Well hello there new followers! I’m not sure how you all found me, but I’m glad you did! One of my new followers is a recent grad who’s life story sounds very similar to mine. She always thought she’d graduate and go somewhere and get a job and do all those grown up things we all dream of. Except. She didn’t. She’s still in her college town. Why that sounds oddly familiar… So, my fellow blogger (and all you out there with similar situations) this one’s for you.
In our culture, a “gap year” is when someone purposefully takes a year off, usually after high school or college graduation, to travel, see the world, or do something else, like volunteer work. While some people see it as something only the rich do, I’ve had friends with similar socioeconomic backgrounds save and save and save just so they could backpack across Europe. I’ve also had friends be willing to teach English to small children in third world countries. My version of a gap year wasn’t so kindhearted or glamorous. I graduated. I didn’t get a “real” job. I was what the news calls “underemployed”.
(Side note that’s going to be so long it deserves its own paragraph: The jobs I had were most certainly real as I spent many many hours at them for very little money. However, I had some friends, adults, and even my then-boyfriend criticize them as not being “real” jobs. That’s why it’s in quotes. If I were speaking to you in person, I doing the whole air quotes with my fingers thing.)
So what did my freshly graduated unemployed self do? Well, I promptly threw myself a graduation party and invited all my relatives. And that, my friends, is how I survived the first two months out of school. I was constantly going to my local mall and applying to every single store that was hiring. One hired me pretty early on but wanted to wait until they hired more associates so I could be trained in a group, so that was six more weeks of sitting on my butt. I wound up working two mall jobs, being an “independent consultant” doing those home party type shows, and working at a bar. When I wasn’t at work, I was hanging out at my college doing college things with my college friends. I guess everybody else got the warning about the crappy job outlook and decided to take what I like to call a victory lap.
I was actually really glad to have only part time jobs. I knew I wanted to go to grad school and I was able to request time off to visit the campuses, chat with professors, take my GREs, and work on applications. My mom kept pushing for me to get a full time job as an administrative assistant somewhere, but if I did that, I would not have had the same amount of time to search for grad schools. Was I constantly worried about money? Yes. Was it worth it in the end? Yes, I went to my top choice school and eventually landed a job I love. A few weeks ago, I spoke with a recent grad in a similar situation. He could either be a substitute teacher or take a full time position. We worked out that subbing was probably the best option for him so he could have time to go research grad schools. Is it impossible to work full time and figure out grad school? No, but it really depends on how much you already have done and how hard you are willing to work. If you have already researched schools while in undergrad or only plan on applying to one school or have already taken the GRE, working full time might be more feasible.
What did I do in my free time? Well, once I had been accepted into grad school, I went through a period of a few months with probably the least responsibilities I’ll ever have in my life. No homework, no grad school apps, I didn’t live in my own apartment or home, so no housework. I didn’t have a dog yet and I still don’t have kids, so no looking after anybody. It was glorious. I spent as much time as I could visiting friends that lived in different areas. I made sure to reconnect with friends from high school that I had lost touch with during the college years. I explored different areas of the city I was living in. I hope that some day I can save up enough money to have a few months with no responsibilities again, but I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen until I retire. (Although I do make time to visit Undergrad U every so often and shrug off a few responsibilities for a weekend.)
So, to all you underemployed recent grads, to my fellow blogger, enjoy this time while you can. Yes, you may be broke and sleeping on a couch and surviving on leftovers and mac and cheese, but in five, ten, twenty years, you will look back and not remember how much your back hurt after sleeping on your best friend’s floor, but how much fun you had with him or her. Work hard, play hard, and remember what The Ataris say…”Being grown up isn’t half as fun as growing up, these are the best days of our lives.”