Dorothy, we’re not in college anymore

roadtripIt was 2 1/2 years ago that my college years ended and my adult life began. I had to bid farewell to spring break (and fall break, and winter break, and summer break too), say goodbye to the local bar around the corner where I’d vent to friends about how stressful class was over cheap beer and cranberry vodka cocktails, and say hello to the thing I so very dreaded: figuring out how to grow up and be an adult. In those first few months after graduation when the bliss of realizing I never had to do any homework again in my life faded out and the reality of adulthood started creeping in, I couldn’t help but wish I was back in school slaving over the same essays and projects I’d just been complaining about months before. It’s days like today where I remember those feelings of uncertainty and fear (mixed with a bit of excitement) and wish I could go have a conversation with my 18 year old college graduate self to tell her to suck it up because there are a lot of awesome things in her future.

2 1/2 years ago, I never would have been able to foresee where I am now. I may not be working my dream career, but I’m working to get there, and along the way I’ve developed countless skills and even got a promotion to my first full time salaried position at work (yay!) I’ve already lived in 3 states yet it is in Florida with John that I finally feel I’ve found “home” (mom, if you’re reading, you know Columbus will always be my #1 home). Even better, I’ve finally found the courage to give my photography business a try and I’ve surprised myself with all of the confidence I’ve gained in myself as a result.

As I reflect on all of my major life accomplishments in the past 2 1/2 years alone, I realize how much time I wasted being upset and anxious about the future. And I think that’s one of our biggest struggles as twenty-somethings: somewhere along the way we get so caught up in the transition to adulthood that we forget what our twenties are for. They’re a time for growth, learning and personal development, yet we put tremendous pressure on ourselves to have things all figured out as soon as we get out of college. Instead of taking life day by day and celebrating the small stuff we accomplish along the way, we fixate on the future and get frustrated because we aren’t there yet.

So, I’m making a vow to myself to celebrate the small stuff from now on. As far as I’m concerned, baking a batch of cupcakes without burning them is just as much of a cause for celebration as that great promotion at work.

I want to hear your thoughts:
Have you ever found yourself frustrated or feeling like you aren’t where you want to be in life?
How do you deal with it and remind yourself to appreciate the small stuff?
What was your own transition from college grad to adult like?
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41 thoughts on “Dorothy, we’re not in college anymore

  1. Rachel

    I’m not at my “dream job” now either- although I enjoy what I do, I’m good at it, and I also got a huge promotion (congrats to you on yours!), I know I don’t want to be here forever. I try to focus on the good things- I get to actually DO things at my job, I get out at 5 everyday (no long, annoying hours) and I’m building a huge writing portfolio. Focusing on the good parts of the job really helps, just like you said!

    Back in college, I thought my life would be totally different now. I didn’t think I’d be living at home or working in the field I am, I didn’t realize my student loans would be $800 a month, etc. But I think I was just living in la-la land during college haha! I’m pretty proud of myself for navigating through these years like I have- even with the bumps along the way

    Reply
  2. Alyssa

    This couldn’t ring more true for me (and probably everyone haha). I think we all have dreams for how our lives will turn out when we’re in college, but they rarely (and I mean rarely) happen exactly as we’ve planned–because really, who dreams of high rent, awkward life issues and massive loans? NOT ME! But sometimes the path to our “new dream” is the most fun of all! I’m thrilled to have an amazing job that I’m proud of and that I grow at each day. Does it pay a lot (or anything, really)? No. But one of the biggest things I’ve learned since graduation (and what I try to focus on when things get tough) is that there are a lot of ways to get “paid” in life: through experiences, through friendships, through hard work, etc. I have to admit, seeing my byline on an article in a national women’s magazine makes me feel like I make a million a year. Seeing my loans go down each month, my friendships get better than I could imagine, and growth at my job reminds me that all the stress of being a twenty-something is worth it.

    Like you, I definitely get caught up a bit on my road to being an adult and trying to do everything “right”…sometimes I need the reminder to just sit back and be a 23-year-old. Thanks for this 🙂

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  3. sue maxwell

    I love your new “home” as much as your old one because I see how happy and productive you are…and it is “usually” much warmer and nicer there:) You having an incredible life and making the most out of it, which makes me so proud of you. You are the best!!

