Every single morning, I would draw eight giant lines on a piece of notebook paper and leave it next to my desk.
I was working my first full-time job.
Fresh out of college, I spent the entire day now sitting behind a computer with little to no human interaction for eight hours at a time.
Every time I completed a full hour, I would make that line into an x and slowly count down the hours until 5 p.m. came around and my workday would be over.
In college, I was used to 90-minute lectures followed by four-hour breaks, where I'd put my feet up on a table in the student union and pass the time laughing, watching TV, and eating (there was always lots of eating) with my friends.
But now, in the real world, I was finding myself tapping my toes against the slow ticks of the clock trying to figure out how to turn nine-hour daily staring contest with my work computer into something enjoyable.
Graduating college and entering the real world comes with some realities that'll be waiting there for you, with open arms to hug you hello, as you start your first job.
1. Waking Up at 6 a.m.
Or before the sun has a chance to stretch its arm and rise for the day. And it's not even like you can roll out of bed and toss on a clean oversized shirt and haul on over to a class where you'll blend in with hundreds of other people. Mornings, now, require a fresh shower and a solid breakfast and enough time to make sure you fully rub the crud out of your eyes and are ready to take on a to-do list the size of someone's Costco grocery list.
2. Commuting More Than Five Miles to Anywhere
Work. A friends place. Somewhere to eat for lunch. Your favorite spots are no longer a couple of walking blocks away or the length of one song on the radio. It'll be hard to get anywhere that doesn't cost a few dollars' worth of gas or a $2.50 subway ride that'll leave you cheek-to-cheek with a stranger who is in desperate need of a shower.
3. Talking to Strangers
In college, you practically know everyone. Or at least you think you do and that thought is so powerful that you truly believe if you don't know someone than your roommate or her boyfriend or one of your sorority sisters must know them. In the real world, everyone is a stranger -- every guy you come across on an online dating site, every person you pass walking in and out of your company's building will at first be unfamiliar to you. Those strangers have the power to change your life.
4. A 9-to-5-Plus Schedule
College classes are so spread out that you're hardly ever melting behind a desk for more than two hours at a time. Plus lunch breaks are usually more than an hour and are followed by an afternoon class. Not anymore. Days will start at 9 a.m. and end either when your boss gives you the nod of okay or the company won't pay you overtime to stay there. If you're lucky, and I have yet to be this lucky, you'll get the kind of lunch break that has you eating a booth in a restaurant and not behind your own desk.
5. Living Back at Home With Parents
Eleven p.m. curfews and the unlimited questions of where are you going and who are you going with?
Can you blame them? They haven't had you living home in four years and now that you're back in town, for just a little, though a little usually turns out to be more months than you can count on both hands. They'll forget you're an adult and at first your adjustment back home will feel just as strange as your childhood room decorated with Beanie Babies and Spice Girls posters does.
6. Can't Stay Up Past 9 p.m.
I'm yawning as I write this.
7. Friends Coming and Going
In college, friends feel like family. But once college ends and your friends move to different cities and states and countries, and both of you work until the sun goes down, staying in touch seems to fall lower and lower on the to-do list.
What used to be "why don't you come over and pregame before we go out with a group of friends" will now turn into something more formal and one-on-one, which can at first seem intimidating and scary.
9. The Future Will Freak You Out
That's because you won't be able to see too far into it. Not knowing what your December will look like sans a winter break or what August will look like without back to school shopping or a bunch of homework assignments to procrastinate over, will be over the top scary.
But a good kind of scary. The kind that shows you how quick time passes when you can't see too far ahead and how much you'll change when everything else is suddenly changing around you.
I won't wish you luck -- because it's never luck that you need. It's determination, so I wish you lots of that.
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