We've all heard it before: college is the best four years of your life -- lazy Saturdays, tanning on the quad, best friends, sorority formals, frat crawls and a few classes sprinkled in between. Our older siblings tell us to live it up because this is the only time in your life when it's acceptable to party multiple nights a week and not have to worry about paying rent. We spend four unforgettable years at college making lifelong friends, staying up late and acting spontaneously, so it's no surprise that recent grads enter the work world with the mentality that this is where fun comes to die. However, since I started working almost two months ago, I've found the opposite to be true -- I know that some of the most exciting years are yet to come.
Post-grad life may not be totally up to par with college life but I'm willing to argue that it's pretty darn close. You can finally say goodbye to those all-nighters in the library where you pounded away at your keyboard in a panic to finish your paper on Waiting for Godot or those nights you spent cramming for that microeconomics final. Unlike college, now you have to wake up every day before 8 a.m. (gasp!) and do more than just show up to class so you might have to reserve your playtime for Fridays and Saturdays -- but that just makes your weekends even better. You'll probably spend the first Thursday night freaking out that you're not going to Karaoke Night at the bar but you'll find that quality becomes more important than quantity (chances are you won't have the energy to go out after a long day of work anyway). You'll look forward to the weekends starting on Monday and make fun plans with your friends well in advance so you don't waste them away watching Sex and the City reruns alone on your couch.
But if your idea of a fun weekend is vegging out on the couch in front of the TV, go for it. Those days of feeling guilty about wasting the day away are over because there's no homework you "really should be doing." Maybe your ideal weekend consists of frolicking around the city and meeting friends for brunch and that's great, too -- freedom is a beautiful thing. Free time is something I never felt like I had before and it's still my natural inclination to pull out my to-do list when I get home from work. As I adjust to my new lifestyle more and more each week, I'm starting to take advantage of my "me time" instead of worrying that there's something else I should be doing. For example, I signed up for LivingSocial where I have found great deals on gourmet meals, fitness classes, local beer fests and paintball excursions. If you love playing sports, you might consider joining a social sports league (e.g. NYC Social Sports Club) where you can meet cool people and go to the bar after the game. After completing 17 years of school and landing a job, we've earned some time to be self-absorbed before we start to settle down.
Needless to say, social life post-college is a breath of fresh air. In college, maybe your definition of fun was going to parties in crowded, sweaty fraternity basements but if you're anything like me, you and your beer-damaged shoes are probably ready for a change. Now you'll attend parties where you can actually hold a conversation with someone (hey, that's a new concept!) instead of trying to scream over the thump of techno music. You'll go out with people you may not have hung out with in college because the social scene was dominated by cliques. Although you might not be living with your best friends anymore, you'll find that other recent grads are looking to meet people, especially if they also just moved to a new city.
As the end of August approaches and my younger friends head back to campus, I expected to feel sad that I wasn't returning to the place I had called home for the past four years. However, as I drive to work every day, college is starting to feel more like a distant memory and I can't say I'm feeling nostalgic. For many people, it might take at least a year to accept the fact that college is over but receiving a paycheck every week surely helps. With New York City at my fingertips, I've had some of my most memorable nights in the months since graduation. However, if you're still convinced that social life after college is "just not the same," walk into any nightclub and you'll find yourself at home. For the rest of us, though, we can still savor those college memories and embrace change at the same time. The days of Jell-O wrestling parties might be over but the fun doesn't have to end once you throw your cap in the air.