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  4. Jenna

    YAY! Congratulations on your promotion. All the hard work has paid off and doesn’t it feel amazing. I still get anxious and frustration about the future but then I realize that each day I am one step closer than I was when I was still in college. I was so scared to graduate from college because I was thinking, I have no idea what I am going to do now. I am still trying to find my passion, which freaks me out, but I figure that isn’t something you can rush.

    I can strongly relate to this post because this is exactly how I feel. Some days I am discouraged of where I am in life, and other days I am so proud of myself. It’s a hit or miss, I guess we just need to stay positive and proud of our accomplishments this far!!

    XOXO Jenna

    Reply
  5. Evani

    I’ve got a similar timeline going on, but I still can’t shake how much I miss college and how easy life was back then. I work a really good job, with good wages and benefits but I’m so unfulfilled, it makes it hard to enjoy. I’m happy to hear other twenty somethings are feeling achieved and I take solace in knowing that could be me soon. I just am still in that place where I feel unsettled and unsure of what comes next. Maybe I need to take more risks?

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  6. Always Maylee

    I feel like the period of time in between college and maybe when you have your own family, you’re sort of in this mindset of “hurry up” and you’re just dreaming about the next part of your life that you forget about the current part of your life. And to enjoy the moment. I think that’s what I think about the most… now that I’m married… I think about how right after I graduated, I only could think about being married and having that dream that I sort of forgot to enjoy a few things! I do miss college sometimes… life was so much easier then! 🙂

    xo, Yi-chia
    Always Maylee

    Reply
  7. Nelayish

    Hey I found your comment in my blog post “Bucketlist” :). I can’t be able to reply you in my blog. So I replied here. By the way, this year I’m turning 20 and I am still in college right now. I feel also the same, like I don’t know where life will bring me. Sometimes life is not heading me to the place I want. I felt that frustration too, because 2 years from now I will be out in college and go the “real world”. I myself is afraid of these two words “REAL WORLD”. Whenever I hear those two words, it horrifies me alot, I am always afraid of the uncertain. Honestly I can’t see who I am after college, well that is “uncertain” again :). As the days go by, I just learn to savor everything I have right NOW. I might be afraid of what future will bring. All I have to do is still stand up, smile and keep on moving 🙂 This is too long but I hope I help you with your thoughts! 🙂 God Bless

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  8. Maria

    I think about this all the time even though I am working my “dream job.” What I’ve come to realize is that now that I’ve achieved one dream, I have to work on having another one but that’s just the person I am. I have to set goals and attain them. You are a smart and beautiful woman that still has lots to look forward to 🙂

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  9. Stephanie

    Congrats on your promotion! I went to medical school after college, so most of my frustration about not being where I wanted to be in life after college was related to the length of medical training. Now that I’m finally in practice, I can look back and say that it was all well worth it, even though I will be paying off my school loans until I retire. 😛 Appreciating the small stuff is definitely important, no matter what point you are at in life. Enjoy those cupcakes! 🙂

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  10. Linda

    I graduated college a year and a half ago, I don’t have a full-time job in my field of study, I’m in debt up to my eyeballs (thanks student loans), and I live 30 hrs from my sister/best friend. Yeah, that’s not how I would have imagined my life going at this point. However, I have a steady full-time job, a growing freelance business, the most wonderful husband, and we somehow managed to purchase a house within 6 months of marriage. I’d say I’m pretty blessed.

    Now, I’m trying to find the balance between being content but still being driven to achieve the things I’ve always dreamed of doing. I’ve always been the “big picture” kind of person. I justify the sacrifices of the present for the reward of the future, but my husband is the opposite. He is all about enjoying the here and now. I have to learn to find the in-between place somehow.

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  11. Lyka Boss

    Yes. I have the same argument with myself everyday. I graduate college almost three years ago and I feel like– I’ve gotten nowhere since then. I imagined myself having my master’s by last year actually, and right now I imagined I would be working towards my Ph.D. Somehow my plans got derailed, I became unfocused, and now I’m questioning what I want to do with my life. It’s quite overwhelming, but it’s nice to know I’m not the only 20-something that feels that way at times.

