So you graduated and think you're hot shit.
Well, you are. Only approximately 30 percent of the American population has graduated college, according to census.gov, and you just did. Great job.
On the other hand, that means you're one in about 95 million. That’s a lot of people. So, maybe you’re like, lukewarm feces.
The fact is you graduated college and that’s amazing. It seriously is. So many people drop out because they can’t handle the pressure, so many people don’t take higher education seriously, and many don’t even live long enough to walk across that stage and grab that fake diploma before they can take it back.
(Your actual diploma should arrive within the next two to three months, according to information I just made up).
Congratulations. You passed one of life’s major tests. Are you ready for the actual challenge now?
I’ve been working in the “real world” for exactly a year now. I started working as a journalist at Tri-County Times May 11, 2015, a week after I graduated college.
I was barely ready.
What what most graduates don’t realize is that college is the preliminary examination compared to the rest of your life, despite all the scantrons, written exams, and lab days you survived. While this blog post is a well-deserved congratulations to the next generation of the working force, it’s also a plea. I’ll get to that soon.
I bet you’ve searched for a job by now, or at least I hope you have. The most stressful months of my life (my extremely long almost-23 years of life) were my last semester of college, when I was worrying about finishing school and finding adequate employment.
I hope you started searching earlier because I don’t want anyone to go through the stress I did.
At that first job, it’s going to feel surreal. Your teachers and assistant professors now become your colleagues, and your weird college schedule becomes a more consistent 9-5 (probably).
It’s weird at first. Coming from an environment where you do focus on so many different subjects every day, to focusing on one subject every day takes adjustment.
But you’ll get used to it. Eventually.
I didn't start feeling comfortable at work until six months in, when I wrote a blog post about working in the real world for six months. While writing it, I realized I no longer felt out of place. I definitely felt comfortable earlier than that six month mark, but sometime in the past few months I stopped being nervous coming to work. I stopped feeling like the new person.
Now, I’ve written close to 500 stories for the Times in my first year of work, and I’ve realized a few things.
While I'm convinced the "real world" is just a hoax Big Brother uses to keep us all in line, here are a few things I believe to be truth.
The most important thing by far I learned working this past year is that it’s not always what you do at work that defines you.
It’s also what you do after.
It’s so easy to fall into the routine of get up, go to work, work, come home, eat, watch TV, sleep, repeat. If you have a long way to drive, it’s even worse because you’re even more mentally exhausted.
I love my job and I’m genuinely happy with my life right now, so my days are filled with healthy stress, self-fulfillment, desk chocolate, and goal setting. I got a job doing what I love and I’m thankful for that every day. I know many people can’t say that.
Because I love my job, I don’t come home and hate my life. I don’t dread getting up in the morning, and I actual don’t dread Mondays. Those are productive days for me.
Although, I have friends who recently graduated and they have jobs they hate, and I don’t blame them one bit. They work long hours, drive about three hours a day, and they’re on their feet for 12-hour shifts. I don’t know how they do it.
Plus, they don’t feel fulfilled, they don’t feel like they’re doing anything worthwhile and it frustrates me so much because they’re worth so much more than that awful job.
Many people, and many of you graduates, are going to hate your jobs. That’s the sad reality. Many people hate their first starter jobs, and that’s okay. That first job isn’t forever. Please don’t think that job defines you.
This is why you need hobbies.
Remember when I said your job doesn’t have to define you? Your hobbies can define you. Actually, they should define you. What someone does off the clock often shows more about their personality than what they 9-5.
Please have hobbies. They’re stress relievers and meant to bring people joy.
Find something that you love and stick with it. Come home, tired and famished, and look forward to sewing and cosplaying (one of my many hobbies), go work out, read books, learn archery, go to yoga, learn a different language, run an online knitting business, anything that makes you look forward to tomorrow.
If you don’t love your job, if you don’t even like your job, please don’t give up on the things that make you happy because you’re too tired or don’t think you have time.
You have time to be happy. If there’s anything in this world you should make time for while you’re young, it’s your happiness. You have the rest of your life to be bitter.
