Take Two #61: Post-College Identity
By Kyra-lin Hom
I've been out of undergraduate college for about a year and a half now. I've had my time of identity crisis and readjustment – not to say that I'm over that hump just yet... But for a number of friends of mine who graduated class of 2012, that process is just beginning. See, students (or recently post-school individuals like myself) don't think of years as spanning from January to December but rather from fall season to fall season. We've been conditioned to think of the end of summer and start of autumn as the time to get back to work.
I remember my first no-school autumn (that would be last year) being a bit surreal and really quite fun. It kind of felt like skipping class, like I was getting away with something. By winter that feeling had settled out, and by spring full blown anxiety was setting in. I mean, what had I really accomplished during those last few months? School had always provided me with tangible proof that I had been doing something with my life. Without that, I felt a little... stuck.
If you couldn't tell, I'm a very goal oriented person. I'm decently ambitious and I like being productive – one reason why actually making and selling things via my online etsy shop is so satisfying for me. Without a clear path to follow, no matter how I was spending my time I could feel my wheels spinning in place. I mean, sure I had my over-arching, trophy-after-the-race kind of goals, but road maps or mile markers pointing the way? Not so much. Plus, the more time passed, the hazier my long-range view became too.
Truth was I was lost, wandering in an ocean of potential trying to figure out just what it was I wanted to do with myself, what I truly enjoyed and in what fields my talents resided. Now I'm watching a number of my closest friends go through the same process. I know we can't be the only ones who feel or have felt this way.
The hardest part was actually figuring out “me.” See, when I moved back to Seattle after college, I wasn't coming home to sporadic social circles or absent friendships. I was coming back to a tight nit group of friends I'd known since middle school when I still wore full length velvet capes and brightly colored paisley pants. (Thank goodness I've come a long way since those days.) Yes, I know I'm extremely lucky. How well we've all stuck together over the years is truly unusual. But there is a downside to this closely shared history.
Longterm friendships come with expectations. My friends expected me to be the same person when I returned from college as I had been when I first left – a completely unrealistic fantasy, but an effect-inducing expectation nonetheless. When back in Seattle, I felt myself slipping into old modes of behavior no matter how much I tried to fight it. From what I can gather, this happens to almost everyone. Our personalities and opinions are much more malleable than we'd like to believe.
Nothing is more frustrating than thinking you've changed (generally for the better, 'growing up' per se) but then not getting any peanut gallery support for your in progress, self-improvement project.
What I'm trying to say is that I only found my true post-college footing after I shooed everyone else's opinions from my mind. Their opinions are helpful, yes, but not the end all. That's when I found my new life direction, and that's when I finally started feeling like I knew who I was. Sometimes the best way to find yourself is to forgo everyone else for the night, look in the mirror and say 'hello.'