Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The truth about leaving college

There have been several things I've noticed since leaving the bubble-wrapped security of the university setting and entering the "real world" (I really hate that term but fail to describe it in any other terms). First, since I've gotten a full-time job, the workload isn't half what I had for my classes. Being a full-time student consumes your work life, social life and any other life you may or may not possess. Though I still hardly find time for "me" things, this is probably because I live with my boyfriend, with whom I share the whole of my day outside work. Still, we have ample time to do the "leisurely" things we like to do: working out at the gym, grocery shopping, playing video games or just spending time together.

Office coffee has largely replaced alcohol as my drug of choice. It's no secret that in general, college kids are pretty heavy drinkers by everyday standards. Take someone out of college and put them in a "real-life" setting with the same drinking pattern they exhibit at school, and that person would probably be labeled an alcoholic, whereas at school, they're nothing out of the ordinary. That stigma has been a bit of a challenge to overcome, but my work schedule and the unlimited amounts of coffee and diet soda at the office have more than helped me to slow my pace. Living with a boyfriend who is a virtual teetotaler has also helped. Not that I don't enjoy a good drink on Fridays after work with the coworkers or friends. I certainly don't go to parties half as much as I used to.

I've noticed myself slipping more and more into the working homemaker role. This probably comes more from living with my boyfriend than leaving college, but it's still much more prevalent than when I was in school and he'd come visit for the weekend. I find myself itching to clean or get him things, make dinner, run to the store to get some last-minute necessities for our everyday comfort. He deals with our landlord, needed repairs, maintenance. We may as well be married already.

We have a lot more time and opportunity to take weekend trips together, either on the motorcycle or by car, to nearby attractions, such as beaches, trails, parks and various sightseeing spots in Boston. Eventually, I'd like to get back to Providence to take a walk around and reminisce about the summer I lived there last year. It's a little farther than Boston, but it's still close enough for a day trip, and I'm sure there are still new, exciting things to discover that I may have missed.

I learned this in large part last summer -- at least I was developed enough at the time to notice it more than before -- but it's become part of my everyday life now: The attitude in the "real world" is a lot less sensitive and "PC" than in a university setting. You'd think this would be obvious to me from the beginning, but being surrounded by Syracuse University's constant encouragement to embrace diversity, accept (or at least tolerate) everyone's specific lifestyle/background and to reject the white-male-dominated society of the outside world. The fate of Hill TV and outcries by SU's minority community at every potentially, allegedly racist incident at the school on one hand stifled a lot of people from flaunting the not-so-PC attitude of the "real world," but at the same time fostered a sense of understanding and enlightenment in the community. As graduates head outside the university, this feeling is lost in the sea of uncaring ignorance that runs rampant here. I'm not saying either situation bests the other; it's just different, and at some times a challenge to navigate and a disappointment to behold. I'd like to think our society is more willing to accept and be sensitive toward others' beliefs, actions, lifestyles and choices without becoming preachy or up in arms whenever the slightest alleged offense occurs, but that just isn't possible, at least yet.

I'm worrying a lot more about "grown-up" things, such as health insurance (it's mandatory in Massachusetts, and though I may not technically be a full resident yet, I'm shopping around and will settle on the plan offered through work), paying off my loans (filling out the consolidation form is a priority right now) and paying other such bills: rent, phone, utilities, cable/Internet, gas, etc. I don't know what I'd do if I didn't have a full-time, reasonable-paying job. Darren's also a great help and support system for me, offering advice and even making my life and decisions easier by comparing and contrasting things so I don't have to. He goes out of his way to do these things for me, and I couldn't be more grateful and lucky to have him.

I'm eternally thankful for the opportunity I had to attend a top-notch university and experience the college lifestyle, but I'm glad to have moved on and begun my truly adult life in the "real world." I can only hope my colleagues feel the same way and are dealing with their new challenges in an equally successful (though sometimes difficult) way.

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