Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Weekend Open Thread

If the date on the calendar and the letters I’ve been receiving over the last month are any indication, this is a big weekend for college graduations. And with college graduations, of course, comes big changes, especially in terms of relationships and friendships. People move back home or move to other cities for new jobs or grad school or other opportunities, and suddenly one-close social networks are scattered all over the country, if not the world.

My own college graduation, now 13 years ago, was as bittersweet as I imagine many of today’s students’ will be. I was thrilled to be done with school, but in a matter of weeks, my life changed so dramatically — and not necessarily for the better — that I could no longer remember why I’d spent the last six months counting down the days as if I were finally breaking out of prison. College, I soon realized, hadn’t been prison at all. It’d been a unique kind of freedom I’d never again enjoy. Real life, ironically, was more repressive than school had ever been. Real life meant loneliness, confusion, wondering what the hell to do with my future. It meant making decisions I wasn’t ready to make about my relationship.

My boyfriend at the time wanted to get married. Meanwhile, I wasn’t even 22 yet! We’d only been dating for a few months. And, if I hadn’t been with him, I may very well have left my college town with all my friends in the mass exodus following graduation. As it turned out, I stayed there for two more years, though our relationship didn’t even last another seven months.

If I hadn’t been in that relationship, I wonder how the immediate trajectory of my post-college life might have been different. Would I have really left with most of my friends right after graduation? Would I have had a better sense of what I wanted to do with myself? If I hadn’t been so wrapped up in that relationship and then then my own heartache afterward, what would I have focused my energy on instead? What might I have accomplished? Who knows. Maybe nothing. But it’s interesting sometimes to think about, especially in terms of how far I’ve come and how happy I am that I’m no longer that scared 21 year-old with no idea what the fuck to do with myself.

So, what about you? Were you prepared for graduation — high school or college — when it happened? Were you caught off-guard with the realness of it? And how did it shape or change the relationships and friendships in your life? Did you make personal sacrifices for relationships that you wish you hadn’t? Were you one of the rare ones whose relationship actually survived the challenges of graduation and post-college life?

76 comments… add one
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    AnitaBath May 13, 2011, 5:05 pm

    I’ll be a college senior this upcoming school year, and I don’t want it to end! I remember how excited (and sad and reflective) I was when high school ended, and now I really kind of miss it and wish I could go back. Yes, I’m that freak that misses high school (and definitely not because I was popular or anything).

    My friends and I have talked about how college is scary because this is one of the first times that we can seriously fuck up our future, and how most of the stuff we do now really counts. I’m somewhat terrified of the real world.

    But, at the same time, I love my independence and living on my own for the first time. Hmm, perhaps I’ll just add on four more majors and be a perpetual student >:)

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    TheOtherMe May 13, 2011, 5:12 pm

    For me it wasn’t that much of a shock from College to the real world. I was already working 2 jobs while still in college and I just quit one of them and went in full time with the other.

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    Christy May 13, 2011, 5:28 pm

    I sort of cheated the end of college. My closest friends and I all stayed for the summer after graduation to do theatre at our college for the summer, so we got to prolong the separation. It was great, but I sobbed when my best friend drove away at the end of the summer–he was moving to Atlanta and I fully expected that I’d never see or talk to him again. We still talk every day, and I spent Thanksgiving with his family. Go figure.

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    Jshizzle May 13, 2011, 5:35 pm

    @ the high school grad rehearsal…

    Principal “You guys aren’t taking this seriously, this will hit you and you will become emotional!”

    Me “Nope, can’t wait to get the f*ck out of here! This place is a joke!”

    I watched too much American television and had big dreams about attending a big US University because my grades were so great. But I never bothered to write the SATs since I’m Canadian and the only options presented to us were technical college or the two provincial universities located in the city. All well and good, because all my friends went there, and I ended up making some good new friends.

    When I was finishing up my BA in 2008, I so badly dreamed of doing an MA in another province, at a more prestigious university. But I met my boyfriend, and again I didn’t do it, and was accepted into the MA program at the same university.

    By the time I finished my MA I was dying on the inside not having lived anywhere else. I knew I could not go on this way. I used some of the money I had saved attending the local university to spend a month by myself in the South of France, living my lifelong dream of palm trees and turqouise water.

    I guess I’m still facing the challenges of post-college life, but I am okay with the sacrifices I did make for the sake of my relationship. I did the long distance thing for 1/3 of the past year, and realized that we would for sure have broken up if I had gone away early on in the relationship. I have found a new appreciation for my crappy city, and have no longer have any desire to move away and become someone I am not.

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      MissDre May 13, 2011, 6:22 pm

      Yay another Canadian on the board 🙂 Where are you from? I’m an Ottawa girl.

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        Jshizzle May 13, 2011, 8:03 pm

        I’m from Winnipeg, stayed in Toronto recently for a 3 month internship. It made me miserable too for some reason, I kept having the urge to get drunk, which I never do at home!

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        MissDre May 13, 2011, 9:52 pm

        I’ve got cousins in Brandon and Steinbach 🙂

        Yeah Toronto is gloomy, specially when you live at Jane/Weston and every other day somebody gets shot on your block.

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      MissDre May 13, 2011, 6:35 pm

      PS, I had big dreams of moving out of my city too. I finally did, to Toronto. Did my graduate program there. And I was miserable the whole time. I hated it there and moved back home the second my program was done. I now have a great appreciation of the city I grew up in and I have absolutely no desire to live elsewhere, ever again (although traveling is certainly wonderful).

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        Marie May 13, 2011, 6:57 pm

        Yay another Canadian! I’m from Vancouver but my boyfriend is from Ottawa :).

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        LennyBee May 13, 2011, 7:08 pm

        Tons of Canadians, apparently! I’m from Northern Ontario and was also desperate to leave. Now I’m in the US for grad school, and am hoping to find a job in Canada when I’m done. Not Northern Ontario, just Canada somewhere.

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        Marie May 13, 2011, 7:25 pm

        Also in the US for grad school 🙂 Brain drain!

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        TheOtherMe May 13, 2011, 8:02 pm

        Hooray ! I’m in Montreal !

