Obviously, life after graduating is the goal (we aren’t meant to be in school forever!) – but, that doesn’t mean it isn’t challenging. For me at least, the transition out of school (in my case, graduate school) has definitely been the hardest thing about it. Of course there are initial challenges that often come with graduating, such as hopefully finding a relevant job; however, in this post, I’m going to look at other challenges – ones that occur even after finding that perfect new job.
More independence can be a good thing, but it can also be very hard. During graduate school, I was constantly surrounded not only by friends and family, but also by fellow students who were pursuing the same career that I was. Even as an online student, I regularly interacted with other library school students, collaborated with them on projects, and shared ideas and experiences – and of course, I was involved in a variety of internships. Since graduating, my life has been different – primarily due to the fact that I moved to a new state for my new job. Thus, I am no longer around those communities of people – and it’s been challenging. However, while difficult, this time away has also already been very rewarding. Normally, there are certain parts of myself that only exist when I am around other people. To quote C.S. Lewis:
“In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets.” (Lewis, The Four Loves)
Thus, spending so much time alone has been difficult, in that it can feel like I have “lost” certain pieces of myself – those pieces that are only activated when I am around certain people, in certain groups. I love this quote, and I think it is very true.
While it’s true that I am not enough to bring out every piece of myself… God is. During this time, God is teaching me how to be fully myself, fully who I am meant to be, in Him. After we graduate, especially when we move away from our communities, it can be a time of identity crisis. Who am I, when I am not with the people who know me? Yet, through these crises, it is possible to more fully find our identities in Christ – and thus learn to always be our true selves in Him. When our identities are fully found in Christ, we will never be able to lose them – even when we are on our own.
2. Free Time
You’re probably thinking, “how can free time be a challenge??”. Well, for me at least, it’s been quite difficult getting accustomed to so much down time – and I do think many other recent graduates face similar challenges.
Now, my case is perhaps an extreme one – during graduate school, I was taking a full load of graduate-level classes AND working approximately 55 hours a week (that’s including my internships/fellowships). This meant that Monday through Friday, I was always either working or completing school projects. On my weekends, I dedicated all of my time to friends and family, church, events, and activities. I used my breaks to travel and visit farther away friends. I’m sure that all sounds exhausting – and it especially was for me, since I thrive on spontaneity, not on rigid schedules – but I got used to it, and it become the norm for me. I learned to create spontaneity and see adventure within my crazy schedule, and God taught me many lessons in the midst of my busy life.
Fast-forward to now, and all I have is one full-time 40 hour a week job as a librarian – and no school. I have all of this free time… but how do I spend it? I know that sounds like a really lame problem to have (because everyone wishes they had more free time!). But I’ve realized that it really is a serious challenge to go from constant activity to a much slower, less defined pace – I constantly feel like I am wasting my time, and that I should be spending it on something more valuable, even though I know a 40 hour work week is plenty and the norm. Honestly, I think a lot of this comes down to pride – we like to have busy paces, full of important activities, and places where we are needed – because it makes us feel good about ourselves. Right now, it’s much more difficult for me – but also much more humbling – to live a slower paced life. This isn’t to say I at all regret being so busy while I was – that, too, was necessary during that time in my life. I believe God calls us to have different schedules and priorities at different times in our lives, depending on what He has to teach us.
Through all of this, I’ve been learning the value of not being so busy. I’ve been learning how to rest again, and that it is not wrong to have free time. These empty spaces in my schedule have still been really hard for me, but they’ve also brought me so much closer to God. In the midst of a full schedule, it’s easy to put Him to the side, due to the constant activity and ever-present distractions. Now that I have more empty space in my day, I have learned to better hear God’s voice and recognize His constant presence in my life.
3. Less-Defined Goals
While in graduate school, I was constantly secure in the knowledge that I was working towards something that would directly benefit my future life and career. Really, all the way through my life I have had that security – from grade school, to college, to graduate school. Of course, now that I’m finished, I still want to be continually working towards something – I don’t want to remain stagnant. But, I’m learning that we do not always have to have a big goal to be working towards – just striving to love others more each and every day is enough.
Of course, I do have future career goals to work towards – eventually, I plan to get a job at a full university, get free tuition towards a graduate degree in management, and then eventually become a library director. However, these goals are currently in the future, and it’s hard not knowing how or when they will come to pass. Through this, I’m learning to have so much more faith in God and His plan – because I don’t have a plan of my own. I’m so used to always having a plan for my life, a schedule of what I will complete when and what I will do next, that I’ve not had to fully trust God with every aspect of my future. Now I have to, and it’s been so good for strengthening my faith in His plan and timing.
Just living every day with the intent of becoming more like Christ and forming a deeper relationship with Him is not only a worthy goal – it’s by far the most important goal of all. As humans, we like to be constantly improving in terms of earthly status – better career, higher education, greater pay – but what is the point of those things in the first place, if it’s not to use them to further God’s kingdom? Regardless of where I am in terms of earthly goals, my ultimate goals will always be the same and unchanging – to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, and mind. To love others before myself. And to spread the Gospel unto all the Earth. The purpose of other earthly goals in my life is simply to further my capacity for doing these things.
Dealing with these challenges and adjusting to life after graduating has been difficult, but also so important – and I am incredibly thankful for everything God has been teaching me these past few months. Through all of this, I have been reminded that my education doesn’t end here – and that even after I’ve completed my last degree, it won’t end then. The knowledge and training we gain in school is only one type of learning – and God has an infinite amount to teach us about Himself. So, in this time after graduate school – when I’m often on my own, I have an abundance of free time, and I’m in a break between career goals – I am welcoming the opportunity to fully dive into whatever He has to teach me. More than anything, I want to grow ever closer to Him. Further up and further in.