What To Expect From Your First Year out of College

(originally posted on postgradproblems.com)

Not much, that’s what.

When the warm, microfiber security blanket of college is pulled aggressively from your morning-after bloodshot eyes and you get thrown carelessly into the lion’s den of the real world, you’re going to need as much wine and empathy as you can get. But fear not, young one–that’s where we come in. What kind of fellow young persons would we be if we didn’t at least try to prepare you mentally for the inevitable atrocities you will face upon graduating.

Your First Job

Receiving that first four-digit paycheck will be one of the coolest and most rewarding moments of your young adult life. However, once the initial monetary excitement has worn off (which, trust me, it won’t take long) you will realize how much you hate your cube, paperwork, and working “long” hours. You might be one of the lucky ones who lands his or her supposed dream job right out of college, but let’s be honest–you probably won’t. You’ll give it away like a slut to the first company that shows even an inkling of interest in you, and you’ll convince yourself that the company isn’t just filling an entry-level position with whoever comes a-knockin’. No. That company hiring you really means something. Oh, and get ready for a level of exhaustion you’ve never experienced in your life. Getting a few hours of sleep after an all night rager then doing it again the next day and still being alive and well come Sunday was a joke. Try working Monday through Friday, all day long. Using what little brain cells you have left to stare at Excel spreadsheets and act like you care during all-company meetings will leave you feeling like you were hit by a train, then run over by an F-150.

Your College Breakup

Some of you were in a good thing to begin with, and will continue to be in a good thing with the same significant other long after college. But most of you will wake up one day and realize it was just a college thing and that it’s time to end your relationship and quickly plummet into the dark taverns of post-collegiate relationship anxiety. If you’re smart, you’ll listen to your initial gut instinct and cut ties before things get messier. But, at 22 and 23 years of age, you’re not that smart (none of us were) and you will drag out the breakup forever. You might know for a year and wait to do it. You might try to do it not once, not twice, but three times (guilty). After all, Seinfeld did say that breaking up is like pushing over a vending machine–you have to rock it back and forth a bit before you push it all the way over. You might never grow the balls to do it, cheat on your significant other all the while, then become engaged to him or her, then marry him or her, then swiftly divorce him or her by age 25. The choice is yours and yours alone, but I will tell you this: your gut is rarely ever wrong. And, also, there is so much more vagina and penis out in the world to explore. This makes for great stories. Bitterness and frustration? Sure. But the great stories outweigh that tenfold.

Your Friend Situation

Upon moving back to your hometown or to a new city, you will quickly realize that good, quality friends are few and far between. For the first few years, you’ll try to salvage your surface-level college friendships by wasting your precious personal time off on weekend trips to try and relive your youth. However, it won’t be long until you make new friends in your new home, get wrapped up in work, and decide that PTO is a precious gift bestowed upon by you by the American workforce, and you want to do it right. There will be a significant pocket of time wherein you lose touch with some college friends, have no “real world” friends established quite yet, and wonder what the hell you’re supposed to do on weekends anymore. It will be lonely and it will be confusing. But know this: you will come out of it. Sure, you can try work happy hours. They’re a staple of the young newbies mingling with each other–and maybe trying to make out with each other because they don’t fully understand the importance of keeping boning and work separate. But those work happy hours won’t keep you warm at night. The truth is, you’ll end up finding new “real world” friends as you move jobs and grow up with each passing year. Just know that it’s very normal to feel friendless and pathetic on weekends for the first little while out of college. Get a dog. It’ll help.

Your Money.

In college, getting down to single digits or even negative digits in your bank account was funny. You’d laugh it off, call yourself a fuck up, and ask your parents for $20 to get you through the weekend. In the real world, this means you are a failure. In the real world, being anywhere below $100 causes you to break out in hives and wonder if you should start interviewing homeless people on tactics of survival. The problem when you first start getting paid real money is that you think it’s a shitload. You’ve never seen such high quantities in your name before. A THOUSAND dollars? More like a million! You make it rain for the first couple of checks (once you pay rent, of course) treating yourself to grownup outings such as shopping sprees, nail appointments, and girls’ dinners complete with three double vodka sodas. Then you realize you won’t be able to pay your rent next month. You have to make the shameful, despicable call to your parents. And they scold you. And you cry. And you say you’ll do better. And you do better, but you fuck up a few more times along the way before you realize how truly poor you actually are, and that government sucks, and that you hate healthcare. How are you supposed to be thin and happy when all you can afford to eat is pasta at home every night? It’s a vicious cycle, my friends. Don’t ask me how to end it, because at 27, I’m still figuring it out.

So, the moral of this story? Maybe apply to grad school. The real world can wait–it’s not going anywhere.