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        Marie May 13, 2011, 8:08 pm

        I went to McGill 🙂 Graduated in 08!

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        MissDre May 13, 2011, 9:53 pm

        Love Montreal 🙂 Hoping to head out this summer to shop!

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        scattol May 14, 2011, 3:02 am

        In Montreal I would chase summer festivals more than I would shop.

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      • Lana

        Lanchik May 14, 2011, 9:29 am

        I’m also from Ottawa! Going to university in Kingston though. (I thought that my hometown was boring until I moved there… ;))

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        LennyBee May 14, 2011, 1:54 pm

        I love Ottawa! I’ve only visited, but it seems like such a great city! And I’ve always wanted to visit Montreal, but haven’t managed to yet. I assume it’s as great as Ottawa.

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      • Lana

        Lanchik May 14, 2011, 11:55 pm

        Montreal is so beautiful! You absolutely do need to visit. It’s one of my favourite Canadian cities along with Vancouver and Victoria. Ottawa is very nice in lots of ways, but I’ve lived here all my life and I think I need a change. I was thinking of moving to Montreal to get my MA after I finish at Queen’s. 🙂

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        MissDre May 13, 2011, 9:50 pm

        My step dad is from Kapuskasing!

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        princesspetticoat May 14, 2011, 3:35 pm

        Me too! Me too! I’m Canadian too! I’m from Saskatchewan but just moved to Alberta just over a month ago.

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    HolsteinHoney May 13, 2011, 5:44 pm

    20 minutes until my last final exam of my undergraduate education!! For me it isn’t really an insanely big deal, or else it hasn’t really set in yet. I am graduating after 3 years, both because I got into veterinary school a year early and all the stars aligned so I could make the requirements fit just right. ALL of my friends still have another 1-2 years of undergraduate left before they graduate so it doesn’t really seem all that crazy to me.

    Not to mention I definitely don’t feel like a grown up. I am graduating a full month before my 21st birthday! Where’s the fun in that? I can’t even celebrate at the bars. Oh well, I am insanely excited to start veterinary school in the fall, and I am staying in the same city so I won’t be losing any friends. Just gaining new ones. Next year when everyone else graduates and leaves, while I still have another 3 years, will be when it really gets weird.

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      applescruff May 14, 2011, 2:12 pm

      I graduated at 20 as well! I went straight into grad school, and turned 21 the day before grad classes started. Looking back that seems like kind of a weird thing to do, but I can’t imagine what I would have done instead, you know? Best of luck in vet school, what a wonderful profession to go into.

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        HolsteinHoney May 14, 2011, 6:40 pm

        It’s nice to hear from someone who has also graduated at 20 and not had a complete meltdown and burnt out (that’s what everyone kept telling me when I was applying to veterinary school early). Gives me hope I am making the best decision for me, and I totally can’t imagine what I would have done instead!

        And thanks, I am insanely excited about going to vet school. Exactly what I am going to do after that I have no idea, but I have 4 years to figure it out. 🙂

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        applescruff May 14, 2011, 8:18 pm

        I was the youngest person in my grad program by about a year, which was actually less than I thought it would be. You have to figure people that go into doc programs are overachievers by nature. 😉 People can be weird about it sometimes, but I’m graduating in 3 months at 25 and I’m glad I got my schooling out of the way young so I can start my career. I think I would have been more likely to burn out if I had taken time off in between. It would have been too easy to not go back, and I wouldn’t have been used to studying, writing papers, etc.

        Enjoy your next 4 years!

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        Kristen May 16, 2011, 12:04 pm

        I graduated three months before my 21st birthday, so you’re definitely not alone. I never felt like I was getting burnt out or moving too fast; I’m actually glad I’ve had an extra year or two to start working and earning money while my friends were finishing up school. It is kind of funny to have never been able to drink in college, though; it’s supposed to be such a common experience! I don’t have any regrets, though 🙂

        Good luck on your final! And congratulations!

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    SpyGlassez May 13, 2011, 5:48 pm

    I graduated college about 8 years ago. It was great…except I had spent 3 years getting an English degree only to find out that I wish I had pursued my other love of Biology instead. I had no immediate plans; I moved away to live with and take care of my grandmother for 4 months after graduating, then drifted into a Masters program because it was what most people I knew were doing. Liked the program, won’t ever use this degree either (It’s in Theology). My boyfriend is graduating with his AAS today, and in a lot of ways, I envy his trajectory. He didn’t waste the time and money I did figuring out that college wasn’t for him yet, and now he has a degree he can actually use in it’s field. To be fair, I am finally using my degree — because I had to have a masters to teach, even though I don’t teach in that field — and I am thinking about going back and getting a second masters. With a second masters, there will be more options for me to teach and to possibly be more than just an adjunct. Honestly, though, looking back, that four month time living with Grandma after graduating was the best thing I could have done. Things with my family were rocky, my friends had all moved on, but NOBODY makes you feel quite as special as Grandma. I wrote, I cooked for us, I refinished some furniture and caulked some windows and rid her of an ant problem…

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    Callifax May 13, 2011, 6:02 pm

    I went straight from undergraduate into graduate school, so it essentially felt like I never REALLY graduated. But when I was making the decision on where to go to graduate school, my boyfriend at the time (who was living in the same area as my undergrad) was a big influence on my decision to stay at that school. I told myself that I also liked the program better than the others, that my friends were there, that I wanted to be near my family, blah blah…but if I’m being REALLY brutally honest with myself, he was the biggest factor that I stayed.

    Of course we broke up about 2 months into graduate school. And sometimes I look back and regret staying. But if I hadn’t stayed in the area, I never woud have landed the awesome job that I have now. I wouldn’t have met my boyfriend, who is fantastic (and who I live with now). And I wouldn’t have made several of my newest friends.

