Life after college can be hard, but also full of meaning and hope. With graduation looming for many of you, what should you know about the world that waits for you on the other side of your diploma? What can you expect? What can you learn from those who have gone before you? In our 6 part series 'Life After College' we hope you find a few significant things to help prepare you for what's ahead.
I don’t know exactly when or where it happened but sometime this past fall, months after my graduation from Ohio State, I woke up to the reality that my life was not the same as it was in college. Obviously I wasn’t going to class anymore and I didn’t have homework - I’m not talking about that difference. What I mean is that my friendships, my goals, my daily aspirations, the very rhythms of my life had been altered.
When I faced that reality for the first time, I mean really came to grips with it, I also faced a feeling that I was disappointed with where I was. Relationships were harder and seemed to have taken a step back, not forward. I came home from work and instead of hanging out with friends, I watched TV and went to bed early. Unlike college, I wasn’t enamored with the possibility of all that I could do in life and what I could accomplish, I was simply living what felt like an incredibly normal, day-to-day existence.
What I’ve come to realize now, half a year out of school, is that that somewhat grim picture of post-college life I just painted is not bad. And not in the slap a Band-Aid on it, I’ve settled for a sub-par survival sort of way, but in a real, contented, joyful way. You see, at that point, I had become disillusioned with life. But God does not call us to live wishing to go back, constantly looking over our shoulder at the past. Instead He beckons us to live fully in Him where we are. So, for me, I had to fight that disappointment, that disillusionment, with truth.
CALL IT WHAT IT IS
The fact is, your life after college will be different: it is not a matter of if it will be, it just will be. But one massive truth I've come to realize is that different does not necessarily mean worse, or better for that matter. Different does not need to bring any quantifiers with it. Don't get me wrong, when I was in undergrad, I lived in a house with my best friends, hung out until after midnight every night, and did enough crazy things to have stories for a lifetime. And I absolutely loved it. But that isn't my life now, and that's not a bad thing. It is simply different now.
REEVALUATING YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES
Part of fighting the urge to call different bad is realizing that I have different opportunities now than I did in college. Instead of being surrounded exclusively by students my own age, I get to do life alongside a much more diverse group of people - some with kids, some who've been in their careers for decades - all with much more wisdom than myself. The amount of pranks I pull on my roommates has decreased significantly, but the amount of gritty, meaningful conversations I've had with them has skyrocketed. Even my relationship with God has changed drastically and my need of Him has become so much more evident, in such a way that making it through finals simply could not reveal (not that that's not a legitimate need).
That last point, that my relationship with God has changed, can be a huge source of discontentment coming out of college, especially if you were involved with a campus ministry such as RealLife. I believe this is due to a flaw in our thinking. You see, in college, we’re trained to believe that you always have to be doing something exciting and new, doing something risky and unknown and to some extent this trickles down into our walk with God. This is a tricky spot. Do I want freshness in my relationship with Jesus? Yes! Do I want to continue taking steps of faith? Absolutely! But we need to adjust our concept of what is expected of us by God in order to fight disillusionment post-college. Micah 6:8 provides a beautifully simple foundation for this. It says,
“He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?”
This is perhaps the greatest reassurance in my faith during my life after graduation because the reality is, I won’t have the high-energy meetings of RealLife forever. I won’t have the opportunity to take a summer and dive into the community of a Summer Mission forever. I won’t get to go to IndyCC and worship with thousands of students and learn and grow in that kind of environment forever. But I can, like the passage says, walk humbly with my God forever. In the workplace. When I have a family someday. When I am old and physically incapable of going to new and exciting places, I can still be sensitive to what God wants to do in my life and in the world. And that’s why I would never trade my time in college ministry for anything because there, I got to see what God can do, what He is capable of. I could whine and complain and think that my delight with God is over after graduation, or I could use my experiences, the awe, the excitement of what God did in my time at Ohio State and dream of how God could do that again in my life post-college. And that is the greatest combatant of disillusionment that I could ever ask for.
YOU'RE NOT ALONE
The only thing I can really say, especially to those graduating seniors, is that if you too wake up one day and think your life is worse off than it was, you’re not alone. College is great and God gives us some of the most foundational and exciting experiences while we’re there. But God is with you for the long haul. When you graduate you enter a fight, a fight to see God for all He is: a God who gives you new and different experiences, who places you into a new community, and a God who, regardless of what happens, wants to enter into all of that with you. So, if you will, take it from someone who’s there, an alum. Life is hard, but I have God and I can honestly say He is enough.
I hope a new degree and a new job will not make you forget that.