The "Best Four Years" vs. the Next 50

11/18/2011 07:01 pm ET Updated Jan 18, 2012

Striking a balance amongst "friend," "fan," and "groupie," ("fragroupie"?) is a welcome dilemma if it means I get to be friends with burgeoning rock stars.

College classmates of mine, The Shadowboxers are an unclassifiable cocktail of pop, rock, and R&B who graduated in May and began touring with the Indigo Girls. They've already played sold-out shows in Chicago and New York, and their West Coast tour is in the works. (You could probably add "obnoxious band promoter" to my list of potential titles.)

"I've dreamed of this since I was a little kid," says Adam Hoffman, the band's lead guitarist.

Earning a living as professional musicians certainly is a dream come true for these 22-year-olds, but life on tour is not without challenges. And I'm not even talking cool and glamorous Rolling Stone-worthy challenges but rather, mundane, normal-person ones, like the monotony and fatigue of months-long confinement with the same four people. They're annoying and smelly and so are you. Their patience thins and their idiosyncrasies mutate and so do yours. Sometimes, even a rock star wants to sleep in his own bed, alone.

While most recent grads aren't schlepping from city to city, cramming five guys into a single hotel room on a nightly basis, the tribulations of the immediate post-college experience apply even to those with more traditional career paths and sleeping arrangements.

Don't get me wrong: considering the economy, those of us with jobs are the lucky ones, and we know it. We only need look to at our grad school friends facing death by debt, jobless peers, or NBA rosters as a reminder. In the big picture, we couldn't feel more fortunate. After all, young, healthy, and employed, it's Us: 3, Kobe: 0.

That said, the transition from college to the working world was supposed to be easy. After all, we already:

Moved away from Mom and Dad and, despite their worst fears, not died; overcame a freshman roommate who stole our underwear and, even more inexplicably, our OC DVDs; learned to thrive in class, and not just ones like The Science of Dessert and Golf; drank so much we swore we'd never drink again; drank again; dated, or whatever; studied, or whatever, abroad; said or thought, "I'm over this" in reference to class or Greek life or boys -- and sometimes even meant it; not died.

And despite all this growth and experience, evolving from "college kid" to bona fide "young professional" has taken more than not wearing sweatshirts every day. Looking back, we shouldn't be surprised the so-called "best four years" of our lives was easier than starting the next 50.

This new adult phase has required new adult responsibilities, like paying bills and waking up. Once a part of our daily collegiate lexicon, we haven't heard the word "free" in months. We've also come to realize that the college world had a pretty loose definition of "morning."

Socially, we're forced to reinvent ourselves amongst unfamiliar people and from an unfamiliar position: the bottom. Recently, I was chatting with a girl in a bar. Instead of asking my age, she requested my ID and, upon realizing she was a year my elder, literally got up and walked away. As a wizened senior, I once expressed nostalgia over my distant 17-year-old self. Now, I've considered investing in a fake ID that says I'm 40.

Possibly the largest hurdle, however, is overcoming a sense of existential uncertainty. In college, our future laid in waiting like a sleeping giant. Now, we're inside the giant's mouth: we're alive but man, is it dark and uncomfortable. College was supposed to be about discovering our passions and ourselves, then finding a job. We've got jobs, but our passions continue to elude us -- probably sunken in the depths of the giant's esophagus or small intestine or wherever metaphoric passion-food goes.

There's persisting anxiety, often accompanied by loneliness and confusion and again, we're naively surprised. We shouldn't be. As a generation, we've been dually equipped and saddled with an unflappable sense of entitlement. We consider college as paying our proverbial dues, even though the only dues paid were literal ones -- for most of us, by our parents. Sons and daughters of the meritocracy, we're so eager for immediate success that we relentlessly pursue it. We seek progress and expect "work in" not to precede it. We want happiness and we want it now. Don't make these adults cross our arms and stamp our feet.

Maybe our new first step in re-growing up is, for the first time, exercising patience. Gratification is on its way, although maybe not instantly. Even in college, there was frustration and confusion. Remember, "Have you seen my boxers and, for that matter, Mischa Barton?"

Let's continue our relentless pursuit of happiness but appreciate the novelty, exhilaration, and uncertainty along the way. We are the lucky ones, and everything is OK -- or at least it will be. Let's revel in what we've got and what lies over the horizon, unknown. I say we all just chill out. And for that, I've got just the band.