    That’s not to say that amazing things wouldn’t have happened if I had left and gone to grad school in Kalamazoo or wherever. I guess my point is that it’s pointless for me to look back on the fact that I stuck around and regret it. I’ve had some great times and life has been good, so why waste the time worrying about it? 🙂

    I know this has become kind of a tangent but sometime my mind wanders… 😀

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    Caroline May 13, 2011, 6:20 pm

    I think about stuff like this all the time. I am now a senior in college, just having finished my junior year, and it’s WEIRD. It all seems to be slipping by so fast, and quite honestly I wish I could re-do college and make different decisions. But if I hadn’t made the decisions that I made, I wouldn’t be where I am today. If I hadn’t transferred back to my hometown, I wouldn’t have met my current boyfriend (and my first).

    I don’t know, I guess all you can do is make the choices you think are right and hope you don’t regret it later down the line. That’s what I’m trying to do now.

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    MissDre May 13, 2011, 6:28 pm

    I spent 5 years in college and I didn’t give a shit about graduating. All I wanted was OUT. And I don’t miss it at all. College really sucked for me. Yeah, real life poses a lot of challenges… but I’m so much happier now. Maybe it was because I spent so many years of my life severely depressed, and it’s only been in the last 2 years that I’ve really made friends and learned to be happy.

    I honestly don’t even talk to a single person that I went to college with, aside from an occasional email out of the blue. But I’m ok with that.

    I am incredibly thankful for all of my life experiences so far and I love working in my field so I don’t regret the path I chose. So far, being a grown up has been really rewarding 🙂

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    LennyBee May 13, 2011, 6:28 pm

    I finished undergrad knowing I was staying for a master’s, so graduation wasn’t a big deal – except for 90% of my friends moving away, nothing really changed. I hadn’t left my hometown for undergrad, and didn’t leave for masters either. Then, by the time I graduated with my master’s I was half a semester into a PhD program in the US, so I completely missed it. I’m really looking forward to my PhD graduation in a couple years. It’s a long way off, but it’ll mean another move to some unknown, far off place (hopefully back in Canada), and the start of my lifelong dream of being a professor! (Okay, not really lifelong – there was a point in my childhood where I wanted to be a dinosaur, and then a ballerina when I grew up).

    The biggest change so far for me came when I finished my masters – although I didn’t technically finish and graduate until after I had moved, that was the first time in my life I had moved away from my hometown. My friendships changed very little, obviously I have less contact now, but when we get together, it’s like nothing has changed. I didn’t have a relationship, so no sacrifices there (I didn’t seriously date until the PhD program because I was afraid of sacrificing my dreams for a relationship).

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      MissDre May 13, 2011, 9:55 pm

      You said Northern Ontario so I’m gonna guess North Bay or Timmins? Not sure what universities are up there but I don’t think there are any schools as far north as Kapuskasing…

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        LennyBee May 14, 2011, 1:39 pm

        I did my schooling in Sudbury – although I’m originally from Wawa. I think Thunder Bay is the furthest north you can find a university.

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    sarita_f May 13, 2011, 6:35 pm

    I was completely, 100% prepared to graduate, almost a decade ago now – Dec ’01. I was in the business school of a major state university and had interned at a prestigious accounting/consulting company the summer before I graduated. Well, between the time I accepted a full-time offer in August for a February start date, and late November when I had to decide whether to graduate or not, that company started circling the drain. I could have stayed in school another semester or two and take some more courses, continue with my cush RA gig, etc. But I chose to go ahead and graduate, ended up moving into an apartment off-campus and waiting tables while interviewing like mad.

    It did all work out, I did eventually land a good job in a large city (same state, 2 hrs from my college town) and started in the summer… but those few months where I had no clue what I was going to do, having counted on the solid job with a company that no one thought would fail… well, I never want to relive that again. I had some good times, learned some lessons and came out just fine, but the ulcers from the worry were not worth it.

    As far as relationships, it just so happened that the guy I was long-distance on and off with for the last 1.5 years of school lived in the city where I ended up landing a job. It wasn’t something I planned and actually sorta wished I could go somewhere else (it was not a city I saw myself living in long-term). I actually officially broke it off with him a month or two into my new gig, for no other reason than I thought I should be single in my new city. But we got back together and were a solid couple for a few more years. No regrets.

    I’ve remained very close with a few friends from college, and others have slowly moved on since. We all stayed geographically close for a long time, but at about age 25/26 everyone decided to move FAR away, including myself. None of my close friends have remained in that state, and it’s sort of sad because there aren’t a lot of people for me to crash with in my college town.

    As far as sticking around, I was READY to go. I paid for school all by myself (and even helped out my family financially at times), worked 2 jobs at a time, gave up personal time and space to be an RA, completed a challenging undergrad degree, worked every single break (no spring break for me) and just was generally ready for a good income and a 40-60hr/wk job. I was ready to start taking vacations, dressing decently, and buying furniture and living on my own. It was heaven.

    Basically, I felt like I paid my dues in undergrad and it was time to cash in.

    Funny enough, I actually have the same frame of mind right now, too – I spent the last 10 years since graduation really paying my dues professionally, to the detriment of certain aspects of my personal life. I’m now about to start an entrepreneurial venture that I’m beyond excited for, and it basically fell in my lap through doing good work and networking. I feel both totally ready, and totally like I’m walking into the unknown. But I would NEVER have had the confidence in myself had I not slogged through school and work. It’s nice to feel empowered!

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    Heather Feather May 13, 2011, 5:38 pm

    Graduating college was one of the most fulfilling moments of my life. And terrifying.
    After high school, I knew exactly what I was going to do. After college, the options are endless.
    I go back to my alma mater for all home football games and every time I pull into town, a feeling a nostalgia takes over.

    Happy graduation to all!

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    Marie May 13, 2011, 7:01 pm

    I went directly to my Ph.D. program from undergrad, moving from the french part of Canada to California where I knew absolutely no one. I thought I had really grown up in college but turns out I had not at all, It took having to pay taxes, car insurance, having my first major break up (although thankfully not heart break), getting pulled over, on top of grueling graduate school to help with all of that. Still not quite there yet!

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    honeybeenicki May 13, 2011, 7:30 pm

    I’ve been through a few graduations so far and I think the hardest for me has been graduate school. I just finished last December and other than 4 months I took off between undergrad and grad (to get married), I have been in school of some form since I was 3. Now I have free time and don’t know what to do with myself. I had a counselor tell me I actually had to LEARN how to relax, because up until this point (especially during grad school) any time I wasn’t working, I was studying/reading/writing or whatever for school.

