It's once again time for many of you to don an overpriced cap and gown to make your final journey across campus. You'll find yourselves overwhelmed with feelings of sadness, uncertainty and probably a hangover. After a lengthy and cliché-laden speech from a well-paid dignitary and/or celebrity about how there are no limits to your success, an administrator you've never met before will hand you a $100,000 sheet of paper that certifies you as an adult. In theory, anyway. In practice it's not as simple as that. As someone who's less a recent graduate and living more in "dude, why are you still attending events for recent graduates?" territory, I figured I'd throw my hat in the ring and address some of the concerns you probably didn't know you had.
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A lot of you will have a job lined up. Those of you who don't will be amazed at how easy it is to fall out of touch and allow friends to expire when all they talk about is work. Once you land a job of your own, you'll turn into exactly that which you so despised, because it turns out having a real grown-up's paycheck is actually pretty sweet. On the job, a lot of writers and commentators will malign you as the most entitled, over-educated yet uninformed class yet. They're only half right. They will ridicule and criticize your seeming lack of basic knowledge, not realizing that the joke's on them because who needs knowledge when you have Google? In turn, you'll validate their argument by believing and even expressing your belief that you're above entry-level work and that you really ought to be doing something more meaningful. In a few instances you may even be right, but unfortunately (or fortunately, as the case may be) the corporate world has yet to figure out how to develop employees when 20 years of specialized work experience can now be summarized in a Wikipedia article.
You'll feel jealous of your friends who were either smart or hardworking enough to land themselves a high-profile, high-paying job. If you're one of those people, you'll soon feel jealous of your slacker friends' 40-hour weeks and ample vacation time. Speaking of smart and hardworking, you'll learn that most people are neither and very few are both. College was a place where everyone around you was more or less on the same plane, and once you enter the corporate world you realize that there aren't enough ditch-digging jobs available for the people you saw as your academic inferiors. You may question why you bothered to put in the work to go to a good, expensive school when Greg in sales seems to have found his diploma in a box of Cracker Jack. Sadly, it remains a valid question years later. You'll find yourself appalled at the cumulative costs of basic necessity items like toilet paper and toothpaste. Even the most bleeding-heart liberal among you will see the appeal of conservatism when you see what the government does to your first paycheque. Rents will be high, commutes will be long, and most sobering of all is the realization that this is endless. There is no summer vacation or graduation, just the daily grind.
You'll find that dating after college is harder but better. There are few, if any, social pressures to be macho or rakish as an adult. Within a few years, the simple pleasure of "taking some babes to pound town" will lose its cache, even with your closest guy friends. A few years after that it will stop seeming weird when one of those friends gets married. Meeting women becomes irritatingly difficult, because for the first time they aren't coming to you. You have to make an effort to reach out to them, which is unnerving at first. Even harder is the fact that the older you get, the less appealing and acceptable it is to allow alcohol to be your wingman. As with your job, you're reminded that it takes all kinds to make the world go 'round, and that means that most people are simply not anyone you'd want to spend time with, let alone grope and/or dry hump. Slowly but surely, the first thing you notice on women becomes not their boobs or ass, but whether or not they're wearing anything on their left hand. Some of you will take the lazy route and start a fling with a coworker. All of you will learn one way or another why this is a terrible, terrible idea.
You'll start getting sunburns (some of you for the first time) in places you never thought could burn, like your forearms and shins. It's shocking how pale you get when you wear chinos and button-ups 250 days out of the year. You'll remember, with equal parts embarrassment, disbelief and satisfaction, the first time you elect to stay in on a Saturday night. The bar scene will lose some of its appeal, because you want to actually have more substantive conversations with your friends and love interests. Weekends cease to be an excuse to drink and instead transform into much-needed opportunities for relaxation. Your body will force you to change your relationship with alcohol, which you'll realize around the same time you understand that partying on a "school night" is a fool's errand. It will become impossible to stay thin without proper nutrition and ample exercise. For the first time in your life you'll start going to a place where you actually pay money to exert yourself, and eventually you'll stop secretly hating yourself for shopping at Whole Foods.
If I make it sound like being an adult after college is all gloom and doom, it isn't. All of the things you're probably cringing at, like getting up early on a Sunday or having a conversation with a woman that isn't fuelled by alcohol and dance music, are things that you'll naturally come to enjoy and seek out. In that way, being an adult is actually pretty sweet. You'll appreciate the finer things in life. Hell, you can afford the finer things in life because you're collecting a paycheck. What you do to collect that paycheck becomes an alarmingly large part of your life, and right out of school work will suck and you'll wish you were back in college. I beg you, give it time. Work will always suck (but it does get better), but over time you'll stop missing college so much and instead start to focus on what lies ahead.