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  • Writer's pictureAnna

life after college

Updated: Jan 9, 2018

An open suitcase sat on the table next to some cupcakes and some framed senior pictures. It was my high school graduation party and many of my friends and family came to congratulate me as I prepared for the next season. In this open suitcase was a pile of letters, each with a word of advice. The letters read something like the following:

“Soak up these next four years because they go by so fast!”

“College is the best four years of your life.”

“You’ll meet your best friends and bridesmaids in college!”

“You’re going to grow so much. Those years challenge you.”

In the months leading up to my departure into college-hood, I received so much advice and tips on what to expect, what not to do, etc. I made sure to heed (most) of this advice as I prayed and prepared my heart for this next chapter. I wanted to make the most of my college years and I was so grateful to receive such great advice. There was only one problem: No one prepared me for life after college.

So much focus is put on the transition from high school to college. Granted this is a big transition and certainly needs attention, however the transition from college into “real adulthood” is also a big transition that deserves more attention.

After high school it’s scary because you have to leave home. After college it’s hard because you have to leave home, again. This transition can look incredibly different for everyone. Even within my close friends, our transitions differed greatly. Some got married, some moved to new states to start their careers, some stayed and started grad school and others moved back home. Regardless of what your life looks like after college, it is going to be faced with some changes.

I want to help shed some light on this transition and the challenges it brings. Your story might look much different than mine, but hopefully you can relate to something and be encouraged.

I fell into the category of those who move back home after college to start grad school. The first few weeks being home were bittersweet. It was certainly nice to be home with my family and friends after living 12 hours away for 4.5 years. However, it was sad knowing this time I was home for good. As the months went on and I settled into my new routine, I often noticed myself feeling a little funky. I had so many contradicting emotions dwelling inside me and I wasn’t quite sure what was going on.

I slowly found myself getting caught up in mindless routine as a distraction from my emotions. My relationship with God was not at its highest point and I couldn’t seem to shake these “blah” feelings. I knew something had to change. I needed to figure out what was going on, so I tuned into my feelings. One night as I was drifting off to sleep, I heard a soft whisper say “Anna, am I only your God at Liberty?” okay, well. I’m listening.

The next morning I dove into my heart and God’s word. I realized the harsh answer to that question was unfortunately yes. I didn’t want that to be the answer, but my actions reflect what I do believe, not what I want to believe.

“But how? How and when did I stop letting you be my God?”

“When you started grieving without me.”

I was grieving. Normally when we think of grief we associate it with death, but grief goes way beyond life and death. We grieve losses, and life after college means losing.

We lose our friends who had actually become our family. We lose community; our church, life group, or bible study; we lose our city, our routine; we lose traditions we had created. We even lose our favorite coffee shop, or our favorite mountain view. So many losses that no one truly prepares you for.

Its like this whole life you have created is just over. In a way you kind of feel like you have this gaping hole. An empty space left after you’ve had to say goodbye to all these things. So you desperately try to fill it with anything you can. It is in this moment you have to return to the only One who truly can.

College is what some would call an ambiguous loss. One that is not truly recognized by society and hard to define. While the loss is ambiguous, the grief is definitely not.

So here I was trying to cope with all the feelings associated with grief, alone. So I surrendered and asked God to help me grieve (whatever that meant). How do I grieve someone who is still alive? And how do I grieve an experience?

To be honest, I’m still in the process of learning how to grieve well. But here are some things He has shown me that have helped so far.

  1. Cherish your memories

One thing we don’t lose is our memories. It’s comforting knowing that no one can take them away and no matter where I go next, I can always go back to those sweet years that I truly will never forget. Look back at pictures and videos. Make a scrapbook or a photo album. Do something tangible that will help you make that experience your own now that it is over.

2. Allow yourself to feel

Whatever emotions you are feeling about your new transition, don’t ignore them. Feel them, write them out if that helps you, talk about them with someone and most importantly pray about them. I don’t think we pray for our feelings like we should. I also want to add- don’t let what you’re feeling take control of you in an unhealthy way. You can feel without acting in response to that feeling. Be wise and self-controlled.

3. Give closure to anything left unresolved

We often look back on circumstances and think of what we should have or should not have done. Sometimes it can be incredibly frustrating if we dwell too long on the what-ifs. My mom told me something I found incredibly helpful. Realize that at that time in your life, you could not have made any different choice. You see it more clearly now because you saw the outcome of your decision, and you have most likely grown. You’re older, wiser and you understand why you should have made a different choice. But at that time, you were in a different place, not yet capable of being who you are now. And just think, that moment was mostly likely a factor in making you who you are now.

4. Be okay with your now

Trust in God’s sovereignty to lead your life. As long as you have not said no to His call, you are in His will. Don’t compare yourself to others and where they ended up going after college. Don’t believe the lie that they are doing something greater or more exciting than you. God has a unique purpose for your life.

5. Look forward to a new season

Life after college means gaining too. New opportunities, maybe a new city (or an old one, again), new people to meet, a new church, new jobs, it’s filled with new! Of all the advice, I would have to disagree with one. “College is the best four years of your life.” I heard this so often. Yes, college is amazing and probably the only time in your life to live with 80 other girls, stay up late and binge on ice cream and Netflix. But the years after college are great too. They bring with them so many other amazing things like a dream job, a new house, marriage, children, traveling, etc. The truth is this: The season you are currently in is the best time, because it’s now. You’re learning and growing and God is revealing himself to you now. It’s great and we all need to work on being present.

6. Allow God to be your God in every season

Amidst all these losses, we can find rest in the thing we can never lose- our Sweet Jesus who was with us through it all. It was easy for me to let Him be my God at Liberty, when I had church every 5 seconds. But after leaving that Christian college bubble, you have to work a little harder to be surrounded by encouragement. You have to make time to be with Jesus and mostly importantly let HIM speak to you. Transitions require adjustment and adjustment is hard. Don’t try to do it without Him. Cry in his presence; tell him everything you’re feeling, your desires and regrets. Ask him to help you grieve and adjust to this all this new. All the while, finding solace in His never changing character.

-There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.-Ecclesiastes 3: 1

-Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. –Hebrews 13:8

-See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up… I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert.- Isaiah 43:19

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