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    Laurel May 13, 2011, 7:40 pm

    I graduated with my BA last year. This area is really bad for the field I went into (and generally my field doesn’t want to hire people without Master degrees anyway…..) so I’m going back to school in June to start a nursing degree. I’m really not thrilled about the idea of more school, but it’s a field I’m interested in and I love the employability of being a nurse.

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    Painted_lady May 13, 2011, 7:42 pm

    Undergrad graduation was hilarious – my best friend and I had gotten completely trashed the night before, and to be completely honest I didn’t really want to go, but my grandmother had paid for about 90% of my college degree, and she was so proud I just didn’t have the heart to tell her, “Hey Nana, this is going to be SO boring, let’s skip it and do lunch instead, k?” My entire family drove in to see me, and in appreciation I fixed a huge breakfast – fruit salad, fresh bread, coffee, fresh-squeezed OJ. I woke up at 5 am still drunk to do it…and then my Nana, who’s normally so early for everything, made everyone late, so no breakfast. I spent all of the ceremony hungover and knitting a scarf I’d figured out how to stash in my robe in order to stay awake.

    I graduated a semester earlier than I should have, and therefore I got my family’s blessing to take the next semester off and apply to grad schools in psychology…but about a month into the application process, it hit me that I didn’t want to get my PhD in counseling after all. Theatre was my minor, and the thought of spending my life doing something else was terrifying all of a sudden. So I started applying to grad schools for an MFA in theatre. Best decision of my life, and I’m so glad I took the time off from my “go go go” overachieving mindset to figure out what I really wanted. I got my MFA three years later, and while I don’t work in theatre full-time, I still do shows when I can (I start painting one next weekend!) and grad school introduced me to teaching, which is what I do full-time now.

    Random unrelated side note: nearly sent a 200-pound thug kid to the office today because he wouldn’t quit singing Minnie Ripperton’s “Loving You” in class. I’ve never been so torn over being lenient with an intentionally disruptive student, but it was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. I dragged him out to the hall and chewed him out all the while biting the inside of my cheek to keep from laughing. I love my kids 🙂

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    Quakergirl May 13, 2011, 7:55 pm

    I graduated from college almost a year ago to the day, and I still can’t believe it’s been a year. I went on to pastry school after college (just graduated in March, then did an internship) and was working on and off then interning for free, which has been great but I also now feel SO behind all my college friends who’ve been working for a year already. I’m going through a job search where my best prospect will earn me less than many of my friends pay in taxes, all while they’re prepping for annual reviews and talking about bonuses. I try not to dwell on it, because career-wise, I feel like a huge failure. College graduation caught me by surprise, but it wasn’t too big of a shock because I was still going on to school. It was nothing compared to waking up one day, no longer a student of any kind, and having no idea how you were going to earn money. That was unpleasant.

    That being said, I can’t say I’m unhappy about anything that I’ve done up to this point or where I am in my life. I wouldn’t trade my college experience for anything in the world, nor do I regret changing career paths after graduation last year. I love my field, and I’ve made amazing friends in the city through pastry school. And I think my relationship with Quakerboy has really only grown stronger since we graduated from college, which has helped me stay grounded and stable during the sort of awkward I-feel-like-a-failure time periods…like now.

    We’ve survived two (well, three, if you count pastry school) graduations together, and each time I felt like we gained a stronger foundation. After high school graduation, we stayed together, but went to separate schools across the country for a year, which gave us both some freedom to be alone and develop separate interests and be independent. That really helped when I ultimately transfered to his university, because we didn’t cling onto each other and were able to give each other enough space to have our own lives, interests, friends, and activities. And even though everyone thought we’d break up the second we had to see each other every day (just like they thought we would when we moved 3,000 miles apart), I think we fell even more in love with each other as we saw what an awesome person the other one was growing up to be. I know most couples grow apart after high school and during college, but despite the fact that we both changed a lot from our teenage selves, we grew into each other. We grew up to be so compatible as a couple and were such a great support system for each other throughout school and in the decisions we made about post-collegiate life. I know I couldn’t have had the strength to go after the things I did in school, or the courage do follow my career dreams, without him there to cheer me on.

    After college graduation, we moved up to NYC together (we had already been living together) and in the last year, I really feel that we’ve settled into building an adult life together out in the real world. And as much as the first year after high school was about us as individuals, this first year after college has been about us as a couple. Every day I get more and more excited to spend the rest of my life with him. I can’t ask for too much more than that.

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    Sue Jones May 13, 2011, 8:01 pm

    It is always a shock when one goes from being in a community with lots to do, lots of great fun friends to do stuff with in your fun college town, to, in my case, living in an adobe cabin in NM in the middle of nowhere with nobody but my BF and some cats to talk to. I had this romantic vision about living away from civilization close to nature doing research, and we had no car, so it became lonely, boring and isolated real quick. Not great for any relationship.

    After I left when I found a job in my field in Seattle, the relationship with my college BF ended soon after… we tried but it was clear we wanted different things. Then I went through a similar thing after grad school. For me going from structure of classes, seeing friends as part of the routine, and purpose, to no structure, having to plan in advance to see friends, and being in between things was not such a good thing. That actually was one of the most difficult periods of my life and it was then that I entered the yuckiest relationship of my life. I do well with a routine and friends and a place in my community. Any time one moves as a grown up when you are not in the structure of school, work, family it takes a long time to integrate into the new community, make friends, etc. It gets harder the older one gets, I think as friends start families and get pretty set in their routines. Which is perhaps why I have lived in the same place for more than 18 years now, married with kids, etc.

