For the Graduates: 5 Things You Can Do When Everyone Else is Going Back to School

I want another first day of school.

I was always one of those freaks who LOVED the first day of school. During the last weeks of summer, I loved shopping for supplies – most of all picking out pens. I loved handwriting and taking an insane amount of notes. I loved feeling my hand get sore and redeveloping my writer’s bump after a summer of neglect. I loved finally picking up my books after moving into my dorm and looking through them before classes officially started (even if I never opened them again – *wink*). When my alarm went off on that first day of school, I was excited to get up, get dressed, drink coffee and walk to class. It was refreshing. I got to feel useful again after so many lazy summer days.

This whole time after graduating from college has felt like one, long, unproductive summer.

It seemed like everyone in the world was posting on social media this week about going back to school. For some it was their last first day of school ever. For others, it was their very first day of graduate school. Regardless of the situation, they were simply feeling the excitement of seeing friends again after a summer away. With every post I saw, I ached for that feeling.

While school absolutely burned me out at times, perhaps my decision not to go to grad school was too hasty. Sometimes I feel like I could go to school for the rest of my life. I love sitting in class. I love learning new things. I even love writing essays and researching when I’m in the right mood. In some ways this blog was not only started out of a need to know that I wasn’t alone in my confusion after undergrad, but at the same time, as a small way to fill this void that I feel now that school is not taking up all of my time. I miss writing – sharing ideas, discussing current events, analyzing books. I miss the opportunity to have professors read my stuff and tell me that it is valid – that I have ideas worth sharing and that they want to help me share them.

Mostly, I am writing this because my brain just hurts after falling into this dark hole of researching graduate programs today, while at the same not knowing what I want and looking at tuition numbers that absolutely terrify me.

Over a year out of school and the real world is still terrifying. I don’t really feel like I belong here yet – that there are too many rights of passage that I simply have not partaken in to be considered a legitimate member of its club. Even the second time around, I am still feeling the void that comes with seeing so many friends post about their first days of school.

I hardly consider myself to be in a position to give advice, yet I’m going to do it anyway. To the new graduates (the lovers of school like me) that are feeling the same void, here are some things I am doing to help fill it:

  1. Do school shopping anyway. Perhaps you can’t shop for locker or dorm room decor anymore, but you sure can buy those fancy pens you’ve always wanted, even if the set is upwards of $25. And hey, if you only do this once a year, I say it’s totally justifiable.
  2. Make To-Do Lists. There is nothing more satisfying than crossing something off a list of things you need to do before the next day comes. I considered writing homework assignments down in my planner as an art form – you can see why the fancy pens are totally necessary. Then, when you complete something, cross that ish out. You’ll feel better about yourself, trust me.
  3. Go on field trips. Get out there and do something that is intellectually stimulating. Excursions were always the best part about school anyway. You don’t need friends to go with you. If you’re in the same position as I am, and happen to have free time during the day when all of your friends are working their nine-to-fives, go out to a museum, go see a show, go to the library, go take a hike in whatever wilderness you can find.
  4. Go out with friends whenever you can. If you’re like me, most of your socialization took place during school hours. After school, you could go home and hermit until you got up the next morning to do it all over again. I don’t have that anymore. It’s weird to not have friends conveniently living next door and being able to talk to them at all hours of the day/night. I’ve experience first-hand how feelings of hopelessness and being stuck seem to go away after an evening of laughter with people you like.
  5. Journal. I will be always believe in the power of a good journal session when it comes to making you feel productive and legitimate. Nothing is better when it comes to figuring out your feelings – and these therapy sessions are free. (Hint: the feelings that go away after getting them out on paper are usually the ones that weren’t really significant in the first place. The ones that don’t go away – those are the ones you should pay attention to). For me, I experience a great sense of calm whenever I get to actually put pen to paper. I’ve always been a champion note-taker. Plus, there’s no pressure to make the writing good. Just word-vomit. Purge away, my friends.

So, that’s what I’ve got. These won’t solve your problems altogether, but over the past year, these are the things that have helped me adjust to life without school. So if you’re at all like me, give it a shot. Maybe I’ll go back to school someday. But with those tuition costs, who the hell knows. So, for now, it’s the little things I’ve got to pay attention to – the small triumphs.

To those lucky enough to still be in school – I hope you have a great year. You may not realize now how lucky you are, so I hope you make the most of it.

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