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  12. Rachel

    I can totally relate to where you are coming from… this May I will be out of college for 3 years and I’m at my second job now. It is a great environment and I like what I do, but I don’t feel that passionate drive that I wish I had. I have gotten down on myself a few times and gotten into the mode of comparing my work life (along with other things) to others. Like man, that person already has their dream job in their dream city and I’m in the MidWest doing something I kind of love. But honestly I have started to learn that things begin to work out, one way or another and that I still need to push myself to be where I want to be someday. But worrying about it day in and day out isn’t going to get me there!

    Congrats on your promotion!

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  13. Sham

    Hey I just came across your blog and I must compliment you on the design it is absolutely beautiful. I am still transitioning from university to adulthood– and have been doing so for the past 6 months. My biggest frustration is not finding any permanent work contract and sadly I have yet to find out a strategy for how to get a job or how to deal with my frustrations. Another big problem is forgetting to celebrate my own accomplishments, sometimes we are in such a rush for the next thing that we forget to celebrate our past accomplishments.

    Anyways thanks for an inspiring post.

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  14. Kathleen

    It is so refreshing to read of people on the other side. I am very nearly finished university with the big bad world looming ahead, and already have been trapped in thinking too much of where I want to be and where I ought to have been by now. But really, life has barely begun. It is a small comfort to know that even if I things play out as they do in my head, it isn’t likely that this feeling is going to go away any time soon.

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  15. Tonya

    Today, I feel more like the person I want to be than ever before. Perhaps I was unique in how I viewed my whole education as a means to an end. With experience, skills and a bit of luck, I have found myself in a great job.

    I think I am now in this transition mode where I have all the tools I need to achieve my dream (write a book, preferably books). I just have to figure out how to make that happen with a full-time job, a social life and a boyfriend. Oh, and finances…. I can’t forget that I have to balance my finances too.

    This is the first blog of yours I have read, but already I can say that you are an inspiration. That you have the drive and courage to start a photography business is something you should be truly proud of. In fact, it makes me want to gather all my notes and get that book written.

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  16. Mary Brune

    Hey Stephanie, I’m currently a college senior who is definitely struggling with the whole “transition to adulthood” you mentioned. For my @socialmktLU class with @professorbeth, I’m actually blogging about this so-called Quarter-Life Crisis that you seem to capture in this post. Really love your blog, thanks for sharing! #socialndigitalLU

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  17. Catherine

    This is so true – I graduated 2.5 years ago, too, and I find myself swinging between so many different feelings about college vs. adulthood. My transition was a little rough, and when I look at my life now, I’m shocked at where I’ve ended up. I’m teaching (which I never envisioned), and I’m rediscovering things I loved as a girl but forgot about in the throes of academia.

    I really appreciate this post. Growing up is hard, but there is so much to be grateful for.

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  18. eniola prentice

    My transition was rough. I went to medical school where my somewhat idyllic college years were prolonged but I learned from the experience. The 20s are weird. its the not quite there but adult years

    Reply
    1. Stephanie Post author

      Yep! I’m only 24 and sometimes I feel like I’m in some big hurry to complete all these life milestones. Then I realize I’ve only been out of college a few years and these kinds of things don’t happen over night. It’s ok to take a little time to yourself to figure things out and enjoy the ride. 🙂

      Reply
  19. Taylor

    I think we’re all there at some point in our lives. I believe the quarter life crisis must be harder than the mid year. They build fill you up with so much air during college and it explodes when you try to look for an adult job.

    The hardest struggle for me was no longer comparing myself to others and dwelling on what others thought about my position in life. It always leads to self doubt!!! It was EXTREMELY tough for me right out of college. But, it was so freeing to relieve myself of that stress when I realized that a lot of my friends were experiencing the same struggles as me.

    I try now to do things that I love, enjoy the moments that I do have, and most importantly blog! Blogging really helps me be myself.

