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Life After College Graduation: Adjusting To The Next Chapter

“I’m graduating.” It hit me several times as I finished up senior year assignments, as I saw friends dress up in their caps and gowns looking regal and spiffy, and as I walked down Kenyon College’s Middle Path to the tune of cheers and chapel bells. That was when it was real.

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A couple weeks later, I said goodbye to friends again and realized how serious that goodbye was. I could keep in touch, but we would not ever spend time together in the same way again after graduating college. I really was a graduate and that meant change.

Eight months later, I am still adjusting to the idea. I think about how for sixteen years I was taking classes. Now I am working a part-time job and spending free time writing, not stressing out about assignments or exams.

On holidays, I would be leaving friends for a break at home with family. Now, living at home, the holidays make me miss my friends and school so much. There is no assured reunion after a few weeks like before. What was once familiar is now strange.

So though I am living the life of a college graduate, it is often hard for me to fully comprehend it and all the differences. And the hardest adjustment for me is not knowing what the future will hold.

Adjusting to the Unknown

Technically I never knew, but my expectations were set by the school system. I knew the routine of classes, homework, semesters, and moving to the next year. I was a part of a tribe known as student. I’d identified myself as such and spent time with my peers. Together we learned, struggling with stress, and had fun. Where we differed we could learn from each other. But now it’s scary to let go of that label and to move into a wider world that does not have built in grades and levels.

Where I go next is so very much up to me. That’s a lot of responsibility: to claim independence and to face the unknown.

So I have to grow more accustomed to living with uncertainty. The fear of the unknown sweeps in strong sometimes, and I have to remind myself to breathe. But so many times I have been reminded that it’s chance and possibilities that are magical. Since they are uncertain they are full of so much potential. And I have survived the uncertain before. All my life I have been living through it, especially in college.

When I look back and incorporate all the lessons I have learned, I can survive the unknown, which feels like surviving the impossible. I learned in study abroad the ups and downs of culture shock and homesickness. And I survived that. I learned different perspectives of seeing and interpreting the world. I learned what I enjoy, what I struggle with, what I want to do more of and get better at.

When I lean into the uncomfortable unknown of life after college, I find I am brave, learning who I am and other things about the world. I have discovered the power of possibility. I am trying to remind myself of that, as I continue with life after college.

Faith Bell is a graduate of Kenyon College.

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