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    emjay May 13, 2011, 8:39 pm

    Well I never went to college. I couldn’t wait for high school to be over and never missed it yet. I hated high school. But after low paying deadend jobs I am now carrying a different tune wishing I went to college for SOMETHING! At 26 yrs old, living on Long Island, with my fiance our house and dog, just lost my job after swallowing shit from an asshole boss for 3 yrs, then quit during a major blowout agruement I found myself a lil lost. I started school again (started may 2010 night classes) for an MA. As soon as I got home after I quit, I called the school to finish my certification. They gladly took me back, and though financially it is tough on us (only he is working) going back to school full time was the best disicion I ever made. I graduate in November, and through my externship I should be getting a couple of good job offers. So sometimes going BACK to school can be really hard, but like I said it is the best thing I have done for myself. And I love everything about being a medical assistant!

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      emjay May 14, 2011, 1:26 pm

      How can you thumb down someone for their life choices. Everyone has choices and it took me a lil longer than the rest of you to figure it out. And just because I didn’t go to college and I regret it, but decided to make something of my self with the full support of my fiance, does not give someone the right to critize. We were talking about after high school/college, and I shared my experience hoping other DW readers who didn’t go to college either would share theirs and where they are now. Not so someone could look down at people like us because we were unsure of what we wanted to do with our lives. And instead of racking up thousands in student loans trying to figure it out, and wasting $ on degrees I would never use, it took me until I am 26yrs old. So no actually (to contridict myself) I actually don’t regret it . But I feel bad for the people who look down on other people because of their educational background.

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        LennyBee May 14, 2011, 1:46 pm

        I’m glad you shared your story. It’s good to hear from people who didn’t follow a traditional path, and yet have found something they love. Creating a life you love is the important part, not how you go about it. I don’t know why someone thumbed you down, but I wonder if they were confused by the MA (which is normally a Masters of Arts).

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        sarita_f May 14, 2011, 1:46 pm

        Hey emjay – for the record, kudos on coming out as not going directly into college from HS – you’re right, it’s not always the best path for everyone. And I personally would rather our society start to place LESS importance on it, there are plenty of HIGHLY successful people out there who never went to college, or dropped out partway through (ahem, Bill Gates, etc).

        Personally, I think my brothers could have both used what’s called in Britain a “Gap Year” – looking back it’s something I wish I had thought about doing as well. I don’t think I even knew it was a possibility. Plus, I REALLY needed to get out of my family home and on my own a bit, and didn’t have the problem-solving skills when I was 17 to figure out how to afford to take a year or two off and go travel or volunteer or what have you.

        Anyways, good for you again. I wouldn’t worry about one thumbs down though, you sound a bit touchy about it. It could have been a mistake (I know I’ve accidentally thumbed people down!).

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        spaceboy761 May 16, 2011, 2:09 pm

        The red thumbs most probably did not come from anyone who lives on LI (like me) and knows how financially difficult it is to own and maintain a home on a single salary. Congrats on your degree!

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    • MissRemy

      Ally May 15, 2011, 6:40 am

      Thanks for sharing your story, it gives me hope that one day I too will find something I love to do. I left high school a year earlier than a lot of my friends with good grades to go straight to university, hated my first course, transferred to another and hated it too! (Drama then Law) Now I have no idea what to do with myself, but I didn’t want to waste 4 years on a degree that I knew I wouldn’t use and getting myself into lots of debt.

      Lots of my friends are now going into their 3rd year at uni, and sometimes I feel like a total failure, working hard in a minimum wage job just to get by. They are all still supported by their parents and don’t understand where I am now, so we’ve drifted apart. I’m desperate for a flash of inspiration or direction for my life but I guess it’s not something you can rush. There’s so much pressure to know what you want to do when you are young. In the meantime I’m loving my independence, mostly enjoying life, and trying lots of new things to find something that fits. It’s great to know I’m not the only one who didn’t find their path straight away.

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  • Kristina

    Kristina May 13, 2011, 8:41 pm

    I’m a sophomore in college right now (though doing 5 years), and my brother actually graduated college today. I wasn’t there, but I’m proud of him, and I know he has this overwhelming feeling of what to do and where to go in life. He double majored, double minored, and got a certificate, so he has a lot of options, but it’s weird that he’s really moving on with his life, because it makes me feel like that a little as well. I can’t wait to graduate and get on with my life, of course I will be scared, and as much fun as college is, I just want to grow up already 🙂

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    Desiree May 13, 2011, 10:46 pm

    I can’t really answer the questions yet, because I walk in my college’s graduation tomorrow. I can guess some of the answers; others I cannot. I start medical school this fall in a completely new part of the country (I am in the Midwest now and moving to the Northeast). I won’t know a soul within a ten-state area. And my boyfriend is likely going to find a job in our current region. So I am potentially leaving him behind; I will also miss my little sis, who is autistic. I am feeling guilty for moving away from those I love to pursue my career. And, even though I am super-excited about a lifelong dream coming true, I am a little frightened, too. : /

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    Rachel May 14, 2011, 12:11 pm

    I went right to grad school after college, so I didn’t really have much of a fear of the unknown. I’m closer to that now as I’m about a year away from finishing my phd and have no idea whatsoever what I want to do for a postdoc, let alone after that. When I came out here for grad school, I brought my college boyfriend with me, which was a big mistake. He was not happy here and he really resented me for it, so it went from a relationship between two people who were simply not meant for each other to one between two people who resented each other. My current boyfriend and I are trying to figure out where we can live and both have awesome jobs, since neither one of us will be content to just follow the other one somewhere and not build on our own careers.

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    HmC May 14, 2011, 1:15 pm

    I’m currently on the brink of graduating law school, and, given that I’ve spent almost my entire life being educated, this feels like I’m standing on the edge of a cliff. I’ve really got a lot to prove… I’ve basically invested twenty something years and thousands of dollars into my brain!

    Some good advice I got once, that I always go back to, is- career decisions aren’t permanent. You try one thing, you hate it, then you try something else. It’s not the end of the world. So deciding on something doesn’t have to mean it is permanent. And also, don’t be so concerned with your image, or how people will perceive your “success”. Most people think about themselves most of the time, not about you.

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      LennyBee May 14, 2011, 1:50 pm

      That’s great advice! My family likes to say that the mark of a successful life is that you actually enjoy your life. So it doesn’t matter what path you take, how many times you switch paths, or what you end up doing with your life, as long as you like it and it makes you happy, you’re a success.

