How to Find Yourself After Graduation

It is rumored that college is the time to “find yourself.” The funny thing is, I never felt more lost than the day after I graduated.

It claims to be the best four years of your life; it is the time when are supposed to figure out who you are, what you want to do, and the direction you want your life to take. College is also the time when you are surrounded by peers who guide your decisions, not to mention a slew of expectations from professors and parents.

In order to be a “successful” college student, you must party hard but maintain that GPA. Get involved and build that resume (but not longer than a page). Rock the crop tops, body con skirts, and high heels to the Thirsty Thursday dirty bar of choice. P.S. — this is the time for you to “find yourself.”

Does that seem ironic to anyone else? Sure, my personal goals and style were developing as I navigated my four-year college, but once I graduated, I felt empty. By the time I was a senior, I had molded an idea of identity that I liked and other people liked. I was finally saying, “Yes. This is me. I can totally take on the real world and adulthood.”

But once I moved out of my campus bubble, I was faced with the harsh reality that I had no idea what I wanted.

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In fact, I sat on the couch with Netflix and numerous blocks of cheese to combat my loneliness in the weeks post graduation. I was finding it hard to do something as simple as select a movie I thought I would enjoy. Do I really like Orange is the New Black, or was it just fun and awkward to watch with my roommate? Should I get into Game of Thrones? Everyone else seems to love it. But I would much rather watch Wuthering Heights and weep for a while. Is that bad?

I was finally home, and I had no idea who I was anymore. Once I was faced with nothing but empty time and myself, I found that I was looking at somebody I didn’t recognize. She had a degree, and a part-time job, and lots of friends and family who supported her. But that wasn’t enough. She was searching.

One year later, I am still on a journey towards a solid sense of self. But I did start doing a few things that pointed me in the right direction and will help you find yourself after graduation.

First, I cleaned my room. I don’t know about you, but the room I moved back into was the same one I lived in when I was in high school. Sixteen-year-old you is definitely not post-college you. Therefore, give it a deep clean. I tossed, donated, and rediscovered my loves and hates of teenage years. It got me back in touch with who I was before college had something to say about it.

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Next, I spent less time on social media. The hours you spend tweeting and Facebooking seem so much more important when you are surrounded by a community of people who are constantly connected. Not living with peers means more living with yourself — and sometimes, you just don’t find the same things fulfilling anymore.

I like to stay connected, but I try to cut myself off from the world for one hour after I wake up and two hours before I go to sleep. It helps to unwind, destress, and also gives you a little time to focus on… you. I like to read and journal in this technology-free zone of my day. Figure out what relaxes you, and go for it.

That brings me to the last big thing I did to give myself more direction and identity after college. This is simple, but helpful; figure out the little things that bring you joy. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What would your ideal day look like?

  2. How would it start, end, and what would you be doing in the middle?

  3. What do you wish you had more time for/want to start doing?

  4. When you find yourself on the couch scrolling through your phone, what else could you be using that time for?

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I found that I want more time for painting, scrapbooking (old school style), and baking. All it took was a little reflection as I went about my day — and asking myself questions about what actually makes me relaxed, happy, and fulfilled. The answers were right in front of me, sort of. But they did require disconnecting from my peers and reconnecting with myself.

The personal aftermath of college graduation is a different journey for everyone. We all carry the weight of twenty-something expectations; find a job, get an apartment, travel the world. Sometimes, it is not the big accomplishments or goals that help us figure out who we are. The quiet moments with nothing else but what makes you happy can be just as revealing.