A few reasons why college was not, in fact, necessarily easier than the real world.


Happy birthday, Dad.

(I’ll get you something nice

to make up for this post!)


For years, every single time I bemoaned struggles with school in front of him, I received some variation of this: “Yes, and the real world is soooo much easier.”

(Because, clearly, one thing isn’t allowed to be hard if another is harder. Really, Dad, it was just awful logic. Also, super mature.)

To be fair, the teasing came most when I was dreaming of when I would finally be out of school; when I talked about how much I just wanted it to be over and done. There was some value to it, even, a reminder that graduation would never be a cure all, and that I should still enjoy what I had.

But mostly it just drove me crazy.

(This includes a few days ago, when after my bemoaning the trickiness of getting a sublet application approved amidst freelance deadlines, he remarks, “Aren’t you glad this is so much easier than college?” Actually Dad, seeing as I only have two deadlines and a move across town instead of five finals and a move back to Florida, it probably is.)

So without further ado, here’s my answer to Dad, in list form.

Why you were wrong:

1. I have these things called evenings now. (And nary an evening class during them!)

2. When I leave my workplace, I leave my work.

Ok, so those first two are essentially the same thing, but both are amazing. Even though I’m constantly aware that there are still dozens of more productive things I could be doing any given evening, the fact that once in awhile I can do absolutely none of it and NOT fail a class? Brilliant.

To be fair, it does ignore my freelance work, but most of the time I can stop working when I leave MP.

3. Hello, income. Yes, there’s bills, and yes, I’m currently only part-time + freelance. But when you made sure you found the cheapest-but-decent apartment you could in Chicago for the first year, it suffices with just a bit of budgeting. Money in college? Not exactly a thing.


4. No student life guide! No RAs, no deans, no dress code—just self-accountability and my own common sense. Hallelujah. Does this mean my lifestyle, or even what I wear, has changed much? Not really, no. But that’s really the point—my decisions get to be, gasp, my own!

5. I have my own apartment. No more dorm living! This one hardly needs explaining. But if I had to add one more thing, it’s this: a real kitchen.

6. And since most of time I provoked Dad’s wit (read: sarcasm) I was under a lot of school-stress, here’s the big one: Less stress. Oh, of course there’s still stress. Post-graduation adult life has plenty of stress. I’m tired a lot, I’m learning to freelance in my “free” time, and a whole lot of these responsibilities take up more time just because they’re new—but it never reaches the stress level of a heavy finals week (or even one of the multi-project deadline weeks!).

And even though I’m aware that at any time something could flatten me with a veritable steamroller of stress (even worse than moving?!), that fact was still on the table IN college. But finals? Unless I cave someday and get the grad-school disease, finals are OFF the table.

How do I know this is an true blue example of why you were wrong? Because I recently did a extra-stressful week of work and freelancing and doctors appointments at the same time my boyfriend did his second to last week of college finals.

And comparing the two? He won. Everyday.


But since it’s your birthday, here’s why you were still wrong, but admittedly less so:

1. The commute. Ok, this is definitely not one you would have mentioned, so really it’s just lucky. Mind you, I didn’t mind my commute (much) this past year. It was an hour door to door, and I got a lot of reading done, anything from blogs to tweets to actual books.

But every so often I stopped and actually thought about the fact that I spent two hours every day on public transit… and it hurt a little.

(But considering I’m about to move to an new apartment MUCH closer to work [15-minute bus ride close], this one is rather moot.)

2. The pressure to be forming my life. I talked about this a little in this post about the first post-graduation year being hard, and I’m sure I’ll talk about it again: the pressure of your twenties being a supposed “foundation” is terrifying. I can barely make myself cook more than two days in a row, not to mention sleeping like a reasonable person: this had better not actually be the the bedrock of my entire life.

3. Then there’s just the massive amount of different things to figure out, learn, master. I’ve started to say to myself that this feels a lot like a bottleneck: there’s too many things in too small a space. It’s just going to take time to slowly trickle out into a manageable normality.

4. Goodbye, income. Because rent and bills and part-time + freelance. There’s a delicate tension between this and the number three up above, and I affectionately call it Discover.

5. This last number is just here to acknowledge that I understand there is still a vast number of things that can be stressful or hard about adulthood. I haven’t hit them all, but I see some of them up ahead.

Oh, and apartment hunting is the worst.


Why it doesn’t really matter:

Being a student was difficult. And by that I mean, I cried a lot. Sometimes I cried, or prayed, or spent all night in the student newspaper office alternating between weeping and praying and throwing things and actually typing whatever awful Greek paper was that night’s bad luck.

I also loved quite a bit of it.

It was wonderful, but exhausting.

And while there were plenty of “adult” stresses that you don’t have to deal with while still in school, half of those are just because you wouldn’t have time or energy for them anyways.

On the flip, graduating is hard. Transitioning to adulthood is hard. Finding apartments is hard, changing jobs will someday be hard, moving and marriage and children and providing and managing and all of those things, those will be hard too.

It’s all going to be hard, because wouldn’t you know it, life is hard.

And if I stop now and look at those I know in school and think, how lucky you are to not have to deal with all this!, then I’m just fooling myself. And if I assume that 20 years down the line everything will be peonies and cinnamon cupcakes, I’m fooling myself again.

So maybe I ought to just focus on the first list: the grand things about this part of life, and not those that are more difficult than college. Will I, really? Probably not, not all the time, but it’s still the better way.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to be completely distracted by the thought of a cinnamon cupcake.

3 thoughts on “A few reasons why college was not, in fact, necessarily easier than the real world.

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