I was in school for eighteen years of my life. Eighteen f***ing years. In that time I grew up a lot and learn many things about myself. However, despite how prepared I thought I was when I finished my time in academia, life after graduation was a huge slap in the face. Here is what I have learned over the last several months of “the real world”.
The realities of budgeting money
It didn’t occur to me until I graduated that how hard it would be to responsibly budget my money and stick to it. Something I’ve been doing to force me to stay on a strict budget is to keep a money diary which is a feature offered by my bank. Something that I really wish had been an integral part of my college, or even high school, experience is a realistic idea of how to stick to a budget. This is something where unless you’re trying to get a degree related to finance, this may never be something you are ever exposed to. Luckily I was able to take a one credit online course during my senior year, but despite how that helped, having a regularly scheduled class in person would have been a better option for me. If you are still receiving an education and you have an option to take some sort of finance class, I highly recommend it. This can help open your eyes to what you should expect for yourself when you graduate and can help cushion the blow of sticking to a tight budget.
It doesn’t matter what stage of college you are in. You need to remind yourself of the realities of your student loan debt and how you are going to budget that into your life once you graduate. One thing that I’m really angry about is how little my university did to prepare students for the reality of paying back student loans. It wasn’t until I was having a casual conversation with my boyfriend about student loans less than a month before the first payment was due that I even realized there were certain options available for me for how to pay back student loans. My university had the students complete a “loan counseling” program but this could only help so much. Although it provides helpful information about student loans, I feel like my professors, especially those directly associated with my major, never had a real talk with us about student loans and what we could expect. My student loans are being paid back through an organization called MOHELA. I selected the option to pay back my loans in increments that would mean I will be debt free in ten years as long as I can keep up with all of my payments. It’s great that I won’t be in debt for the rest of my life but that’s still over $30,000 that I have to pay back. (it also doesn’t help that I’m not very satisfied with the education I received so……).
Theatre isn’t the highest paying job so the idea of paying back student loans is especially scary. I can honestly tell everyone that the thought of paying back my student loans makes me nauseous and has unfortunately driven me to one too many panic attacks because again, I am over $30,000 in debt at the ripe age of 23. No wonder people decide not to go to college so they can avoid this huge financial burden. I know I will be okay, but right now, the light at the end of the tunnel is hard to see. So far, everything has been going just fine, but it’s a huge thing to take on at such a young age.
I freak out about being an actual adult about seven times an hour. I am always wondering if I picked the right major or whether or not I made a mistake. I wonder if I need to go back to school so I can be qualified for other work that will pay more money. At the end of the day, I was born to work in the performing and fine arts in some way. I’ve been involved with this since I was three and I can’t realistically see me doing anything else and being truly content. This is something that is very real and I don’t think enough people are open about it. Your life just went through a major change. You are no longer surrounded by your friends, you might be living in a different area, you are now in debt, and you have to figure out how to navigate jobs and other aspects of life. This is a huge lifestyle change and it is a huge adjustment. Yeah, I had a job right away but suddenly I was working with different people, in a different environment, with a ton of new responsibility I wasnt used to and I was scared. It’s something that weighed on me for a long time. Now that many months have gone by, I’m a lot more used to my life but I still have a long way to go. It’s going to be very scary but everyone goes through that. Your parents, siblings, grandparents, everyone has going through life feeling uncertain at times. You need to be open with yourself and others about what you’re feeling and never be afraid to ask for advice or what other people did to get through these feelings. You are not alone and you should never let yourself feel that way.
So I REALLY REALLY REALLY lucked out when it came to finding a job for after college. I was very fortunate to have a wonderful friend who advocated for me and helped me get an interview for the theatre at which I am currently working. On the subject of summer work, it has become clear to me that my university did a terrible job helping students think of and try to find jobs that weren’t at the summer theatre festival that is closely linked with the school. It wasn’t until my final year there that some professors actually took the time to introduce us to programs and theatre beyond our small bubble that we should consider. I didn’t branch out enough during college and looking back, I really wish i had. Everything happens for a reason and I am very blessed to have had the opportunities that built me into the stage manager today. However you need to take a chance on yourself and apply for multiple summer jobs. And this isn’t just for anyone who is in theatre reading this. Anyone going for any field needs to take this advice into consideration. Don’t do what I did and go the safe route. You are your own business and it’s up to you to take a chance on yourself. I will be the first to admit that I really lucked out with knowing the right people who have helped me get jobs so far. That’s what happened with my first professional job which then branched to my next summer job.
For all my friends still in college, I hope this one helps. Cheers!