I’ve had a hard time getting over college. Leaving it behind was probably the worse than any break-up I’ve ever faced in my 23 years of life. I didn’t realize the difficulty I was having letting go until my mom told me recently that she’s concerned about me “living in the past.” Zing! Thanks, Mom. If you went to a four-year residential institution, then college is your whole world for about a fifth of your life, so it’s normal to feel some attachment. But, as my mom pointed out, my obsession might be getting in the way of thinking ahead and planning for the future. So I’ve made a conscious effort to try to willingly come to terms with being an alumna and maintain a healthy relationship without going overboard. Here’s what I’ve learned:
Branch out from your college friend group
I happen live in New York City where there’s a large contingent of people that I went to college with. My best friends in this city are my friends that also moved here after college. We’re terrible at parties because our favorite activity is to huddle alone in a corner and complain or talk about things that no one else understands/knows about. Even if you don’t live physically close to your friends, G-Chat and group chat make it easy to close yourself off to new, substantive relationships. Start with your coworkers. Have lunches with them, suggest drinks after work. If you’re throwing a party, invite them—hopefully they’ll invite you to their parties because of reciprocity, duh, and you’ll become better friends with them and meet their friends. Meet those people your parents know tangentially through a friend of their uncle’s. I used to roll my eyes when my parents would try to set up a lunch date with me and my fifth-cousin-eight-times-removed who happens to live on the same island as I do because I had my own things going on. Now I cross my fingers they’ll send people my way. Participate in groups that no one you know is a part of. I did this by joining Ed2010, a networking organization for people who are pursuing editorial careers. I now mentor an aspiring entertainment and beauty blogger who graduated this year. We meet up for coffee sometimes, mostly to talk about her resume and job search, but I like to think that’s a path to friendship. The point is, I’m trying.
Don’t be the first to bring up college in conversation, and only do so if it’s relevant to the topic at hand
This is a rule that I recently started trying out. When you first graduate and enter the workforce where everyone around you has been out of school for a few years longer, sometimes it’s hard not to start every conversation with, “In college…” or “This one time, at Princeton…” One reason to avoid doing this, especially at work, is that you instantly sound inexperienced (you are, but you don’t have to sound like it!). Yeah, all of your recent life experience comes from time you’ve spent in college, but even if you’re telling a story about something that happened there, try to rephrase it so you’re not constantly reminding everyone. Instead of saying, “My professor said…” say “I was talking to someone very knowledgeable on the subject of ___, and their opinion was fascinating for ___.” This will make you sound like you roll with a really intellectual crowd. Exceptions include when other people are talking about stories of their college days or when your job requires you to look at a problem, product, or market from the perspective of a college student. Then it’s perfectly acceptable to chime in and college-up the conversation.
You can’t go back all the time
Resist the urge. This is especially hard if you still live within reasonable driving/public transportation distance to your alma mater, which I do. Last weekend T-Pain, Chiddy Bang (of Holidae Inn fame), and Aaron “That’s How I Beat Shaq” Carter performed at Princeton’s bi-annual Lawnparties event and it was all I could do to stop myself from hopping the first train to Princeton Junction with a Camelback full of pre-mixed mimosa. It starts out as, “Oh, I’d love to see my old dance group perform!” and turns into current students whispering about that “weird old alum” who is always hanging around. Instead, wait until there’s an time specifically for alumni. This includes Homecoming games, reunions, and if your student publication/dance group/sports team is having an alumni specific event. Then, feel free to go all out.
When you go, don’t go by yourself
Returning is better in groups. It just is. Most likely the reason you love college so much is because of the people you experienced it with. Even if you still know a few people on campus, you’ll realize that they have stuff to do and friends in their own year they’d rather hang out with. Wandering around campus without the familiar faces will be lonely because you won’t have anyone to say, “Oh they would get a Cheeburger Cheeburger on campus after we graduated,” except yourself, and you don’t want to be the weird old alum who also talks to herself. It will seem bleak and lonely without your friends and you will feel old because you don’t realize how childlike and innocent an 18-year-old really looks until you see them living your old life.
Don’t compare everything in your real world life to college
If you’ve already graduated, then you know the pit of despair you can be driven into by the shocking reality of day-to-day post-graduate life. I used to take extended naps every day in college, and if I didn’t get my nap in I was super grumpy. Comparing my previous nap schedule to my lack thereof in real life only made me more upset and whiny instead of making me proactive in trying to make the changes less terrible. Try and create new scenarios that you didn’t have in college, something that’s habitual, that you can look forward to, and that’s unique to new interests and passions. Recently, I founded Fried Chicken Fridays, a twice-monthly event where my friends and I sample New York’s most highly rated fried chicken establishments and discuss at length the pros and cons. It’s an open event to anyone who wants to join, friends of friends, coworkers and roommates so we get to bring more potential friends into the fold. I like to think that embracing my amateur foodie within is the first step in defining a more realistic identity, one that doesn’t rely solely on nostalgia and a past life to stay intact, an identity that is more whole.
Tell us how you’re getting over college in the comment section, or tweet us @litdarling!