Freshman year of adulthood

**Title borrowed from a funny article I read the other day on “reasons no one likes being 23”

We’re fresh out of college and at the bottom of the totem pole, yet again.  All we have to show for our academic, athletic, and extracurricular achievements we strove so hard to attain is a little piece of paper (okay, and maybe a little more knowledge/discipline/social awareness in there somewhere). In high school everything pointed to performing well enough to get college scholarships, in college everything revolved around what would look good on a resume: a good GPA in your degree, leadership activities, team involvement, etc. Well, now….now we’ve been tossed into what we have always referred to as “real life” (somehow ironic) and are floundering, trying to get our bearings, and attempting to determine what actually matters. We’re the freshman again, stumbling over words we used to be confident saying, painfully aware that everything we do and say is being judged by our ‘superiors,’ trying to accurately portray who we really are and prove ourselves because no one knows our background or reputation.  All that matters is what we do and who we are from this day forward.

Suddenly everything is terrifyingly exciting and overwhelmingly boring at the same time; we realize we finally have time and opportunity to chase our dreams and simultaneously get stuck doing what we have to do to get by. The realization that dreams take time is a depressing blow to our imaginations and we get nervous that they’ll never happen (forgetting we still have ¾ of our lives to make them come true). Contrastly, some of us are distressed that we still don’t seem to have a dream…in fact, we’re unsure of why we even got a degree in what we did and have no clue what we want to do with it.

There have been several moments in my life when I thought, “That’s it, I’m officially an adult!” The first was when I moved to college and started ‘taking care of myself’ (little did I know I was still very much being taken care of). The second was when I got my first car and could actually make decisions on where to be that didn’t depend on someone else. Then I bought my first cookie jar.Then I got married. Then I started my first full time job. Then I had my own kitchen and dining room table!! These may not seem like significant adulthood events (except for maybe getting married and house renting…), but I had been dreaming about these moments my whole life.  My three siblings and I would play “house” like any normal children, where we’d play out the exact situation that I’m living for real now! In my teen years I’d use the phrases, “someday, when I have my own house” and “If/when I get married and am out of school” frequently. Well now all of that has happened!

It’s crazy how much my everyday conversations have changed since I graduated six months ago. They revolve less around pointless class work and what’s going on Friday night and more about the excitement of getting a full sized trashcan and how ridiculous it is to have to pay for internet. We talk about house upkeep, how long it takes to make dinner and clean up after getting home from work, traffic problems, work travels, work-life-marriage balance, budgeting. My best friend Beth pointed out that not only are we trying to prove ourselves to the new people we’re around, we have to prove ourselves to…ourselves.  She said, “I feel pressure to engage in behaviors and hobbies and habits that I know to characterize me, as if I’ve somehow forgotten them and am having to restart.” As we reinvent ourselves in unfamiliar territory we have to remind and convince ourselves that we’re still the same person….or are we?

I really do love the lifestyle of working full time and not having homework in the evenings and weekends….but it is taking some time and adjustment to find myself and where I fit in this new world. It is comforting to know that we’re all just trying to figure this life thing out together, and it really is the start of a great adventure! I guess life is what you make it…or so they say. You just do what you can, keep dreaming, cherish each moment, try to give back and support others, and, to borrow Beth’s words, “Let WHATEVER you do today be ENOUGH. And leave it at that.”