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Advice from People Who Actually Adult

Flickr | Tony Webster

Flickr | Tony Webster

I don’t actually know anything about adult-ing, which you’ve probably realized from the sometimes-questionable blog posts over the year. Still, some force has allowed more than 12,000 students each year to graduate to that distant-seeming realm of full time jobs, post-graduate research, and “finding who you are” each year. As described by some of our 2015-2016 Wake editors, adulthood has moments of being underwhelmed, overwhelmed, and, as former Cities Editor Emily Mongan said, “get[ting] to go home tonight [after a solo business trip] and eat Reese’s Puffs on my couch because I’m an adult!”

All three editors—Mongan, former Voices Editor Kayla McCombs, and former Sound & Vision Editor Sara Glesne—were very honest about the mixed emotions that can accompany living out in the “real world,” but, more importantly, they’ve never stopped chasing what they wanted. Glesne is in rural Corrèze, France, teaching English, translating, and writing. McCombs has recently accepted a job as an account manager in New York City. Mongan lives near Chicago and works as a staff writer for a business-to-business magazine.

During Glesne’s first few days in Corrèze, she and her roommate visited the one popular bar in the 5,000-person town. Glesne was in a completely new environment, adjusting to the 24/7 French—two huge changes that promised great adventure—and yet the pinnacle of nightlife seemed to be bar conversations about rugby and debates over the best kebab spot.

College provides “built in change and dynamism,” Glesne said, and you don’t get that seasonal change as much after you leave. Experiencing the mundane and the new and the unknown and the reality of dreams is adulthood. That local bar, though? It ended up being the setting of a lot of great memories.

While getting a job seems to be the pinnacle of graduating, for Mongan, moving to Chicago and leaving everything familiar was plenty adjust to. “All of a sudden I had my own apartment that I had to pay bills for and furnish,” Mongan said, “next to no friends in Chicago, and all of this free time. It was like playing ‘The Sims,’ except much harder, since there weren’t any cheat codes.”

The ingredients to the life that I dream about after college—a full time job I like, friends, free time, maybe even some extra money to go along with it—even if I get all of those things, there will be moments where I catch myself thinking about “the good old days” at the University of Minnesota. Mongan and McCombs both say that as their friends also graduated and moved on, they found themselves missing college less. College encompasses you, so if you’re at a different point than your friends, you feel that. It doesn’t just affect your relationships, though. Being a student is a big part of your personal identity, too.

I still have my whole senior year in front of me, and once September gets rolling, nine times out of 10 when you ask me how I am, I’ll start talking about how I overscheduled myself and am dying in homework, fun (but still obligatory) extracurricular work, and (hopefully) internships. In a year, I won’t have that. I’ll just be me, and some of the things I do to assure myself that I do have a chance of succeeding and that I am interesting won’t be there.  

“Something that I took for granted while I was still in school was how satisfying it is to feel busy,” McCombs said. “The pressure to create your own opportunities is a lot more crushing than I expected it to be. Once I was able to find accomplishments outside of schoolwork, I missed college a lot less.”

The best that we can do is to move forward, little by little, toward the goals that we set for ourselves. You might not feel as accomplished as others. You’re also probably battling the challenges that McCombs and Mongan face: budgeting, figuring out transportation, setting up utilities and other necessaries, freaking out—even though you feel like you’re not supposed to have to freak out.

It’s okay to freak out.

On the flip side, when all that hard work you’ve done does pay off, don’t psych yourself out. McCombs has gotten a dream job in the place she’s romanticized, but the sad, human truth is that insecurity doesn’t disappear because of that. Being an adult is a mind game, whether it involves persevering and adjusting to a new situation in order to thrive or accepting that you got a job because you deserve it, not because you tricked the employers.

“The panic is real, and I still feel it sometimes,” Glesne said, “but we are just in such an unstable world that all you can do is get excited about the weird opportunities instead of frightened.”