Everyone always says your college years fly by. I never paid much attention to the sentiment until very recently. Over the past two years, it has been so easy to get caught up in the bubble that is college. It is a world where my closest friends live a few feet away from me. It’s a world where I get to build my own schedule and for the most part, live on my own terms. The excitement and comfort of it all has captured me in a trance. It’s also simultaneously shed light on the daunting reality of life after college.
In the past few weeks, I have found myself engaged in numerous conversations with other third-years about this topic of life after graduation. They have been sparked by the fact that we’re now over halfway through our college experience. Especially with COVID-19 largely affecting our first year, time really crept up on us.
One topic that’s been consistently brought up in conversations is the idea of having to work for a majority of our lives. As someone who hates being tied down by routine, it is an intimidating concept to have to commit 40 or more hours weekly to a job. I feel incredibly anxious about the rigidity that comes with working a full-time job.
Right now in college, it’s so easy to shape my day-to-day life how I want it to be. From my classes, to meals, to making plans with friends, I feel in control of what I do. I surely have certain commitments — like meetings and classes — but beyond that, there’s a great sense of freedom in my current stage of life. So looking to the future, I’m most afraid about the loss of flexibility and freedom I’ll face when I begin working.
Moreover, it is not just the sheer hours I’ll spend working that scares me. I am also apprehensive about the distance that’s bound to separate me from my friends. College is truly a bubble in this sense — all of my closest friends are no more than a five-minute walk away. It’s easy to make plans when we have such intertwined lives.
But, I recognize that this is only a temporary set-up — my friends will eventually be on their own paths and there’s no guarantee we’ll all reside in the same place again. One day, seeing my friends will mean intensive planning and booking tickets. Not actively and spontaneously seeing the people that shape my life is frightening.
To put it bluntly, I’m afraid that excitement and happiness won’t come as naturally as it does in college. On Grounds, every day looks a little different. There’s always something new to try and so many incredible people to surround yourself with. I don’t know if that’ll be the case beyond graduation. At the very least, it won’t be the same. And I’m scared that once I graduate, it’ll be hard to let go of a time that felt comfortable and easy.
But at the end of the day, I recognize that this is a very pessimistic view of things. It’s easy to spiral, especially when all my friends also share these fears. So in moments like these, I have to put things into perspective. First, in spite of my worries, we all have to undergo this natural progression of life. My parents went through this transition between school and the real world and pretty much everyone over the age of 18 has too. Even though this transition may be inescapable, it doesn’t mean it’ll be dreadful.
A few days ago, I had a chance to look at my journal from high school. In an entry from the summer before my first year at the University, I expressed a million and one worries about starting college. I was stressed about academics, friendships and all the lifestyle changes that feel second nature now. The transition might’ve been less drastic than the one from college to post-graduate life, but it was still terrifying and unfamiliar. I’d like to believe that in the way I learned to adjust to life at college, I’ll adjust to life after it as well.
There’s no way of knowing what life will be like a little under two years from now. Maybe some of my fears will be validated or maybe I’ll look back and laugh at my irrational self. For now, I remind myself that without realizing it, I’ve been going through these transitions my whole life.
Whether it was starting preschool for the first time, moving countries in high school or starting college in the midst of a pandemic, change is at the root of growing older. Graduating and beginning a job is just another step of the progression. And if it’s been okay so far, all I can do is hope it’ll continue to be that way.
Niharika Singhvi is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.