Opinion Submission: The post-college transition

By Georgia Pirie | April 9, 2018 11:35am
Georgia Pirie. Photo courtesy of Georgia Pirie.

There is an explicit privilege in the story I am about to share. There is a privilege in saying that you have graduated from the University of Portland, of being a Pilot. I had the privilege of graduating from UP, living on campus for all four years, being an RA for my last two and watching many friends, a handful of mentors, and few significant individuals walk into my life. I also had the privilege of knowing exactly what I wanted to do after I received my diploma.

That sense of knowing what I wanted to do by no means made my transition after graduation easier.

As soon-to-be alumni of The Bluff, you are possibly having a range of emotions, thoughts and feelings. You may be ready to enter the workforce, ready to start your adult life and completely OK with saying “goodbye” to your home of the last four years. Or, you also may be in a panic as to how to handle these last weeks.

I am writing this for those friends that graduated before me who I didn’t believe when they said the first few months after graduation are the hardest. I write this for those friends that I walked across that stage with and celebrated with that night. Mostly, I write this for the class of 2018 —  and those humans I consider my family that are still at UP.

I know when it first hit me that my time on the Bluff was finite. I realized that in a few short weeks that this plushy, comfortable and safe place was not what I would wake up to every day. I would not be able to open my door and hear how my residents’ days have gone. I would not be able to cross the street and walk into my friend’s houses like I lived there too. I would be gone soon, and I was leaving a lot of people behind.

I have no words or an accurate description for the heartbreak I felt when I drove away from campus. But I think those emotions are indicative of the impact my experiences at UP had upon me.  

All I can really leave you with is the advice to never be afraid to let those closest to you know what you’re feeling. The first few months after graduation I held in my struggle and tried to tell everyone I was doing fine. That between work and graduate school I kept busy, made new friends and was enjoying my new life.

But I hid and struggled with my heartbreak. A beautiful, wise and awesome best friend of mine who understands what I’m trying to describe recently told me the following:

“Our early twenties are supposed to be the happiest times of our lives. We were told that these are the years where all that matters is fun and adventure. But why are these some of my darkest and hardest days?”

The University of Portland does an astounding job of welcoming us in as freshmen. Of making us feel a sense of belonging, kinship and love for the Bluff. But I urge the school to take a more critical eye at how it aides us in leaving the Bluff — and more than helping us find a job. As I listen to my peers’ experiences with graduating, it doesn’t seem to matter if you stayed in Portland, moved across the country or moved home. But, one thing we all find ourselves saying is that we really would have appreciated more of a heads-up. And not just, “Oh yeah, it can be super tough,” or the “You’ll be fine!”. I would have wanted the raw and honest truth.

That is why I chose to put my experience into words. Not to scare you or make you feel anxious. But to tell you that your feelings are valid, even if you don’t feel them yet. They are real, and you are allowed to reach out and voice them.

Extracting yourself from your chosen community is indescribable. I encourage you to reach out to a recent alum and to hear their unique story. And know that whatever you are feeling in these last few weeks and in these coming years is completely OK. It’s OK to not miss school, and it’s also OK to not want to go back and visit right away. But it’s also normal to want all those comforting things that UP offered, and then some.

So, my great words of post-graduate wisdom: spend every day you have left with the people who you love most. It’s okay to prioritize what you want and who you want to spend your time with. I did this in those final weeks — and while I may not talk to some of these people as much I used to, they will always have a place in my heart because they made those last days brighter, memorable and full of love.

Go Pilots.

Georgia Pirie '17 majored in environmental ethics & policy. She is currently a graduate student at Seattle University pursuing a Master’s in Student Development Administration and can be reached at pirieg@seattleu.edu.