The Strangeness of Not Being in School

Fall has been my favorite season for as long as I can remember. Summer can never end soon enough, and I love watching it slowly bow to Autumn. I love falling red and orange leaves, crisp air, scarves, oversized sweaters, cozying up with hot chocolate or chai, and the feeling that comes when a new season is here; Something about it makes my soul stir with the contentedness of a fluffy cat napping in front of a fireplace.
As I’ve been waiting for Summer to end over the last few weeks, a weird, unsettled feeling has been creeping its way into my heart. I tried to shake it, but it keeps hanging around. A few days ago I suddenly got the urge to rearrange my closet, and then that turned into a weekend-long project of rearranging and reorganizing my entire bedroom. The unsettled feeling had gone away while I was working and progressing. When I finished, I sat in my favorite chair and basked in the outcome of a weekend’s worth of work. But as I looked over at my newly organized desk, that unsettled feeling rushed back in and it dawned on me:
Fall is coming and I’m not going back to school.
I’ve graduated. I’m done with school for now.
I knew this time would come, I guess I just wasn’t ready for it.

I was that nerdy kid that looked forward to school every year. From elementary school to high school, my mom would take us back-to-school shopping for supplies at Target and clothes at Marshalls. It honestly may have been one of my favorite days of the whole year. Then, during my college years, I spent the end of summer looking for cute dorm decorations and spending an ungodly amount of money on textbooks. This year, it seems like there’s nothing coming.
And it’s not just the material things of school that are missing, it’s everything else. I love learning, and that’s the number one reason I went to college. Not to get a high-paying job (because that doesn’t exist for English majors), but to keep learning and to continually broaden my perspective as a human being. To be sure, I’m not going to miss spending all night in the library writing a 10-page paper that I put off until the night before it’s due. But it feels like there’s this big hole where school used to be.
I mean, if you think about, we’re required to go to school from when we’re about five years old until we graduate at about age 18. That’s thirteen years right there. Add on a four-year college degree, and you’ve been in school for 17 years of your life. If you follow the traditional school path, that’s 17 years in a row. And when you look at it that way, it’s completely normal to feel a little off once you’re done with school.
So I guess it’s just an adjustment that we college graduates have to go through. If we want to be educated people and life-long learners, it’s on us now. We don’t have professors lecturing us or assigning us homework anymore, but we have all of the tools they’ve given us to be able to keep learning. It’s easy to become idle and let television and internet numb our brains when we get home from work, but that’s not getting us anywhere— not as individuals, and not as a community of educated young adults.
So push yourself.
  • Learn something new every day.
  • Be aware of the world around you.
  • Keep a journal and write your thoughts about current issues and events, and about life in general.
  • Create things. Fantastical architecture designs, knitted sweaters, elaborate doodles, a blog post, home improvements, it doesn’t matter what, just don’t lose your creative spark. 
  • Read every day. Even if you hate reading. People who are well-read are people who are well-rounded.
  • Keep pursuing more knowledge in your field. Your master’s degree doesn’t make you an expert; there is always more to learn.
  • Stay in touch with your school friends. Even if that just means getting coffee once every few months. Support each other and push each other to keep moving forward.
  • Don’t compare yourself to everyone else you graduated with. Comparison is the thief of joy. Everyone is different, and every career path is different. When you see that guy’s Facebook update about an amazing job in England, be happy for him, not jealous.
  • Act like the educated person that you are. Education comes with responsibility. We can’t stand idly by in the face of injustice when we know better. Whatever your degree is in, you’ve gained something special and unique that can help make our world a better place.
  • And finally, enjoy yourself. We’re full-fledged adults now. After 17+ years in school, we’ve earned our freedom. Live it up, but don’t forget who are you and how your education has shaped you.
As for me, the unsettled feeling is going away and being replaced with the hopeful feeling of an entirely brand new season of life. So come on, Fall, I’m ready for you.

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