A Year Later : 13 Lessons I’ve Learned Since Graduating College & Entering the Real World


The transition from College Life to Adult Life is real. It’s been over a year since I graduated college and began working full-time. Im thankful that I hardly ever think about college these days, but the first few months were not easy. Everything changes and this can be quite the adjustment.  I’ve had many conversations with friends that said things like, “Why didn’t anyone warn us?” and “Can we just go back to college?”. And sure, this may be such a ‘first world problem’, but adjusting to sudden change is a challenge. After attending school for 18 years of your life, it can be difficult to navigate the uncertainties of life in an environment that isn’t marked by semesters.
My life has drastically changed in every way within the past year and so have I, as a result. I moved to a new city, started a new job, made new friends, and overcame new challenges. I’ve learned so much as each day has passed and I know that there is so much left to learn. There are 13 lessons that I’ve learned since graduating college and entering the ‘real world’. These are lessons that people probably  learn during any phase in life, but they’ve been most applicable for me during this bumpy period of transition.

Here are 13 Lessons I’ve learned since graduating college:

1. Its Okay to Feel Lost

After graduating, it seems like you should have life figured out. However, I have never felt so lost. After many conversations with friends, I’ve learned that this is pretty universal. Even when everything is going well, worrying about what comes next is a habit. Should I go to grad school? Should I stay in this job? Where do I want to live? Should I be getting married? Should I be doing this? Should I be doing that? As the world tells you what you should be doing, you can’t help but wonder if you’re on the “right track” or if you should be doing something else. Your accomplishments and decisions are no longer defined by semesters and it can be scary. I now know that it is absolutely okay to feel this way and that it’s all part of the process.  It now excites me to know that so many possibilities lie ahead!

2. Keep Learning

Learning shouldn’t stop after college. Since graduating, I’ve taken to the time to learn about so many things that I had no interest in before. I try to spend a lot of time reading, writing, watching documentaries, listening to podcasts, taking classes,  practicing Spanish, and taking in new information. Be curious and embrace this period of transition! You may think that you have it all figured out but life shows us that we never will. Learn about others, yourself, and the world! This is how you continue to develop as a person.  This could also lead you in the right direction if you’re not sure what your next career move is. It’s an investment in yourself that can be extremely empowering.

3. Invest In Your Relationships

Studies show that the quality of your life is highly dependent on the the quality of your relationships.  The relationships in your life can either be toxic or life-giving. I’ve always known this, but it has become so much more apparent since I graduated.  Investing in relationships is probably the most worthwhile thing you could do. These people will support you and uplift you during the times when you need it most. Seek out meaningful friendships, hang onto the good ones, and forget about the ones that suck!

4. Create Joyful Moments

I’ve learned to create joyful moments in my life on a daily basis. Living life on a routine can become mundane. Exciting things don’t just happen at chance on a regular basis. Sure, sometimes we stumble upon great experiences but it’s even better when we can create them. It could be something as simple as watching the sunset, reading a good book, or talking on the phone with your favorite person. Plan to spend time with people you enjoy and make time to do the things you enjoy every single day. Don’t spend all of your time only waiting for the big moments like a promotion, a wedding, a trip, or your next big move.  The little everyday moments create the sum of our lives.

5. Be Grateful

While it’s important to create goals and plan for the future, it can be so easy to forget that you are where you’re supposed to be at this exact moment. Be grateful for where are you now – your current situation, your current paycheck, your current relationships. Try to be grateful for your job even if you secretly hate it. Be grateful for the people that are currently in your life and the things that you currently have. To live in a safe place with food to eat and people to love is a huge blessing. Things could always be worse and its taken you time to get where you are right now. I’m anticipating the future but I’m thankful to be where I am today.

6. Cherish Your Alone Time

I’ve always believed that spending time alone is extremely important for personal growth . If you’re never alone, you don’t have the time to sit with your thoughts and reflect. Moving away from family & friends really forced me to spend time alone and work on my personal development. This has given me the space to plan for the future, reflect on my relationships and discover new interests without the influence of others.

7. Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone

You can only move forward by stepping outside of your comfort zone.  Befriending someone that doesn’t look like you, trying something you’ve never done before, and visiting new places are things that will stretch you. Nobody is going to force you to take chances or hold your hand while you do. In the past year, I’ve taken so many chances and I’ve been able to see the pay-off, even when things didn’t go as planned. Taking calculated risks will show you that you’re capable of much more than you ever imagined. At the end of the day, what’s the worst that could happen?

8. You’re Still Young

After spending the majority of your day at work and getting caught up in a routine, you begin to feel a bit old. You start having conversations about money & politics while wondering when you became such an “adult”. Despite having these new-found responsibilities, It’s still important to enjoy life and appreciate your youth. I always like to remind myself that I am young and I have plenty of time to do the things I want to do. This is just the beginning.

9. Time is Valuable

Despite the fact that I’m still young, I understand that time is continuously running out. It seems that time flies faster as you get older and its crucial that you don’t waste it. When I first graduated, I wasted so much time(sleeping, netflix, social media, etc.) because I couldn’t figure out how to manage this new schedule.  I’ve realized that time truly waits for nobody and each day must be cherished, especially since we don’t know which day is our last. There is a sense of urgency that comes with this realization. I don’t want to be 30, 40, or 50 years old wondering where the time went. When you’re working the same job 8-12 hours a day, its easy to just go through the motions and become stuck. Live each day intentionally & don’t be afraid to leave behind people or situations that don’t serve you.

10. Health Matters 

I can admit that my diet was pretty bad throughout college. I ate whatever I wanted because I knew that my fast metabolism would always prevent me from gaining weight. At this point, I’m a lot more health conscious and I definitely see why it’s not the best idea to consume pizza rolls & tollhouse chocolate chip cookies on a regular basis. And even though I’m a night owl that loves staying up late, I can see the importance of a full night’s rest.  I now know that decisions definitely affect my overall health & mind.

11. Travel 

You had to see this one coming! Since graduating, my desire to travel and see the world has only increased. I still believe this is one of the best ways to learn about the world & the people in it. I’ve had numerous conversations with older people who’ve encouraged me to continue doing this while I have no major obligations(children, mortgage, spouse, etc). Even though I plan to continue through old age, there is a certainly a sense of freedom that comes with traveling at this age.

12. Keep Your Dreams Alive

It can be extremely disappointing when your post-grad dreams & goals don’t live up to your expectations. It can be even more disappointing when you realize that your 8-5 hardly leaves any time to pursue your true interests. Create the time and the space for this. Don’t allow jaded or negative people to tell you that your dreams aren’t possible or that they’re too big. We owe it to ourselves and the world to chase our dreams full force. Be hopeful & figure out what resources you need to make your goals come to fruition. Without any major obligations, the best time is now.

13. Have Faith

At the end of the day, its so important to stay positive and trust that God has a plan for your life. He has served as my rock throughout this past year. It’s crucial to understand that everything will be okay. Do not let your mistakes and disappointments define you. Be ready for failure and unforeseen circumstances to get in the way, but never allow them to stop you. Through failed jobs, relationships, and goals…keep going! I’ve learned to trust the process and keep going, even when I can’t see what lies ahead.

What Lessons Have You Learned Since Graduating College or Entering the Real World?

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Hey, I'm Ciara. I’m a global citizen and lover of travel. Want to know more? 

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