It’s freshman year of Real Life, and you’ve finally been jettisoned from the comforting mothership of academia. It might feel more like someone tossed you into a sack with a sea lion and punted you into the ocean. You might be in a new city where you don’t know anybody, or subletting a windowless basement room until you save up enough to put down a security deposit on a lease.
Maybe you’re feeling unmoored without the familiar desire for good grades driving you forward. Maybe you hate your job, maybe you haven’t found a job yet. Wherever you’re at, there are some things all recent college graduates can understand.
You’re entering a new phase of life, and that means it’s time to Marie Kondo your possessions and start fresh. Out with the discontinued video games, out with the three-year-old purple loofah, out with the collection of plastic shampoo bottles with half a gram of shampoo left in them, out with the polo shirt that hasn’t fit since eighth grade. All of your ~Stuff~ feels childish and inappropriate now. That phone case that doubles as a wallet? I mean, what is that? You can’t handle the responsibility of a real wallet?
Your clothes collection is even worse: pair upon monstrous pair of skinny jeans (the great equalizer: no matter your gender, sexuality, race, or body type, skinny jeans are unflattering on everyone who dons them), a pink wig, a blazer from Forever 21, and a vast sea of Going-Out Tops. Oh, the odes I could write to the Going-Out Top! The serenades I could compose, praising that flimsy, strappy, sparkly piece of fabric. What are you wearing tonight? Oh, probably just jeans and a Going-Out Top. Cool, Brianna. Same. Cringe. You’re not in college anymore and it’s all gotta go—now, does anyone have a second garbage bag?
You weren’t always going to be able to sleep in, wake up twenty minutes before your midday seminar, pop a breath mint, pull on a sweatshirt and take one of those ridiculous (but fun, so fuuuunnnnnn) electric scooters to class. There are years of agony ahead, years of turmoil and torment, years of despair. Years of waking up at (shivers) 7 a.m. Turns into a pterodactyl and releases a primal scream.
It was easy enough for you to slip into a college student’s schedule—choose as many afternoon classes as possible, eat two large meals a day (11 a.m. breakfast buffet, anyone? Those plastic-y scrambled eggs infused with table salt and animal fat, those sad beige cubes of tofu flaking off at the edges, that frozen fruit compote, that Cool Whip, those slices of pizza with the cheese, sauce, and pepperoni so melded together that they look like flat rubber triangles), study, goof around, pretend you know what words mean, and pass out at 1 a.m.
Not so with slipping out of that student schedule and into, likely, the schedule of a full-time employed adult. Beginning a 9-5 job after years of being privy to the temporal flexibility of studenthood is… well, the toll it can take on the human body is almost beyond description.
It’s at this moment that all recent college graduates are most vulnerable to infiltration by the infection Lifestyle Lag, which shocks a former student’s immune system and travels through the bloodstream to all the organs, including the skin, and transforms the body’s composition into a direct replica of the last time the body was forced to wake up at such early hours… high school.
Lifestyle Lag effectively returns the body’s physical state to a mess of mood swings, hormones, and pimples that rival those of the melancholy pubescent. The brutal infection can only be treated through participating in the most mundane, healthy-lifestyle, working-adult activities possible, such as not wearing crop tops and eating an apple as a snack.
Wait, do you hear that? Echoing across the hills and fields, resonant and all-powerful, yet simultaneously mysterious and inherently unknowable? It is the Universe, eternally screaming the phrase “BUSINESS CASUAL” over and over into the inner ears of CEOs, office managers, and corporate devils everywhere.
The true definition of business casual is more elusive than the holy grail, and you, sweet grad, are no King Arthur. You are not even one of the clowns who plays King Arthur in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. You are a clown in a backless silver blouse and Elf highlighter.
So you went to college and met the love of your life, and the love of your life didn’t break up with you to go to New York and become a theater actor (it’s fine). You’ve decided to stay together, despite accepting jobs hundreds of miles away from each other. You’re leaping into adult life without your partner by your side, and after spending the past two years sleeping three doors down the hall from your person, you’re going to miss them a lot.
You’re balancing work, a social life, and sending a Good Morning bedhead selfie to your sig other every single day to make sure they don’t freak out and think that you “just can’t do this anymore.” Fine, I ALSO can’t do this anymore. Go to New York and become a Broadway star. Play one of the cats in that show Cats.
You have to take small steps, steps that can feel kind of humiliating. You have to sidle up to some guy at the junky office cappuccino machine and whisper hoarsely, “I wonder what nuclear chemicals they put in this stuff to make it foam,” and when he turns to you, frowning slowly, with a cream mustache crusting over his upper lip, you have to bow your head in shame, retreat, and take your search for companionship elsewhere.
Or, at the very least, a work wife you can talk smack with when Linda from accounting starts loudly exclaiming about the calories in those 90-calorie brownies. We know they’re only 90 calories, Linda. It’s in the name.
These people don’t know you. They don’t know that you have the EQ of a groundhog standing on top of a twelve-year-old’s shoulders and the attention span of a basset hound with diarrhea. They see your acne as adult acne. They see your button-down as a button-down, not as a costume you’ll rip off the second you get home in favor of a Patriots jersey or graphic t-shirt that says something like “Juicy” or “Mermaid Vibes” or “KALE.”
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Isabelle Doyle is a junior editor at Noodle. She recently graduated from Brown University with a degree in English Literature.