Here’s the truth about the “real world”: I still know very little about it.
After I graduated from Trinity in May with my B.A. in English, I moved back home to start my internship in Houston. I pay “rent” to live in my old bedroom, with medals I earned back in middle school band hanging on the wall and now two graduation gowns in the back of the closet, but all of that money has now been deposited into a mutual fund so I can start saving for my retirement. Although it’s been explained to me several times, I’m still unsure of what a mutual fund actually is.
After my summer internship writing about the North American natural gas industry mercifully ended (it helps if you know something/anything about the industry in which you’re working), I immediately landed a reporting job with a local community newspaper in Cypress, where I grew up and now live. I get to work from home most days, which is both awesome and dangerous (imagine living in your PJs all the time…it’s important to get dressed every day so that you maintain that feeling of being human). My paychecks aren’t anything to jump up and down about, but I’m getting a lot of great experience and hey, at least I have a job. I have some friends who graduated in May who are still looking.
That’s the thing: my friends and I who have graduated don’t feel like we’re living in the “real world” yet because we’re not. I’m not sure when things get really “real” in life, but I think it might start when you stop living with your parents. This life of living at home again, saving up for that first magical, crappy apartment and finding/working our first jobs really feels like a kind of limbo.
Nothing feels more real than it did in college. In fact, there are just as many days out here in the so-called “real world” where I have that panicked “what-am-I-doing-with-my-life” feeling as there were my senior year at Trinity.
When I stepped off the stage in Laurie Auditorium at graduation, I felt like I was going to conquer the world. Watch out, evils of the world: another liberal arts college graduate is coming for you! I was going to move to the “big city,” land a fabulous, prestigious reporter job and start taking names. Turns out those jobs require “at least three to five years of relevant experience” and are already taken. Well, phooey.
This all sounds a bit depressing. Honestly, having to leave a wonderful place like Trinity is depressing at first. Not only will you miss your friends and Trinity’s beautifully manicured lawns, you’ll realize that the rest of the world kind of sucks in comparison.
For example, it’s highly unlikely that your bosses will ever be as awesome and supportive of you as your Trinity professors were. Most of them just want you to do your job and leave them alone so they can go home on time and get in their lazy pants.
Also, everything is about delayed gratification after college. You save your money, build your career, try to establish a sustainable workout routine. At Trinity, if you do a great job on a class assignment, you get an A and maybe even a “Great job!” or a “Yes, quite impressive indeed” from your professor. Out here, if you do a great job you get to keep your job.
I don’t mean to discourage anyone. Change is hard. We can’t stay at Trinity forever. Although there are many challenges to life after college, there are also some pretty great perks, like…
No homework. For my job, my work is usually done by 5 p.m. and I get to spend the evening doing whatever I want, guilt free! Ok, maybe eating chocolate while watching “Arrested Development” isn’t exactly “guilt free,” but at least I finished my work for the day. (STEVEHOLT!)
The realization that everyone else is on Facebook all day, too. The average American’s workday consists of browsing Facebook, BuzzFeed and Tumblr with occasional 45-minute intervals of work.
Time to learn about yourself. The time you spend at Trinity is so intellectually, emotionally and physically demanding that you probably feel like a creature at times (let’s be real: most times). I learned a lot of important things at Trinity, but there was little time for introspection, which is understandable: when you’re racing toward the finish line, you don’t usually stop to smell the roses. Now that I’m finally out here working and trying to figure out where my life is headed, I’m required to think about my new goals and dreams very often.
With all this time to ponder my humanity, I think the most important thing I’ve realized is to recognize my own personal sphere of influence. I can’t wake up every morning and expect to change the world. First, I have to focus on my little corner of the world, in the here and now, and do the best I can with what I’ve got. I suppose, after all, that’s what makes the world “real.”
Katie Bailey graduated from Trinity in 2012 with a degree in English.