations and just let things take their course. Because if life went according to plan, how boring would that be? 

[Photo by Julie Bloom.]

[This post was originally published on June 6, 2016.]


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