    I love your blog! It seems like you are on the right track, congrats on your salary position! Check mine out @ http://www.trendycheapo.com

    Reply
    1. Stephanie Post author

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and personal experience, Taylor! Comparison to others is a big struggle, even still for me. It’s hard seeing friends living out their dream careers or getting engaged and having children while I’m still working on building my own career, but everyone does things at their own pace. It’s not worth it to get caught up in what everyone else is doing, and you’re right, a lot of times those people who seemingly have the perfect life are actually dealing with the same exact things we ourselves are dealing with.

      Reply
  20. Chelsea

    Let me start by saying this… Wow! This blog is wonderful! Being “twenty-something” I often feel like I am behind in life. Like I’m not where I am suppose to be. I’m still working on my RN degree, with two part time jobs. I often feel like I could be doing so much more with my life. And then I realize, I AM only “twenty-something.” I’m trying to rush my life along, when I should be enjoying these moments. I make decent money right now, enough to get me along nicely at least, and I have wonderful support systems in my life. What more could I want right now? I will get to where I want to be, but it takes hard work and dedication to get there. I will not be handed a RN degree, a full time job, or anything of the sort. So for now, I will be sitting back and admiring the small things that have gotton me to where I am today, & to me, that in its own is a big step!

    Reply
    1. Stephanie Post author

      Chelsea, you are so right. Especially with the prevalence of social media these days, it can be SO easy to feel like you’re behind in life. But, you have to stop and kind of enjoy the “struggle” because that’s what makes your twenties so great. Good careers and comfortable living don’t come easy, they take time and care to build. I wish you the best of luck on your journey, stay in touch!

      Reply
  21. Madison

    Oh my goodness, I’m so glad that I found your blog! That’s actually what spurred me on to create my blog. I went to college and graduated with a degree in education and was lucky enough to get a job right after graduation. However, after what I affectionately refer to as my quarter-life crisis (rather-when I actually woke up to the fact that I wasn’t in college anymore) I realized that I didn’t want to be a teacher after all. So now I’m unemployed and looking into going back to school. Needless to say, I did NOT picture myself starting over at 23. But here I am! So thankful that there are other people like you who are willing to write about the reality of twenty-something life.

    Finding your blog was an encouragement to me tonight. Thank you!

    -Madison

    Reply
    1. Stephanie Post author

      Hey – I give you SERIOUS props for having the courage to totally switch careers. A lot of people just stick with something they don’t even like just because it’s comfortable. So props to you for figuring that out early on and having the strength to reevaluate and find something better. Thank you so much for visiting and commenting, I love your blog!

      Reply
  22. Cali

    I totally understand this post – I always feel as if I am lagging behind where I am “supposed” to be. It has been less than a year since I graduated (Class of 2013), and yet I am already wondering why everything has not fallen perfectly into place for me. I guess part of it is unrealistic expectations–I keep reminding myself that things take time to happen and that everyone has to pay their dues before getting the dream job/dream life they want. But it’s still so frustrating on a day-to-day basis, feeling like you’re not doing as well as you hoped you would.

    http://www.thinktravelcelebrate.wordpress.com

    Reply
  23. Ryan Martineau

    I think a lot of us don’t land in the right place right out of school. It’s hard for us to recongize that we have time on our side and should not start panicing when we feel that our life might not be on the path we want it to be. Getting a well paying corporate job in NYC sounds great on the outside, but once it’s your life and you’re completely miserable, you realize how much simpler life was in school.

    High paying salaries mean little to me, compared to the quality of time spent outside of work. It’s kind of ironic how we deal with a high stress job, in order to eliminite stress outside of work. After all we spend the majority of our waking hours AT work.

    Reply
  24. Ryan

    Although this post is a little bit older, the concept probably will never change.

    We finally made it out of childhood and school into the “real world”, now we’re looking back on yester-year wishing we wern’t adults.

    Sure, there are a lot of worries and big boy responsabilities as we are engulfed by our 20’s, but what does does worrying and stressting about them do? Nothing.

    From my point of view, I see a lot of people worrying about the end result instead of the journey it takes to reach said result. We need to live in the momemt. It’s hard to realize but we’re still so young in the grand scheme of it all to worry away our prime years.

    Thanks for the good read and personalization, Stephanie!

    http://www.trendingmillennial.com

    Reply
  25. Alex Bellink

    So true! We definitely seem to have trouble just focusing on the little things in life, when all we can think about is scoring our dream job. I’ve decided to write down one good thing that happens to me each day to try and stay mindful of the little things.

