At the End of College, Am I Prepared for "Real Life?"

Groceries, detergent, a new three-subject notebook...as I started mentally preparing my list to shop before I moved back into school, I realized a truth I didn’t want to spend much time dwelling on: This will probably be my last back-to-school ever. 

Unless I go on Jeopardy! and win big enough to afford graduate school, this semester will mark the end of my journey into academia, a world I've loved. The idea of truly, fully entering the world of Adulthood-with-a-capital-A is all the more scary when the world waiting for you is currently half shut down due to a highly contagious, deadly disease. With all the downtime the pandemic affords, I can’t help but reflect on my time in college and wonder if I can confidently say I’m prepared for what’s waiting for me afterwards. 

Person holding white scroll Photo by Ekrulila from Pexels

Academically, I’ve definitely done everything  to feel like I'm qualified for the world ahead. The independent studies, the internships, the honors courses -- anything that seemed to say, “Look at me! How could you fail with me under your belt?” I ran towards. I’ve learned everything I could about what I originally enrolled in school for and found a couple more things I’m passionate about along the way. But will that be good enough for all of the entry-level jobs that require 2-3 years of experience? 

At the very least, I feel confident that I’ve grown exponentially since I entered college. I’m sure many seniors would agree with me in saying that I barely feel connected to the freshman year version of myself. College has been a four year crash course of dressing the way I want to, speaking with more confidence, setting hard boundaries, and taking care of myself. I can advocate for my strengths and own up to my mistakes. I can cook at least semi-edible meals now! Generally, I feel okay about making the switch from living college-style to setting out on my own.

But when, really, will us 2021 graduates be setting off and starting our lives? A lucky few of us might already have a job offer waiting. A few might have at least had a dream city they plan to move to. But COVID-19 puts a cloud over any plans I try to visualize; should I really be moving to a new area when I shouldn’t even travel to see my family? How would I meet anybody in a new space when I’m only leaving my home for essential purposes? And besides, where is the money to move going to come from? Trying to break into a job market where talented, experienced employees are already being laid off is incredibly intimidating. The closer graduation creeps, the farther away the Carrie-Bradshaw-living-off-her-writing-in-the-city dream seems.

a phone that says stay home Photo by Viktor Talashuk from Unsplash

In general, it seems I’ll be graduating with many more questions than answers, and little to no visual on what life will be like afterwards. I certainly never envisioned wearing a mask to the graduation ceremony, and not being able to hug my friends goodbye -- that is, if we’re able to have one at all! But even in the best of circumstances, nothing in the future is ever guaranteed. And whatever the definition of “real life” is, it seems as though it’s coming for all of us, whether we feel prepared or not. All we can do is try our best to be ready, put the neverending sea of questions away, and jump right in!