The Only 10 Things You Need to Know Post-Graduation
A highlight-reel excerpt from the guidebook one writer wishes had accompanied her diploma
1) Paying rent is not like responding to a Facebook event invite.
You can’t coyly click “Maybe” and show up fashionably late, elaborate stories about a rogue 6 train in tow. You can’t rely on Siri sending opportune push notifications to your home screen when it’s time to get your shit together. You can’t opt for the “Decline” button because it does not exist, not even when it’s December and you promised yourself you’d actually buy presents this year, instead of making hand-turkeys and macaroni necklaces at the age of 23.
2) Contrary to popular belief, Ann Taylor is not where souls go to die.
In fact, you find its muted tones and Michael Bublé Pandora station soundtrack soothing, and you have never felt more powerful, competent, and Sandberg-y than when you are zipped snugly into one of Ann’s pantsuits (they have become your armor).
3) Feminism, activism, give-a-fuck-ism is important.
If you are lucky, your return address for the last four years was somewhere along Enclave-of-Idealism Road. During your upcoming foray into adulthood, you will experience many moments of frustration and disappointment in the face of bias and ignorance. You may, at times, feel like Jane Goodall — an embedded outsider — doing recon on a community you feel sure must not be your own. When you feel the urge to stand up for yourself or for others, Lean In to that urge. Worry less about rocking the boat than you think apt. (It’s a sailboat whose jib is sewn from resumes — it will float no matter what, and you are wearing an invisible life jacket — it is called conviction.)
4) No one is having as much fun as their Instagram presence insists that they are.
It’s been scientifically proven that a stimulus with Valencia filter promotes increased activity in the FOMO-us Maximus corridor of the cerebral cortex (note: said stimulus is actually just a brunch that cost them half their weekly paycheck, a sunrise they watched from their desk at a job they find only vaguely fulfilling, or a boyfriend who they met via a Tinder match that revisionist history has allowed them to name Trader Joe’s.
5) Not everyone you right-swipe is worth your time.
Never wave the white flag on your own self-respect and quiet faith that love might actually be like a Hugh Grant movie. (However: always pick a first-date bar close enough to your office so that you can fake a work-emergency-flavored evacuation, if needed.)
6) Resist the (all-powerful) urge to find the guy who just interviewed you for your dream job on Instagram, regardless of the fact that he may actually be your professional soul mate.
Double-tap nothing; plead the fifth if discovered.
7) Throw your colleagues (metaphorical) acapella concerts.
Unlike in college, the secret talents and beautiful complexities of your peer group will not have convenient, mid-semester showcases; they will, in fact, remain largely undiscovered unless you take the initiative to ask. Give those around you occasions and space to grow past their one functional dimension in your life and you will be perpetually surprised by all that blooms just beyond the edge of their business card. This will pay dividends for your entire career.
8) The job you are doing is not brain surgery (unless it actually is, in which case: YAS QUEEN); your cube is not a snowflake.
Everyone else your age is hauling around their own, similar set of existential anxieties and half-baked ambitions. You are not the only one hustling. Period. You may not have the same jobs, but you are all doing the same work — of building a career, a passion, and a person. And so inside each of your Blackberries and classrooms and grad school applications are identical words — of hope and stress and goals — describing efforts, the impacts of which have yet to be forecasted. (Cliff Notes version: your job is not “harder” than anyone else’s. I promise.)
9) Keep the “movie theater” momentum.
You know, that fleeting feeling between the final line and the closing credits of a truly transcendent film when you whisper resolutions into your popcorn bucket: I will tell him how I feel, I will quit my job, I will not be afraid of failure, I will never participate in or allow the evil destruction of another Avatar culture’s Hometree. In life after college, you may find that there are fewer junctures to confront those principles and an abundance of convenient excuses to avoid them. When you feel the matrix of minutia getting in the way, watch the closing scene of Say Anything and let yourself get reacquainted with your closing-credit-confessions.
10) Apocalyptic nostalgia doesn’t make you a “sissy,” it makes you productively (albeit tearfully) appreciative.
You are right. The tsunami of emotion you surf into Commencement on is warranted. This is as enormous and important and impossibly ephemeral as it feels, perhaps even more so. You are not being melodramatic. Put the end of this chapter in bold font, put it in italics, underline and CAPITALIZE it. For if you let yourself preempt the coming nostalgia, you grant yourself the opportunity to feel and to share the wistful gratitude most only receive as a gift from their sidekick, Hindsight.