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    applescruff May 14, 2011, 2:09 pm

    I graduate with my doctorate 3 months from yesterday. I’ve never done anything but go to school. Friends? I’m scared shitless!

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    chiswickian May 14, 2011, 2:26 pm

    Graduated high school almost a year ago, and decided I was already burned out and I couldn’t take another four years straight of studying. I took a gap year and after a year of travelling the world both alone and with friends and learning more than I would’ve had I been in school, I’m so so so glad I took the chance my parents offered me to put off college for a year. I’m now excited to go back to school, and having participated in an archaeological dig (I’m actually in Spain right now excavating a Roman necropolis!) I have a much clearer vision of what I want. I know I’m only 18 a.k.a. a baby in the long run of things but it’s nice to at least have a loose goal in mind. I’m sure I’ll have changed my mind a million times by the time I graduate college, but at least I have somewhere to start.

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    SpaceySteph May 14, 2011, 4:12 pm

    I lined up a job in March before I graduated to start a month after graduation. On graduation day I was a wreck… even though this was (and still is) basically my dream job, I was so scared to move 1000 miles away and have to start all over.

    I’m lucky though because I started in a training program at work with 15 other new hires, so it was almost a college-like environment for a few months… we took classes every day, and almost everyone was also a 22ish recent grad so I had this built in group of friends that helped the transition.

    I stayed long distance with my college boyfriend for another year and a half, but our relationship began disintegrating almost immediately… I think we only stayed together as long as we did because if you compress all of that down into time we actually spent together it was maybe 3 more months of actual face time, during which we fought for nearly all of it. I was a mess when we broke up, mostly being scared to be alone so far from home and concerned how I would meet anyone now that I didn’t have the built in college community. I’m glad to say while it is a bit more difficult, it was certainly not impossible.

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    Kate May 14, 2011, 4:53 pm

    I graduated five years ago, and I’m surprised no one has touched on how the changes to the economy has changed the ‘preparedness’ of college graduates. I’m not trying to dwell on the doom and gloom and how scary it is, but just comment on how honest to goodness difficult it is to secure work at an entry level now and how that changes the experience of ‘taking the leap’.

    My sibling graduated in 2007, went to graduate school and graduated in 2009, and is having a HELL of a different time finding work than my friends of the same major in 2006, many of whom had no trouble lining something up and most of whom were able to pick and choose what they wanted to do. It truly breaks my heart because it isn’t a reflection of todays grads, just cutbacks and all that.

    I was ready; I joined Teach for America and had a fairly stable future outlook (only after taking the LSAT and then realizing that I was only headed to law school because I wasn’t sure what else to do. . . THANK GOODNESS I took the leap to teaching, I love it.) From my friends experiences graduating more recently, this is less common. However, I went on a study abroad the spring semester of my senior year and didn’t go back to walk at my graduation – I loved college but love the freedom of ‘real life’ more and find working (I’m still a teacher) more fulfilling. Yeah, bills and all that suck but I am happy with the trade off : )

    My college boyfriend and I ended up getting married and have been together happily for 7+ years (dating and married). So some people do make it through!

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    • mandalee

      amandalee May 14, 2011, 5:18 pm

      Kate, I definitely second that graduates in the last few years have had a harder time breaking into entry-level jobs in a number of areas. I graduated in 2008 from a top state university at the top of my class with three internships, and it took me over 8 months to find a job making pennies in my field. I still have some friends who have just as much experience working at the Gap, not like I look down on that work at all, it’s just not where they planned on working after graduation.

      My best advice to college graduates this year would be to stay optimistic even when it’s hard. Friends will move away, but friendships don’t have to end. Jobs are hard to come by, but eventually it works out (just landed my dream job this week!). The real world is not the adult amusement park setting that college is, but it’s real and you’ll grow from being in it. Congratulations New Grads!

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        MissDre May 14, 2011, 5:23 pm

        For real, I’ve been out of school for 2 years now. I am working in my field, but I’m also cleaning houses just to make ends meet.

        I probably applied for like 500 jobs before I got hired where I’m at now. Seems like nobody is hiring!

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      RoyalEagle0408 May 15, 2011, 7:37 am

      I graduated in ’08 and the economy definitely played a huge role in my inability to find a job. And it also meant that I took a job that paid half as well as the starting salary I had been expecting throughout undergrad. People talk about layoffs and unemployment, but often ignore how that changes things for college grads. Grad school admissions get a lot more competitive and people with years of experience are taking entry level jobs meaning college grads suddenly can’t compete.

      I’m still bitter, yes. I paid for college pretty much by myself with the help of financial aid and a lot of student loans. It was going to be okay though, because I work in a “high paying” field (I have a degree in biochemistry), but that all changed junior year.

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    RoyalEagle0408 May 14, 2011, 5:21 pm

    When I was finishing up HS, I couldn’t wait to get to college. I ended a relationship before it could get to the point where we’d even consider doing the long distance thing because I didn’t want to be tied down. I wanted to be free in college to live my own life and do my own thing. I was moving 300 miles away, which isn’t much, but considering most of my high school classmates stayed in state, it was a huge deal.

    When I graduated college in May 2008, I didn’t have a job lined up. I didn’t really have much of a life plan. I applied to jobs in 3 cities (the one I grew up right outside of, the one I went to college in, and one across the country where I’ve always dreamed of living), and ended up back in my old college town. I thought it was going to be amazing because my closest friends were all nearby, but up until recently we’d go months without seeing each other because of relationships, work stress and just life getting in the way. The past few months we’ve finally started putting more effort into getting together. I’m starting a PhD program in the fall in the city I currently live in and so I don’t need to move. On the one hand it’s nice, but on the other, there’s a part of me that wants to leave and go somewhere new. I look back at the past 3 years as the time I figured out my life. I’m really excited to go back to school in the fall, but I do feel a little “behind” in life sometimes. I see my friends buying homes, new cars, getting engaged, thinking about kids, etc. My salary has never been great (a drawback of working in an academic lab), and my stipend is roughly equal to that, and will be for the next 5 years. I don’t know that I’ll be able to afford a car until I finish school, I can’t even think about planning a wedding and the idea of children terrifies me right now. At the same time though, I’m doing what makes me happy, and sometimes that’s all you can do.

