There are several personal crises we might anticipate in post-grad life. For one, a crisis of accomplishment. That is, we might not achieve our goals on our own timetable. Then there’s the crisis of community — that of shifting from a densely packed campus, saturated with social opportunities (and social imperatives), to a world where you must make your own connections. Finally, there’s a crisis of maturity. As we face mounting responsibilities — taxes, utilities, rent, car payments, healthcare, meetings, professional development and so on — we might find ourselves emotionally unequipped to handle them like the grown-up adults we’re meant to be.
But really, these aren’t crises. They are merely challenges. When we call any one of them a crisis, we imply that most people should have resolved such issues by the time they graduate. We imply that, if you haven’t, you are lacking some fundamental control over your own life. You are not, as it were, an adult.
This implication reveals a deep contradiction between the cultural definition of adult — a word which we wield in dozens of useless, contradictory and downright dangerous ways — and the structure of everyday life.
To think that struggling with achievement, socialization or responsibility means you are not ready for adult life is to get the process backwards. The struggle is, in and of itself, the experience of adulthood. The so-called crises of post-grad life are difficult, to be sure, but none of them are insuperable — and none of them makes post-grad life any less wonderful.
If our cultural intuitions about life were true, graduation would be a transition between two untenable extremes: a hedonistic cycle of Netflix binges and social functions, then a slave-like obedience to productivity that, at best, sounds boring or, at worst, sounds hellish. Both pictures are caricatures of the real thing. Unless your college life actually resembles the first, you probably shouldn’t be expecting the second.
Here’s the truth I’d have you know about life after college: it’s the same, mostly, in that life is always a multifaceted, complex, inscrutable mix of joy and banality and suffering and celebration. Only, life after college is a little more challenging, a little more rewarding.
You already know that college is far more complicated, and far more worthwhile, than the cartoonish way it is sometimes described. Don’t expect any less from life beyond campus.