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I really did not think I would miss college this much, and it has only been four months. Granted, all of the changes in my life that happened after already pretty significant changes (including the most uneventful birthday in the history of my 22 years on this planet, is 22 when birthdays become arbitrary?), took another big toll on my mental health, but those are stories for another time. Today is August 14, 2018, and is the second day of Week of Welcome and the third official day of Band Camp. I was in the band for eight years, maybe that has something to do with this huge hole in my chest. I get up in the morning, go to one of my jobs (soon to be just one and not two) and figure out how I am going to save up money, work hard, work OUT, eat healthy, have a social life, get enough sleep, hang out with my dog, and make friends in a new town hundreds of miles away from my variety of families.
That feeling of belonging, of knowing that everyone is going through the same things as you and we are all in it together even if the ending results vary by person, is missing now. It's just me and Miss Olivia, a 10 lb Shihtzu Maltese who desperately tries to make me feel better (and succeeds most days) and soaks up every ounce of play time and walks that I can give her with my 60 hour a week schedule right now. By September I will be back to 40 hour weeks, a very tough decision I made based on the fact that I will no longer have an extra income but I will have time for mental and physical recuperation, something that I could have shared in the struggle with back at school. Olivia does not know or understand the struggle, she just feels the anxiety.
Senior year was a whirlwind for me. My boyfriend (now ex, after moving to another state for him he decided I was not worth waiting for) of three years was moving to Oregon for his job and expecting me to follow him after graduation, so for the first time in college I was without that crutch. I had to leave the Marching Band so I could work as an Assistant Coordinator for our central building on campus, which meant free rent and a supervisory role over people my age, so it was a bittersweet situation. I worked four jobs, and managed to balance my sleep schedule, dog time, work out schedule, and surprisingly vivid social life. Finding a job in a big city I was not interested in moving to with a man that I wasn't sure still wanted me for me was high on my list, and now that I think of it I can't remember why. I so thoroughly enjoyed my senior year despite all of the stress, and that hive mentality of everyone there to struggle with you is an alienating aspect of life when you finally leave it. I could have stayed in that town, I could have stayed at that building I advanced in and loved so much (which I would never willingly admit when I worked there) as part of the professional staff, but my history there was tainted with extremely hard winters and memories. There was no way I could have stayed without leaving and experiencing other parts of the world first, even if it was just one state over.
Graduation weekend was so confusing. I loved every minute of the ceremony, no matter how hungover I was and how early I had to be ready, but I was not ready to leave. I realized that way too late as I drove away from the small town that had made such a big impact on my life. I now see why people take jobs in universities, they never could truly leave the college life. The first few weeks of post grad are great for most people it seems like. They go on trips and move back in with their parents or they start new jobs and new lives like I did. Knowing that you never have to crack another textbook or cram for another test again for the first time in 16 years if you don't want to is oddly unsettling, but wildly exciting. Then it's August. Your younger friends or grad students start the trip back to school, some of the even younger ones begin freshman move in, the party snaps pop up, and here you are on a Saturday night eating fat free vanilla yogurt with frozen berries while watching Friends for the millionth time. What's worse is the meal choice is not because you are trying to be healthy, but it's the only thing you have in your fridge right now. You go to bed early because you hate being alone at night. You wake up early to try to make the most of your day, but coming back to your tiny and cramped cottage that you pay too much for for a few hours before going to a job you are convincing yourself you love gets tiring. You start living for holidays because you can see your family, dreading the typical work week. Seeking out things to do in your new town so you can make friends, but here, there is not really a whole week dedicated to helping you find a place you belong.
I guess what I am trying to say here is that I am hoping I am not the only one who feels this way after graduating to the "real world." I can try and succeed to let others know I am living my best life, but really, I don't know what that looks like yet.