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    Fairhaired Child May 14, 2011, 10:30 pm

    I had a job offer and job lined up before I even hit finals of my senior year. I was so sure of myself and that I was accomplished, all I had to do was to make it through finals and then I’d be “ready”. But when it came time to move, I had a horrible time transitioning, because I moved away from my mom, all my friends and moved to a town where I had 3 known friends from college (but all were so busy I don’t see them anyway) and my boyfriend. I had to use a GPS to get to work, and I had to find a new place to stay besides my friends house within 2 weeks of moving and starting my job.

    I missed my family, I missed my friends, and I missed the feeling of knowing that “its ok I’ll see them at X” because really, I didn’t have many people to make friends with and I didn’t want to rely on only my boyfriend. Now a year later I still don’t always really feel like I’ve hit “the real world” and it seems like I’m still in a haze. But i’ve finally figured out “what works” for me so far. And I have TWO adorable Bunnies!

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    • Kristina

      Kristina May 14, 2011, 10:44 pm

      Haha, I just had to say that I LOVE bunnies! If only bunnies were allowed in my apartment where I live :/

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        Fairhaired Child May 15, 2011, 3:28 am

        I would spam this page with all my bunny pictures lol. My apartment allows them because someone before me argued that they are not “pets” but can be qualified as food. Which is kinda gross and sad, but I’ll roll with it because then I dont have to pay the pet deposit either. 🙂

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      • Kristina

        Kristina May 15, 2011, 5:22 pm

        Yeah, with the new apartment I moved into, I was thinking of just sneaking in a bunny, except my city does yearly inspections of apartments/complexes, which includes an ‘illegal’ pet. So I will just have to wait.

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    Jewels May 15, 2011, 2:41 am

    Well, I’ve been out of undergrad for 5 yrs and have my 10 year high school reunion this summer. High school, I couldn’t wait to be done with that experience. Mainly because I was an out cast and my whole objective was to get into college. I did do a few nerdy things like band, choir and drama to pad the resume and alleviate the boredom of small town living.
    Undergrad, on the other hand, I struggled with finding my true self and didn’t want to go on the whole 4 year-spit you out-good luck with life-trajectory that it normally is. Plus, in the midst I had a nervous breakdown and had to take a half a semester off to reevaluate my life. So that put me on the 5 year plan. Well, 5.5 year plan. By the end of it, I was so ready to move on to bigger and better things. And I sort of did, I moved to the city where my long distance boyfriend was living. Although things weren’t progressing as I had thought/hoped they would, so after 6 months I moved across the country to try to strike out on my own. Yeah, not such a good idea. I failed miserably and two years later moved back to the city I landed in after graduation. Spent the past two years looking for work and reevaluating the relationship I had with my boyfriend that I left in search of something else. Luckily, we’ve worked through all that emotional turmoil and things are going well for us. And I’ve landed a full-time job that supports me and keeps me busy. So after 5 years, I finally figured it out.

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    anna728 May 15, 2011, 3:41 am

    I’m finishing up my junior year of college right now. A lot of my friends are in the class above me and it’s going to be weird to have them gone. I’m excited about next year though. I got great housing with my best friend, I will still have my little on-campus job, and have some really interesting classes. It’ll be sad to leave but exciting to do whatever I do next. Right now I am hoping to get a master’s afterwards. Will have to see about where I can get in. There’s also this grant program in Spain I’m thinking of doing for a year before grad school or if I don’t go.

    Leaving high school was sad but I was also really eager to move away. My college is over 1,000 miles from home. I was getting really pissed at a lot of my friends around then and am not particularly close with my family. The worst part was leaving my boyfriend. I do miss my city and my old high school sometimes, even though I wasn’t always happy there.

    Although I will miss things about college, moving to a new place doesn’t worry me much. I did ok with that starting college, and I also spent a semester in China. I don’t want to worry about making new friends, but I suppose I’ve already had to switch groups of friends sometimes in both high school and college.

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      Fairhaired Child May 15, 2011, 7:59 am

      be careful of moving in with best friends! Unless you’ve house sat or lived together before, sometimes moving in with a friend can lead to a lot of tension/arguments and can end the relationship. one of my best friends was A SLOB. I thought I was bad, but i kept only my room messy and tried to tidy up the rest of the living areas. But i would find dishes put back with food still on them etc. Groooossss.. It worked out great for the first several weeks but after a while I think we both got on each others nerves and I was a mega nag/bitch about cleaning (even though my room is messy – i like the common areas to be a little tidier)

      My other friend who I moved in with after the messy gross food friend, she was perfect though. But we had a chore list, and took turns making dinner. It was super cute. She’d call me at work and be like “i’m making dinner for when you get home what do you want!” and I’d bring her dinner to work if she worked the late shift. I suggest making a “roommate contract” where you put down some base rules NOW – and get it approved by both of you. Rules like: On finals week no boys over. Thursday is roommate date night (make dinner together or go bowling etc just the two of you). X will buy toilet paper so long as Y buys solocups. whatever kind of rules. just make sure they are agreed on and you can tape it to the wall or something so that if a fight comes up you can point at the rules and say “we decided this was how it was going to be and you didnt have a problem with it then”

      Also on the note of studying abroad – I went to both Ireland and Austria for a semester, but moving to a different city (even with my boyfriend there) felt SO much different. I thought being in different cultures would help make me more adaptable etc, but I think I always knew that I’d be “going back home” but then suddenly I moved and was looking at an empty apartment going “this is home? it doesnt feel like Home at all.” And I missed everyone much more terribly than when we were separated for college of when I was overseas.

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        MissDre May 15, 2011, 11:13 am

        I moved in with my best friend too…. and I had to move out within the first 6 months in order to save our friendship. We were NOT compatible living together and she knew that too so she wasn’t hurt when I told her I was leaving. Thankfully we’re still best friends 🙂

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        anna728 May 16, 2011, 10:39 pm

        Oh no haha no worry about moving in with the best friend for me- the way we met is that we were roommates freshman year. We live together currently as well.

