The 5 Stages I Went Through After Graduating College 5 Years Ago—And How My Life Is Different Now

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It seems so surreal that I graduated five years ago. I learned about Forever Twenty Somethings when they were looking for recent grads to write about life after college and what I hoped to accomplish as I was sent into the real world.

Well, there’s no way to sugar coat it: the real world sucks. Four years of college is not enough to prepare you for the rest of your life.

As with the stages of grief I used as a post-grad – here’s what has changed and what has stayed the same five years later:


 

Stage 1: Denial

Then: I can’t be done with college. I refuse to believe I’m in the “real world” now. It was just yesterday I was starting a new independent journey where all I had to worry about was not getting lost on campus and surviving final exams.

Now: It’s been five years since I graduated college and here I am at a desk job working (mostly) 8:30 – 5:30 on weekdays. The real world is here without quotations and now I actually have to make time to see people and do things that fit in my schedule, not just five minutes after a one-hour class. I don’t miss the studying, but the workload is definitely still there.

 

Stage 2: Anger

Then: Why did I have to graduate? Everyone knows the job market sucks and journalism is dead.

Now: College is supposed to tell us we’re smart and we have a degree to prove it. Yet, here I am stuck working on excel sheets in front of a computer all day. Post-grad life is literally the lyrics Taylor Swift’s “22” – you’re happy, free, confused and lonely, all at the same time. It’s called adulting and it’s really, really hard. Freelance writing is still a thing, right?

 

Stage 3: Bargaining

Then: I hate being at home. I’m only here for a temporary time, and then I’ll be back in August, right?

Now: Is it weird if I go back as an alumna? Our football team still sucks, but the drinks are cheap. Is it going to be awkward if I stalk the new sorority members or plan an impromptu visit just to see what’s changed?

 

Stage 4: Depression

Then: College was amazing. I’m going to be so depressed when all of my younger friends make Facebook statuses about heading back to campus and post pictures from football games and formals.

Now: The phrase, “When I was a student here…” sounds terrifying. Things have changed so much since I went to college. Mostly the fact that I went on a social media cleanse and realized I don’t use Facebook as much as I used to and that I’m so over people posting photos of the same things over and over again. It’s not a competition and everyone is on their own path in life, yet social media glamorizes life as other people want you to see it, not how it actually is.

 

Stage 5: Acceptance

Then: I graduated college. I can’t wait to start the next chapter. What’s next?

Now: I was so quick to expect my next chapter to begin right away. I was ready to start a job and move out of my parents’ house. What I didn’t realize is that I set unrealistic expectations of how my life was supposed to go, instead of just waiting to let it run its course. I got rejected from a lot of jobs I applied for – but I learned not to wallow after the “We decided to go in a different direction” HR email and instead put all of my energy into the next one without any expectations. It’s a tedious process, but I promise you that it will pay off.


 

Side note: LOL to when we all thought the world was going to end in 2012. I’m still here, aren’t I?

Hannah Gettleman

Hannah Gettleman is a bubbly twenty-something living in Chicago. She graduated in 2012 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a degree in Journalism. Don't tell her that print is dying--she's already made the switch to public relations. As a Midwest girl, winter happens approximately 80% of the year, so she knows a thing or two about a good pair of snow boots. She lives for summer weather (even though she can never tan), Boy Meets World reruns, and an unhealthy addiction to dark chocolate and online shopping. She's a die-hard Chicago sports fan, even though she's well aware the Cubs always end up in last place every year.

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