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  26. Ansley

    I really enjoyed reading this article. I can totally relate because I’m going through the same battle and this is what I’ve recently found. College, college friends, college experiences/memories are some of the best times in a person’s life, no doubt. I often wish I can rewind life back to this time and find myself comparing my current stage in life to college, worst thing to do. It’s so important to keep those college memories and friendships sacred in our hearts, but the best way to lose your drive and passion for today is to compare your life with the past and with the lives of our friends. We have SO much ahead of us, we are SO young, and we need to live in the present to truly “live”. Treasure the memories and friendships, but don’t forget to live in the present and make new friends wherever life takes you. Also, keeping a ‘gratitude journal’ has helped me recognize and appreciate the little things that I can be thankful for on a daily basis 🙂

    Reply
  27. shaina

    Hey there Stephanie! Awesome blog post. I was part of the quarter life crisis club for many years- not knowing where I was headed, who I was or what I was meant to be doing in this world. Making the choice to get to know myself better- what I didn’t want, my desires, my outdated programming, etc. my life changed in the most miraculously ways. I found my calling in life as a Life Coach and now own my own business, Hello Freedom (www.hellofreedom.com). I make the conscious choice (everyday) to appreciate the simple things in life, dream big and believe in myself to make things happen. I LOVE helping fellow Twentysomethings like you thrive in this world!

    Reply
  28. trisha

    Thank god for this post! I have been struggling lately, as I am about to go into my last semester of college this fall. Where did you begin to sort out what you wanted to do? where you wanted to go? I have been documenting my journey thus far too check it out:)

    Reply
    1. Stephanie Post author

      Hey Trisha. I hope you receive this response but I am SO sorry I never wrote back to you. I distanced myself from writing for a long time to give myself some clarity and direction. If I’m being honest, I am still exploring my options and realizing that in this day and age, our careers are very organic. It’s important to take lots of different opportunities and learn from each one. What aspects of one job did you love? What did you hate? How can you take things you enjoy in your daily life and implement them into a career? One of the most important things I’m learning is that self reflection is incredibly important. If you want to find something you enjoy doing and get fulfillment from, you have to do a lot of soul searching and keep it real with yourself. What are you good at, and what are your weaknesses? Take the time to really get to know yourself, and brainstorm ideas of how you can apply that to a career and tangible goals in your life. I am still trying to figure that out myself, but self reflection has been a big help to me, along with being 100% honest with myself about my strengths and weaknesses and how to overcome them.

      Reply
  29. Sharon

    I also believe people go through their 20s so focused on their future, and not really living in the “present.” That ends with regret later! I am doing a blog on how being 20 should be a fun part in life, while also talking about relationships and how men and women view it differently.

    http://gurusharonleii.tumblr.com/

    Reply
    1. Stephanie Post author

      I totally agree Sharon and it’s something I still struggle with! I’m trying to change that and be more present – life is so much more enjoyable that way.

      Reply
  30. Hollie

    I can absolutely relate and I haven’t even officially graduated college yet! Most of my friends graduated last May, which has influenced me to freak out all of the sudden and figure out what I’m doing with my life. I really appreciate your reassurance to take everything day by day and celebrate the little things. I get so wrapped up in what’s next or where I’ll be in a year, that sometimes I forget to enjoy life today. I’m happy that you’ve found your “home away from home” in Florida! Can’t wait to find the same feeling one day.

    Reply
    1. Stephanie Post author

      Hey Hollie! I am so sorry I haven’t taken the time to write back to you sooner. No excuses for my lateness in a response. Thank you so much for sharing your own experience and for taking the time to read and comment. Truth me told, I STILL freak out about my life from time to time and I think it’s really easy to get caught up in comparing ourselves to the lives of our peers. Especially when social media allows us to put that information out there so easily. I hope you’re still taking things day by day, but also allowing yourself that little “freak out” every once in awhile because it’s impossible not to have those moments. I’m doing my best to start living my life much more in the present and trusting life to get me where I’m going without worrying about the how or why or when constantly. Thanks for reading!

      Reply
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