On things they don’t tell you about the “real world”

Upon graduation, you cease to be defined by what you study, what sports you play, and what clubs you join. Instead, you become defined by how you answer the question “What do you do?” And if your current “doings” aren’t employment for financial gain, or if your employment activities aren’t easily summarized in one sentence, you have just thrown a giant wrench into the question-poser’s day. Graduation, essentially, is a massive paradigm shift in your life. After over 16 years dedicated to being a student, you just change gears, and start being…an employee? a citizen? an ADULT?

You would think that after 16 years of study you should know every single thing about life and living it, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. There is going to be some culture shock. For example, once you leave university, it will no longer be safe to assume that everyone around you is computer and technology literate. You may encounter situations like the following:

  • People who don’t know where to find the control panel.
  • People who ask you how to hashtag things while composing a Tweet using only one ring finger.
  • People who don’t understand why printing out non-static, shared calendars to organize their month is a bad idea.
  • People who did not know that you could make a “neat chart like that” in Excel.
  • People who do not know “how to print this.”
  • People who think that it would be okay, since they don’t have Photoshop, to just “fix it up” in MS paint.
  • People who do all of these things combined, and are your boss.

Another culture shock comes with the realization that your former knowledge base is mostly useless, and that your new life paradigm requires a completely new type of knowledge, of which you are entirely devoid. You might be able to rattle off (easily Google-able) factoids such as all of the former PM’s, or sing a soulful tune about the Kreb Cycle, but chances are that your education did NOT teach you:

  • How not to cry during your first oil change, and phone your partner crying about your cabin air filter.
  • How to not sound like a total moron the first time you call your insurance provider.
  • How to obtain said insurance before even being able to ask silly questions regarding it.
  • How to have a tough conversation with your boss, or in the event that it becomes necessary, your boss’ boss.
  • How to write a resignation letter that doesn’t teem with seething resentment.
  • Where to even start when you just moved across the country and you literally need to buy one of everything that anyone ever needed in a house, ever.
  • That not every city has rodent and raccoon problems like Toronto does, and that enquiring as to “how bad the rats get around here” may get you some strange looks in Alberta.
  • How to look semi-composed in your office parking lot in the middle of a tearful phone call home.
  • How to do your taxes in a timely and non-stressful fashion.
  • What the letters TFSA stand for, why mutual funds are mutual, or the tenuous difference between the words stock and share.
  • How to FUNCTION at LIFE.

But another thing that they don’t tell you? Figuring all of this out is complex, and terrifying, and humbling. It is full of uncertainty, and flip-flopping, and stress-eating. Some days you might open your front door, and look out at the real world, and get so nervous that you barf on your doorstep. But some days, you take a deep breath, and walk out said door vomit-free, and realize that real life, however uncertain, can actually be a lot of FUN.


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