        As for going abroad, true that that was a shorter term thing, but I have also spent the bulk of the past three years in my college town which is 1,000 miles from home. I don’t even go home for Thanksgiving or anything; my attachment to home is not strong.

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  • eelavocado

    eel avocado May 15, 2011, 9:38 am

    I graduated from college 3 years ago, and life has been quite a journey since then! After graduating, I found a job in my field right before The Great Recession happened. I was happy for a while, but office life was unfulfilling soon after. The entire office recieved a pay cut and I had to get a second job as a result. I began looking into other options, and got accepted to grad school in another field. After a semester, I hated that field, so I returned to my original field. Now, I absolutely love my job and I’m very happy! I can’t wait to see where this job will lead.

    As for relationships, my college boyfriend dumped me the night before graduation. On the day of graduation, I was nearly in tears the entire time. I was a mess. On top of that, I had to move out of my apartment, host a graduation party and pack for a month in Paris. The trip to Paris was the best thing that could have happened. Every day was an adventure and I hardly had time to think about the breakup. Now, I look back and am SO thankful I’m not telling the story of the time I stayed with my college boyfriend when we were long distance, I hated his friends and he ignored my calls and texts! Bullet dodged!

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    Krissy May 15, 2011, 3:43 pm

    I finished my first undergraduate degree in 2008 and I just had the worst time with graduation. At the time I lived in an apartment with 3 of my friends and all of our relationships were quickly heading downhill. I think we were all stressed about the unknown and graduating, and the pressure was eating away at our friendships. By the time graduation day came and all my family was in town to celebrate, I just wanted to stay at home and sleep all day! That whole summer I didn’t have any work lined up, so I basically spent it having a good time with my friends and enjoying my last bit of freedom. In the fall I decided to do something crazy, I sold everything I owned that wouldn’t fit in my car and moved across the country to Seattle! I had this great notion that I was going to start fresh and finally be free of the desert I grew up in (Arizona). Problem was, about 6 weeks before my move I met this wonderful boy and started seeing him. He couldn’t come with me, so for the first 3 months I was living in my new city, all I did was miss him. We talked on the phone every night, and he even came out to visit me. In the end, the combination of missing him and absolutely hating the weather (seasonal depression anyone?) made me chose to go back to Arizona. That was 2 and a half years ago and I’m still with my boyfriend today. We both ended up moving together to attend a different university, him for his nursing degree, and me for speech pathology. I always think it’s funny how much I wanted to leave this state, but when I was finally gone I just wanted to come back. I really appreciate the experience that I had though, and wouldn’t have changed a thing. As far as work goes, my first degree was in psychology, and man do I wish I had listened to all those people telling me to go into engineering. Not only are the job options for a psych major very limited, but they are very low paying and highly stressful! I spent 2 years working in behavioral health. It was just enough time to realize that I couldn’t do it for the rest of my life and now here I am again, back in school!

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    • bittergaymark

      bitter gay mark May 15, 2011, 5:01 pm

      Where in Arizona? The U of A, maybe? That’s where I went. And had a blast!!

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        Krissy May 15, 2011, 7:30 pm

        Go Wildcats! I loved college, but didn’t love Tucson 🙂

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  • courtney89

    courtney May 15, 2011, 4:50 pm

    I went to community college after HS, so i never got the real “college” experience which I do regret somewhat. But I must say, at times, i do really miss HS.. I didn’t realize how different life would be after that! I’m friends with a few people from HS and that is it, I’ve made new friends.. I got my associates degree last May, and life hasn’t changed all that much, because I’m still at the same job I had before I graduated, in a law firm, which at least is the field I got my degree in! I’m thinking about shaking up my life and moving west out to northern CA to fully experience life on my own.. scary but exciting at the same time.

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  • bittergaymark

    bitter gay mark May 15, 2011, 4:59 pm

    Yeah, I often feel sadly certain that my life PEAKED in college. Indeed, it was an absolutely amazing, amazing time. Yeah, no doubt about it — that was it. Definitely the best time of my life. It’s all been downhill ever since and, more often than not, most disappointing and extremely frustrating. A tough lesson to learn: that talent and wit are truly worthless in a society that increasingly falls at the feet of the remarkably vapid… Hell, often I simply can’t believe how dumb pop culture has gotten since the mid 1990s… Our Presidents, too. Hmmm, maybe everything truly has gone down hill ever since I graduated college.

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    Amber May 15, 2011, 10:10 pm

    I was so excited to be done with school both for my high school and college graduation. I’ve never missed high school for a second, but I definitely miss and took for granted my time in college. My friends and I were so ready to be done and in the real world. And then we got there and it wasn’t fun. I moved 13 hours away the day after graduation for a job and missed my friends and college town so much. I wish I hadn’t made such a giant transition right away. I think I would have been happier taking a job or internship closer to home at first. I wasn’t dating anyone my senior year and i’m actually very happy about that now, then I thought it was terrible 😉 My friends from college are still my best friends (seven years after graduation) but it’s just so different now. I wish I hadn’t taken so much of our time together during college for granted. I wish I could go back and tell myself to slow down and enjoy.

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    Tanya May 16, 2011, 7:07 am

    I am now 28 and have gone through a high school graduation and a college one. The end of high school was for me such a dramatic emotional experience as I thought that my whole world had collapsed. I moved to a different country, on another continent where I knew not even one person. It was the most eye opening and challenging experience I ever had.

    The best advice I can give the younger people who are about to go through these changes, hopefully less dramatic than mine 🙂 is to embrace it! Yes, it will be tough, yes you will miss the times past, friendships formed, familiar places and faces, but believe me, life offers you so much after that! You will make more friends, you will face new challenges, you will learn so much about yourself and these new experiences and emotions will make you strong and determined. There are fantastic opportunities out there to live a really rich and fulfilling life, so just embrace the change and make the most of it! You will be better for it.

    Ok, that was my 2-minute principal-style speech 🙂 Good luck, graduates!

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