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Just graduated? Here are five hard truths you should know about adulting

By Francis Lyn Malalis Published Jul 10, 2024 6:27 pm

At least 17 years—this is how much of your life was spent in school. How was it?

All those exam days you dreaded, the good times you shared with your batchmates, the Xs and Ys you didn’t get are coming to an end.

More than merriment, your graduation is an entrance to adulting, except there’s no exit. Society expects you now to be a functional adult, laden with responsibilities. There’s no going back to your carefree days in college. 

School is rigid, structured, and predictable. Adulting, however, is not. It's one heck of an adventure.

Your experiences will reshape your paradigm in life. You will fail, you will get rejected, you will be disappointed. But it's also in these circumstances that you learn how to pivot and discover your inner strength.

Here are five hard truths you should know about adulting.

Your diploma is not enough

You have earned your degree. What now? Most of us think that a diploma will catapult us immediately to success, but it’s not enough. It’s just the minimum requirement for most jobs. Of course, you will still have to submit your CV and ace your interview with your chosen firm.

But even with stellar performance in your job application, you're not always guaranteed to get the spot. Being hired is a matter of being the right person at the right place at the right time. It’s about addressing what the business needs vis-a-vis your skill set and what it can afford.

Your education is equally important as your values, work ethic, and interpersonal skills. Being the smartest in the room does not always matter—sometimes no one even cares. But the way you interact with your team and the management as well as how you get things done could make a difference in people's perception of you.

You will lose love one way or another

Whether it’s a person, advocacy, or dream job, you could get disenchanted.

You will lose love because you are meant to develop and gain new love, in whatever form: love for a newfound dream, love for a different discipline than your course, and love for work friends who keep you sane.

You must also prepare to lose friendships over time. You and your college friends will go on different paths and become different versions of yourselves. Sometimes you'll just see each other once a year over Christmas dinner or not at all because they have moved to another country. And you’ll eventually be okay with it.

With people’s transience in your life, you’ll learn to love yourself even more. There are times you'd feel like the only person you can count on is yourself.

You are your greatest ally and your worst enemy

Unlike when you were still in college and your block had your back in group tasks, you have a role to fulfill and individual KPIs (key performance indicators) to meet at work.

You will make mistakes, and sometimes you will be hard on desert yourself for being stubborn or for overlooking an important decision. You will sulk, get confused, be anxious, but you will get up anyway and work, because that’s what adults are supposed to do.

In adulthood, it matters how you respond to adversities, how resilient you are. 

You will not advance in life at the same time as your peers

In school, you step into the next academic year together with your batchmates. But in real life, leveling up is something else. You will see on social media that your batchmates are already married (some with kids) and have already “made it” in life. Some of these could make you feel that you’re lagging, but who says life is a race?

The reality is adulting is not an equal playing field. Some of your batchmates have a head start because of their family background and connections, so you will not have the same opportunities as them. Some also put in the extra hours and work, so really, there’s no point in comparing yourself to others. Just make the most of your circumstances and be inspired by your peers as you focus on your personal goals.

It’s also important to note that instant gratification is not guaranteed. Your hard work now might pay off next week, next month, or maybe even in the next few years. Breakthroughs could take time.

You’ll realize that you’re not the center of the universe

As you work hard amid the challenges, you'd realize that the people around you are doing just the same. So, you try to muster the courage to "adult" for another day and the succeeding ones. You draw strength from knowing it’s a collective experience.

You’ll come to a point when you realize how much of your life is changing—that your skin now sags and you badly need a skincare routine, that you can’t eat as much as you want anymore because your lipid profile is not giving, and that your parents are getting older and older.

You’re stuck in a metaphorical sandwich where you’re neither old nor young. This is a wake-up call and a reminder that you’re just part of this one great life cycle, and you’ll then realize what is truly essential in life.

To all fresh graduates, cherish your youth and revel in the uncertainties and possibilities of adulting. Your 20s might seem arduous, but soon enough it would feel like a blink of an eye when you turn 30.

Allow yourself to be human—to learn and unlearn, to transform, to grow.

You will never be the same again.