Just recently, I entered the “real world.” That mystical place we know, really, as simply “after college.” The part of life after we’ve outgrown the frat parties, campus events, free pizza, and dormitories. That time when, perhaps, we finally get to enjoy life as it should be.
I hear over and over, “Just wait, in a couple months you’ll miss college.” I’ll be frank; I don’t believe them. All those nonsensical notions of “missing the college days” sound like flat-out lies to me at this point. There’s one simple reason for it: I finally get to be just a little bit selfish (in the best kind of way).
In college it seems like you’re always trying to please someone. It might be a professor (to get that “A”), your parents (just to finish), or even that girl you met at the party the other night. Either way, it’s generally more about what someone else wants than what you want. After graduation, the tables are turned. To me, my newfound “selfish” habits include the following (and you should take advantage of them, too!):
Taking care of yourself is a privilege we often miss out on in college. It’s easy to get sucked in by parties, cheap Chinese food, and the onslaught of free pizza that residence halls and the college campus provides. Once we’ve escaped the campus, things like taking care of ourselves somehow seem like realistic options. Going for morning runs, getting a gym membership (and actually going), and even commuting by bike all become practical things.
These health-building, wellness-bringing, life-enriching activities are all fairly selfish in nature, but damn if they don’t feel great. Quarter-life crisis it may be, it’s a fantastic time to start getting back in shape and losing that freshman 15 (or 30, or 50…).
Speaking of cheap Chinese food and free pizza… no more of that. Life after college allows for a little indulgence, in more than one way.
On one hand, you finally have time to make your own food. It’s healthier, more satisfying, and certainly easier on the wallet, but it’s a great habit to get in and a pretty relaxing, rewarding activity to boot.
On the other hand, life after college (provided you manage to land a job or paid internship) generally provides a decent budget for eating out. You can check out those quirky restaurants you didn’t have time to trek out to before. You can see what’s new on H Street, and explore that speakeasy bar on U Street. You can eat out on occasion and not have to stress about paying rent. Oh, and dates? Splurge a little and take her somewhere fancy. Welcome to the real world, where these things are ok—in moderation.
This may not seem selfish, but in some respects, it really is. One thing I always wanted to do more of in college was contribute to things I believed in. Once escaping the confines of the campus and all those pesky assignments, there’s plenty of time to get out, get your hands dirty, and really make a difference in the world.
The “real world” offers lots of opportunities to volunteer and make a difference. In one of my first weekends free, I spent a morning cleaning up trash around the Anacostia River with the Surfside Foundation. And I’ve even got the budget to contribute to some of my favorite causes, like the Washington Area Bicycling Association, and great organizations like Miriam’s Kitchen and the DC Central Kitchen.
Call it selfless volunteering? I call it being selfish. Getting to do something other than homework, and contribute to something I truly believe in? That’s selfishness at it’s best.
Perhaps the best part about being off campus is finally, really enjoying time with friends. It’s not just hanging out while you do homework. It’s not hanging out in the library pulling all-nighters. It’s not procrastinating or slacking off together. It’s just genuinely hanging out, not stressing, and enjoying life in general.
Selfish? Maybe. But totally awesome. And you’ll realize that your friendships expand far beyond the boundaries of the campus, too. You’ll find friends both younger and older than you. They might be colleagues, fellow professionals, networkers, or even celebrities. If you take advantage of the opportunities the city offers you, you’ll build some incredible connections, and equally awesome friendships.
Oh, and you’ll learn to drink, eat, and even party (!) like an adult. It can be done.
So get out there and take this opportunity to be a little “selfish.” Sure, plenty of people say that college was the best time of their life, but there’s no reason it has to go downhill from here. Live it up, enjoy that “real world,” and make the most of your new status as a young professional.
Alex is hilariously driven. He is the Director of Marketing at Genius Rocket. He is an alumni of American University and loves technology, politics, and design. His goal: to have good stories to tell when I’m old. Follower him on Twitter: @AlexPriest
If you are interested in contributing to the Quarterlife Crisis series feel free to contact me.