About to Graduate College? Here’s What They Don’t Tell You

Liv Kelleher
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Photo: le 21eme

Photo: le 21eme

I’m not ready to grow up, and I’m not ashamed to say it. It scares me, it makes me sad, it makes me anxious, it makes me depressed. Growing up, despite what people tell you, is not easy to do.

I’m 20 years old—21 in August—and there’s still a certain level of comfort I get when I’m referred to as a kid. I revel in the fact that—while I’m expected to be responsibility and accountable for my actions—my figurative get-out-of-jail cards aren’t used up.

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It wasn’t always that way: Three years ago, I moved to New York City to attend NYU. Like lots of American teenagers, I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of my suburban hometown and embrace the freedom that college brings. Freshman year was a constant flood of bright and shiny new experiences. At NYU—probably because the university is in the heart of downtown Manhattan—there’s an unavoidable pressure to always act older, cooler, and more put together than any recent high-school grad should ever have to be. But, that was part of the glamour of attending a city school—I felt like an adult, living in an adult world, doing adult things.

At 18, I was 23 on my fake ID, going to fancy clubs, drinking expensive cocktails I couldn’t afford, and wearing clothes that made me look way more mature than I was. Basically, by night, I was masquerading as a trendy, connected, well-dressed young adult. By day, I was an anxious, stressed out, teenaged college student, trying to maneuver school, work, a social life, boys, and all other things that rightfully distress any first-year college kid.

Now, I’m entering my final semester and I’m smack in the middle of the inevitable “time to get your shit together” phase of my life, and find my 18-year-old self hilarious. To think, I actually wanted to pretend I was all grown up. The irony!

Still, I did learn a few things along the way—what to expect, what to avoid, what to be aware of— so in case you’re also on the cusp of adulthood, here are 4 of the most important things that I’ve learned about “growing up.”

No one told me that I won’t land a dream job the minute I graduate.

One of the biggest stresses in a young adult’s life is getting a job. When I first started school, I was on a drastically different career path. I thought I wanted to be a professional dancer, and now I’m pursuing fashion and journalism. As a high-schooler, and even before then, I thought that my professional trajectory would be straight and narrow: school, degree, amazing job, fulfilling career.

But I’ve learned since then, through professors, advisors, friends, and my sisters, that you kinda just do what you gotta until you find what you love. Unless you want to be a doctor or a lawyer or a very specific profession, there is no straight and narrow path nowadays. Everything is a choose-your-own-adventure. If you’re dedicated and hardworking, chances are, things are going to work out—but they may not the second you graduate.

No one told me that I should take care of my clothes. 

As I start to realize my looming submersion into adulthood, I’ve become hyper-cognizant of my clothing—what to wear, what looks professional, what actually fits correctly. But, what I’ve failed to do, on many regretful occasions, is pay meticulous attention to the care tags on my clothing. I’ve ruined multiple clothing items by throwing them in with my laundry, rather than taking them to dry cleaning.

As I’ve started to grow-up, I’ve began to realize that there’s a monetary value to everything– the $7 I would have spent on dry cleaning that sweater is far less than the money I spent to replace it after I ruined it in the wash.

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No one told me that I can, and should, be happy while single.

For better or worse, I find myself equating maturity and happiness with being in a relationship, despite the fact that my life has been almost completely devoid of romance. Because of this misconception, I’m perpetually looking for a relationship, which also makes me annoyed and dissatisfied. I’ve recently realized that I’m too young to stress over “finding” someone, and just have fun. Nobody told me that it’s possible to be happy alone—something I understand, and am trying to learn.

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No one told me that everything is going to be okay. 

Over the last few years, so many unexpected things have happened in my life. I’ve changed, people around me have changed, and all of us have made irreversible mistakes that leave us weaker, sad, or lonely. It is easy to think that everything that happens in your late teens and early 20s is the worst thing ever, but real maturity gives you the insight to realize that everything really does pass— and that you’re better because of it.

I’m of the mind that—barring huge life events—almost nothing you do at 18, 19 or 20 years old has any real bearing on your future life. That falling out you had with your BFF at 20 will seem like nothing but water under the bridge in a few years. That stupid night you decided to go out instead of study for midterms? A mistake, but not one that’s that big a deal.

Growing up is learning the difference between when something is really wrong, and when everything is going to be okay. Most of the time, everything is, in fact, going to be okay.

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