Adjusting to life after college…If you managed to make it through college without your head in a toilet at some random party and a hangover that lasted until dinner time, after which you started drinking again, then, well, you really deserve some sort of medal. No, I’m serious. I’m not going to get into the hows and whys of college drinking, or other substances that are experimented with at this crucial time in life, but what I think needs addressing is the adjustment phase that comes after the degree…
If you have not experienced this, Congratu-fuckin-lations. You can click off this page any time now. But for the rest of you – if you spent a sober Saturday night alone daydreaming about keg-stands and crazy bonfires and Sunday-morning breakfasts at the local diner still half-wasted… well, then, you know what I’m talking about.
I admit with absolute honesty that I went to college a naïve, sweet, slighty-snobby non-drinker. I was straight-edge and didn’t even know what that meant. I graduated from college with a deep appreciation for red wine, shots of tequila, and ice cold wheat beers on summer days. Coming from a family with an alcoholic trend, it has taken attention and self-control to keep tabs on my consumption. Regardless, there is just as much of a letting-go period of partying and learning how to adapt to life after college as there is with saying goodbye to friends, professors, classes, and your campus. What is life after college for twenty-somethings like, anyway?
It takes continual self-assessment to break the health-crushing habits one creates in college. It also takes a sincere effort to turn bad habits and binge drinking into a healthy sliver of your social life amid new friendships after college. In other words, it can be a challenge to cross the bridge from excess to moderation.
Here are some of the signs that I’ve discovered in myself and others that should make you think twice before grabbing that next Bud Light…
- You find yourself drinking alone.
- You realize that you are spending more of your monthly budget on partying than on food.
- You start to see how much you’ve been drinking….physically.
You attend a social gathering where there is very little or no alcohol, and immediately feel uncomfortable or anxious.
- You drive drunk (getting a DWI or DUI should be obvious red flags).
- At social gatherings, you notice that you are on to your third beer and everyone else has barely gotten through one…
There are other indicators that are more personal, which is why I recommend, above all else, being honest with yourself. Adjusting to life after college includes paying attention to your habits and choices. If you notice that you are unhappy with elements in your life… your job, a relationship, your financial situation… notice if you’re numbing your feelings with alcohol or other substances. If you attend parties with new friends or old, notice if you’re the only one getting plowed. Notice if you can buy a week’s worth of groceries with your monthly returnables. Take note if, on weeknights, you find yourself needing a six-pack to relax. Moderation is all about paying attention to yourself, both mentally and physically, making changes where they are needed and learning how to adapt to life after college.
There’s no reason that the parties should end once you’ve crossed that stage and framed your degree. But there’s good reason to put to bed the caffeine-induced all-nighters, the home-made water bongs, the beer funnels, and the non-stop party mentality that college life supports. Think of your health. Your financial investment in your future that nasty habits could derail. Your relationships, mental balance and careers after college that could be in jeopardy.
I don’t mean to be a nag or a downer. We all have our own challenges… our moments when we realize that we’re sitting alone, playing an out-of-tune guitar and we’ve just finished a bottle of cheap shiraz… all that I’m saying is don’t forget that no one can solve any of the world’s problems when they’re half in the bag.
Perhaps the biggest motivators for me were learned when I took a part-time job at a liquor store. And yes, I took the job partly because it afforded a twenty-percent discount. But seeing the red-cheeked regulars buying their plastic handles of vodka with their far-off gazes of discontent… that was enough to make me take notice.
Adjusting to life after college means partying sensibly. Pay attention. Work hard and have fun. Cheers to that.