You also owe it to yourself to make yourself happy. If a job doesn’t do that, then you need something outside of work that makes you feel fulfilled and like your life has meaning, because it does.
When you look back at your life in 10 years and realized you wasted hours of your life on social media when you came home because you were tired, you’re going to hate yourself.
Don’t hate yourself (at least not to an unhealthy extent).
The second most important thing I’ve learned: the work doesn’t end once you land that first job.
I know how stressful exams and college life is, and now I’m comfortable working at the Times. I could just go to work every day, come home, eat, watch TV, and go to bed.
In society’s eyes, I’m a hard-working citizen who’s contributing to the world.
I could just do the bare minimum, but I don’t. That’s not enough for me.
While I have hobbies because they make me happy, I continue to work at them because I love learning new things and improving my life.
I’m writing a book right now, and I just started cosplaying. Both are much harder than they seam (get it? I wrote “seam” like a clothing seam instead of “seem” because puns are the best and I hope you all groan at that because I’m very proud).
I didn’t just choose these hobbies because I thought they’d be easy; I chose them because they pose a challenge and I can set goals and accomplish them.
Goal setting is extremely important to me. Here are my two next goals: finish the second part of my book before my birthday, July 21; while I’m working on a Starfire cosplay right now, my main cosplay goal is to finish an Erza Scarlet armor cosplay for Grand Rapids Comic-Con in early November.
Here’s a picture. Isn’t she badass??? I can’t wait to wear that wig and those wings.
It’s the first time I’m making any kind of armour and props, and I’m ecstatic about working with worbla and EVA foam. It’ll be hard and I’m going to get frustrated, but that’s okay because no matter what happens, I’ll come out of the experience better because I learned something new.
And I’ll get wings, a sweet breastplate, and foam weapons out of it. Win win win win.
My main point is that the work shouldn’t stop once you get home from work. Work is one thing. One thing cannot completely encompass your interests.
Don’t let your life end when you get your first real job. I see so many people who become complacent with their lives because they think all they need to do so be successful is go to work every day. To me, that’s just getting by.
The third thing I’ve learned doesn’t apply to everyone, but it applies to me.
You need to think you’re cool. You need to think you’re the bomb. You need to have enough self confidence to be unabashedly excited about what you’re interested in.
I chose those hobbies (or they chose me, basically) because they’re so freaking cool. If you don’t get geeked when you talk about your hobbies, they should not be your hobbies.
I could talk for hours about sewing and cosplays, and I could go on and on about the struggles I had writing the first part of book. (I have five parts planned. It’s going to be a lengthy process.)
I haven’t always been confident telling people about my interests. If you would have told me five years ago that I would be writing a blog post talking about an anime character I want to cosplay as, I would have thought you were insane.
I got teased a lot for liking anime in middle school, but now that I started cosplaying those people suddenly think I’m cool. I’ve been able to reconnect with people I went to grade school with, and I really love that.
Next point: be selfish.
Recent graduates, please care more about what you do with your life than what others do with their own. You just spent thousands of dollars and years of your life on a degree YOU chose (hopefully). That’s a really selfish thing to do and you should celebrate. You get one life. Be as selfish as you want, and then be a little more selfish.
Make that degree, and your life, worth it. Don’t let anyone tell you how to live your life. Disregard this entire post if you want. Don’t let me dictate your actions.
Your opinion of someone else, and their opinion of you, doesn’t matter. It seriously doesn’t. We all live our lives to different standards and it’s short-minded to think someone else should adhere to our own, or that we should adhere to theirs.
So say goodbye to the world of exams and group projects, you recent grads.
Say hello to student debt, not knowing how to do anything in your first job, being broke, dealing with condescending older people, and feeling stuck and out of place at the same time.
However, say hello to the world opening up in front of you, meeting new people, working with awesome and awful coworkers, traveling, setting and accomplishing goals, and making your mark on this world.
You have all the possibilities and opportunities in the world. Don’t waste it.