When I started Tuesdays with Jordan at the end of my freshman year, I intended to create a place to house the memories I’d make over the remainder of my college experience. I felt that I had grown so much in my first year away from home that I was bound to develop exponentially over the next few years. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but I’ve always felt that the power of words can create an infinite number of pictures. I wanted to be sure that as the photos lightened and memories faded, the sentiment of my life’s critical moments weren’t lost.
Over the past few months, I haven’t written once. That was something else I promised myself; Tuesdays with Jordan wouldn’t become another assignment or chore. When I felt like writing, I’d write. When I didn’t, I wouldn’t. This summer, it was partly that I didn’t feel like it, and partly that I didn’t have the time.
When I say I didn’t have time, I know that’s not entirely true. I didn’t have any fewer minutes this summer than I’ve had during any other period of my life; there’s always 24 hours per day, 1,440 minutes, 86,400 seconds. But this summer has been different from any other time in my life because I truly got a glimpse of what it’s like to be in the “real world.” And the pace of the real world is FAST.
Being immersed into post-grad life this summer has provided me with more awareness than I’ve gathered in 16 years of school. Through these past ten weeks, I have been given a glimpse into what life will be like after college.
I’ve always been someone who is eager for the next phase of life. In eighth grade, I fantasized about walking the halls of the high school across the street, taking fascinating classes like Contemporary Issues and A.P. Spanish instead of the dull middle school subjects of Social Studies and Algebra. The next year, I set my heart on Vanderbilt and spent the following four years dreaming about being a college student in the South, where I’d live within the enchanted walls of a dorm room, spend Friday afternoons playing Frisbee on a perfectly manicured lawn, and write an internationally acclaimed book in my free time. Once my freshman year at Vanderbilt began and the reality of college set in, I started browsing the pages of the Vanderbilt Global Education Office website, wondering whether in two years I’d be passing the Eiffel tower on my way to class or taking a gondola through the streets of Venice to dinner each night. Quickly, I found that Barcelona would be my city of choice with the opportunity to become immersed in a vibrant culture in a place where wine was supposedly cheaper than water. And before I knew it, I was exiting the BWI airport last December, home from four months abroad in Barcelona, realizing I was halfway through my junior year and therefore closer to college graduation than I was to high school graduation. Naturally, I started thinking about my next step: post-grad life.
As spring turned to summer and my internship commenced, the reality of post-grad life set in. Within weeks I realized that just like school doesn’t end when the professor walks out of the lecture hall, work doesn’t conclude at 5:00pm. While I was no longer worried about grades and professors, I was now preoccupied with bi-weekly performance reports and bosses. And instead of living in a building that houses all of my best friends, I was now in a city with just a handful of acquaintances. And when I’d stop and think about the fact that I only have one year left of school and forty years left of work, I was suddenly not so desperate to grow up. For the first time in my life, I was anxious for what’s next.
This summer has been incredible. I experienced all of the exciting parts of growing up from living in a bustling city to taking a train to work to being challenged in a job that I enjoyed. As I slid on my cropped pants and buttoned my business casual blouses each morning, I felt like a girlboss in every sense of the phrase. I wore my Deloitte badge like an Olympic medal, giving me access to the building that housed the most intelligent, innovative people I have ever met. I spent Friday evening happy hours chatting with colleagues ten and twenty years my senior, feeling like I fit in just right.
I also found that you’re never too old to make new friends. From a relatively randomly selected roommate to a fellow Vanderbilt intern who I’d never spoken to at school, this summer brought me incredible friendships that wouldn’t have emerged back in Nashville thanks to the tightly knit circles already formed on campus.
On weekends, I explored the streets of Atlanta like a true new city dweller, finding favorite restaurants in my neighborhood (Babalu) and establishing the best places to take friends when they visited (Ponce City Market). I acted like a tourist on Saturday mornings by hiking Stone Mountain and playing kickball in Piedmont Park, followed by visiting the famous Coke Museum and Georgia Aquarium on Sunday afternoons. I sipped drinks by the pool of my building, chasing the sun as it hid behind the walls of the towering surrounding apartment complexes, and sang karaoke to celebrate my 21st birthday in the basement of a crowded Atlanta bar.
I am so thankful for this summer for so many reasons. For pushing me outside of my comfort zone, for challenging my preconceived notion of the charm of post-grad life. For bringing me new friends, and for filling my camera roll with new memories. But most of all, I’m grateful for the summer that made me want to live in the moment. Although I’m in no way dreading life after college, I’m no longer in a hurry to finish up. My taste of reality this summer will push me to savor each moment of senior year and to seize every opportunity. I will no longer be the girl who is wishing days away, but the one who is hanging on to the last minute of each experience.
And when senior year comes to an end, I hope that I’ll realize that the next chapter won’t be so bad. However, it will be different, and that’s okay.
What I was writing about one year ago this week: Ten Things Your Teen Should Know Before Leaving Home.
Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy’s most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale.