I think about Blink-182 a lot these days. And not just because 90s nostalgia is chic or the recent uncertainty over whether Tom DeLonge is actually still in the band (if he wasn’t abducted by aliens, that is).
No, my thoughts linger on Mark, Tom and Travis for another reason entirely. “What’s My Age Again?” has taken on deeper meaning than “Whoa! Three naked guys running around!”
Picture this. 21, face full of makeup, dressed to the nines… and passed out on the couch at 9pm after a rigorous day at work. And there I stay, drifting through dreamland, until 3am when my phone vibrates rapid fire, announcing 1, 2, 3 Snapchats from my college friends. They’re out around town, drinking merrily and dancing to local music. I don’t even have the energy to snap them back, but if I did, I’d look something like this:
I left campus when I was 20 to pursue a full-time internship in the city. Set to graduate a year early, I was eager to immerse myself in PR. What I didn’t expect was to wedge myself between two vastly different worlds. With a 9 to 6 schedule –7:30 to 7:45, if you count commuting– I can no longer pull off the same late hours of my college friends. And while you may think, Well, Maria, you have a salary now, so some things are worth sacrificing, for a long time, I couldn’t properly insert myself in the working world either.
For the first six months of my career, I was under 21 which put a serious damper on company mixers and pretty much served as a scarlet “C” as in “Maria is a child.” But even once I came of age, I often found myself silent. My co-workers spoke about life-changing trips around the globe, their awespiring careers and how they met their significant others. I was in debt, living with my parents and newly single, without much to contribute. But that’s normal, right? I mean, my life only started getting interesting when I graduated nine months ago.
But still, I wondered: As someone technically still college age, shouldn’t I be able to shift seamlessly between these two worlds?
Age has always been such a strange concept to me. When you’re a child, it’s a defining factor, second to only your name. I’m Maria and I’m six…and a half! (Because God knows six is so fundamentally different than six and a half.) With age comes an unspoken sense of order. If you were six, you could only conceivably be friends with those your own age, give or take a year, and even that was a stretch. Mingling with those 2, 3, 4 years older than you was pretty much unheard of.
After your freshman year of college, though, that set of standards pretty much goes down the toilet and a whole new world of interactions opens up before you. Once you enter your late teens, people start to be rounded off into groups, “college age,” “young adults,” “middle class.” Which seems flexible and makes sense– until you’re a college-age girl in a working-age world.
When you’re situated in a career, your frame of reference shifts. Tales of college classes are no longer interesting and pulling an all-nighter to finish a paper seems trivial. Thirsty Thursdays have lost their appeal and with these changes, you lose a lot of common ground with college friends. Such realizations make conversation challenging. You don’t want to minimize their accomplishments, but you find yourself well past them.
So what’s the solution here?
Don’t Rush Things.
Here’s the deal– you’re in a league of your own. It’s lonely and it sucks at times, but try to live in the moment without getting too hung up on “the glory days” or worrying about what’s to come. While post-college is a period of transition, with a million little pieces shifting at once, it’s truly the calm before the storm, so enjoy it while it lasts. While you may not have an exciting story (yet), realize it’s still being written and one day, your adventures may be the ones leaving the room speechless.
It’s hard, but try not to dwell on others and instead focus on yourself and what you can do to further finesse your skills. This is your time to explore and discover new interests. You no longer have final exams to fret over and you’re still some time away from having kids, meaning this is possibly the last stretch of time you’ll have for yourself for a long, long time. So hit up every art gallery you can find, treat yourself to a shopping spree, spend a night binge-watching Netflix. The best thing about being in a world of your own is that you get to make up the rules. If you’re going to be a party of one, then you damn well better make sure it’s the ride of your life. Whenever you’re feeling lonely, slot in an activity that you’ve never had time to try before. Expanding your mind expands you as a person. By the time you’re fully integrated in the workforce, you’ll be amazed by what you can share.
Perhaps most importantly of all, remember where you are now. In between the necessity of paying off loans and responsibility of doing so on time, you have what many of your peers do not– a blank slate. Remember how it feels to be discovering yourself and keep it with you as you advance beyond the lowly entry-level position. It keeps you grounded. Recalling how it feels to be lost and out of place can help you relate to others– like your college friends– as they begin to make the transition for themselves. Life is full of transitions, but if you take them in stride, you’ll end up with wisdom far beyond your years.