June 06, 2016

Now What?

Remember in the movie Finding Nemo, when the fish all work together so they can all escape? They come up with the genius idea and they are all rolling to the pier in the plastic baggies trying to make it to the ocean, and they finally get there and they're just sitting there in the baggies, not really quite there yet? And they say this genius little quote..

A few weeks ago, I graduated college. Yep, I know.. it's crazy! Four incredible years flew by at my dream university. I remember visiting schools in February of 2012, just months before I would make my decision and knowing from the minute I stepped foot on Quinnipiac's campus that that was where I needed to be. Despite some tough times - lost friends, breakups and makeups, drunken nights and hungover mornings, hard classes and ones that pushed me out my comfort zone - Quinnipiac and college managed to be everything I thought it would be and so so so much more. 

As I moved my tassel to the left, and tears poured out my eyes (true story, I sobbed the minute I sat back in my chair after crossing the stage), the first thing to cross my mind wasn't "YAY" or "I did it!", it was "now what?" 

Anti-climactic, I know - but I stood there, surrounded by my friends and fellow graduates and I realized it was the end of an era. Not only was I saying goodbye to my time at Quinnipiac, to my best friends and to the people and the place that became family and home to me, I was also saying goodbye to college Caroline. From here on out, I had to be adult Caroline, and to be honest, I wasn't ready for that. Adult Caroline has to work every single day. Adult Caroline can't go to the senior bar on a Monday. Adult Caroline can't put off doing laundry another week. Adult Caroline can't live in college t-shirts and eat dining hall food and drink cheap liquor and take personal days because she feels like it. Sadly, adult Caroline has to be an adult. I kind of felt like adulthood was just hitting me in the face..

But to be honest, these things didn't scare me that much. Yeah, it sucks to be a responsible adult, but we all have to do it at some point. Plus, I've already established that none of us really have our shit together. What scared me the most was that for the first time in my life, I don't have a plan. I don't have five courses registered for next semester. I don't have my on-campus job and my role as an RA anymore. I don't have my best friends within walking distance. I no longer have access to amenities like gyms, food and electricity for free. From the minute I moved that tassel to the left of my cap, I realized I had no idea what comes next. 

The "now what?" paradox, I call it. You see, college is a trap! You go off to college and have four incredible (albeit challenging) years. You make meaningful friendships and relationships and lifelong memories. And at the end of those four years, you just leave. That's it. You say your goodbyes and you move on from the incredible times you shared, from all of your favorite places, and everything you've known the last four years. It's bullshit! You're left standing in an oversized gown and a decorated cap, thinking "what happens now?"

And that's okay. It's okay to not know what happens next. It's okay to spend the summer babysitting and working at the restaurant you used to waitress at in high school and re-adjusting to life at home before you figure out your career and what comes next. And if you're one of the lucky few that graduated with a job, it's okay to not know what happens next, to not know how to maneuver the job force and the real world, to be scared being the fresh meat at your new company. It's only natural. 

So as I stood in my cap and gown, smiling through the tears and hugging my friends and family, I thought "now what?". And as I boarded my plane for Trinidad as I moved home for God knows how long, I thought "now what?". And as I unpacked my suitcases, re-adjusted to life at home and spent time with my family and friends, I thought "now what?" And even as I opened this laptop tonight, I still think "now what?" 

And for the first time in my life, that's okay. Not knowing what comes next is the beauty of it all. Now is the time to embrace the unknown. To figure it all out as it comes.. and just take a breath. Because, at the end of the day, it'll always work out. I may not have a job in my field right now, I may not be living in New York City like I always dreamed of, I may not be making six figures and have the closet I've always wanted. But what I do have is determination and drive (and a college degree, damn it!) and a will to make it work.  

So yes, I miss college. Yes, I miss screaming the words to the song "Shout" with my best friends at a bar. Yes, I miss being overly-involved and going to events for free t-shirts and free pizza. Yes, I miss pulling all-nighters in the library with my just-as-exhausted-and-stressed friends. Yes, I miss laying out on the quad when the warm weather rolls around. Yes, I miss putting on all my Quinnipiac gear to pack TD for another hockey game. Yes, I miss every sorority philanthropy event we hosted. Yes, I miss my best friends and being carefree knowing that it'll all fall into place. But you know what they say... the best is yet to come. 

(by the way, my cap was decorated by the very talented Tesni from Mud and Muscles!)

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  1. Girl I graduated college five years ago and I am STILL saying "now what?" I have a great job and a career path (sort of) but it feels like I, along with my friends, are all looking at what's up next. We're all married now, so babies? Houses? Who knows what's up next. It's so interesting to think that when we graduate things will be perfectly simple but they just aren't! Best of luck with everything!

  2. Life after college definitely takes some getting used to! I now finally feel in a groove ((5 years out)) but just know like your cap says, the best is yet to come! Side note - I can quote the whole Nemo movie haha

    How 2 Wear It [] http://how2wearit.com

  3. Absolutely love this! The best is truly yet to come and it's comforting to know that other people around my age are thinking "Now what?"


  4. This is a great post! I'm starting my junior year in August and I just want time to slow down, but it's definitely comforting to remember that the best is yet to come!
    -Anna | www.fivefootandfabulous.com

  5. I LOVED THIS POST. I think anyone who's graduated college feels like this at some point. I know sometimes I sure do and I am 2 years out of college. You will find your groove with time, trust me. <3

    xoxo, Jenny

  6. The best thing you can do is stay positive! And work hard, which sounds like you already are. Everything will happen when it's meant to but it's definitely reassuring to know you're not the only one unsure of what to do next. I'm still in that boat with you but I know everything will fall into place soon enough!


  7. Congrats on graduating! Don't worry, none of us have our shit together by graduation day. It's weird for me to think that I graduated a year ago, and am coming up on a year anniversary in my career...and I feel like I still don't have it together. Best of luck in your future endeavors!
    Kayla || Keynotes from Kay

  8. Congratulations on your graduation. The best is yet to come :)

  9. You're going to do great things my friend, I have no doubts in you!! Being a recent grad is SO stressful and the future is so weird, but with faith and perseverance we will all be okay (I keep telling myself ;-) )

    xoxo A

  10. Congratulations! So many great things to come...

    I am only starting college and it feels like it will be a lifetime to finish.

  11. Congrats on graduating!! This is going to be next spring and I'm already have a panic attack about it. Why are we growing up so fast?! I wish you all the luck in your future and I'm sure you'll figure it out!
    Amy | Pastel N Pink

  12. This is such a great post! I'm going to be a senior this fall, so all of this graduation stuff is coming for me soon.....and to be quite honest I'm dreading it! But what you said is so true... It's ok to miss college and to not have everything figured out, because it'll all be okay in the end, and yes, the best is yet to come!

    Stephanie | www.stephanietherese.com

  13. I graduated four years ago, but sometimes it feels like a lifetime. Honestly I think that "Now what?" feeling stays with you throughout your entire life; you just have to learn to love the uncertainty.

  14. Congrats on graduating! Such an exciting time, and the best really is yet to come!

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