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May 18, 2009

When it becomes riskier to NOT go after the girl

May 18, 2009

The difference between college and everything after

May 18, 2009
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As you read this my (oldest) little sister is graduating from college — the Boston College, specifically — the same college where I graduated four years ago this very weekend.

As of today I have been out of college for exactly as long as I was in. I’m already prone to over dramatics — this is like being a binge eater at a buffet.   

Since the end of my own four (A-game!!) years I’ve had hers to (delicately…?) micro-manage.  I was instituted as den mother to her girl and guy group answering IMs of, “should I overload this semester?!” (not unless you absolutely have to) and, “it is really that important to go abroad??” (yes, times 2) and supplying hand-me-downs in the form of theme party gold (The Franzia Formal, Liquor Treat) and other tricks of the trade (bring nips, buy sodas, save hundreds).
For the past few months their “teach us!” questions have shifted to frantic gchats begging for some assurance that it won’t all be hell the minute they leave the comforts of their Mod (If you know what it is, you know what it is.  If you don’t — don’t worry about it).
My real answers: Yes. Maybe. No. If you’re brave. Probably, but don’t.  And yes, tons of them — but I’m selective about how honestly I answer — they put blinders on wild race horses for a reason.
There are one million differences between college and everything after, and if I start to name them all you, and I, and my poor hungover little sister will go fetal position until we promise to somehow get her into grad school this Fall.    
To me though, aside from the significant of Microsoft Excel skills and fact that you have to pay for your own dental work — the most important difference between college and actual life is that intangible element of community.  

When you move into your very first real-person apartment there will not be a construction paper flip-flop on the door with your name and the name of your roommate on it.   On your first day of work you will absolutely not play Never Have I Ever or some equally ridiculous ice-breaker.  If you meet someone out at a party you can’t just assume you’ll run into them in the dining hall the next day.  You have to get their contact information and then contact them. There will never be an Activities Fair with tables representing every club and team you’re strongly encouraged to join.    
It’s not that you’re alone — you could, like me, move to a city with four of your five best girl friends (we miss you Liz!!) — it’s just that you’re unorganized and no one’s going to plan you a Welcome to Real Life! BBQ  to gather you all together.

You have to do it yourself.  
You have to establish gmail chains to keep everyone in touch and you can’t be lazy about emailing back. You have to set aside a weekend every year to get everyone together for a reunion.  You have to be friendly and forward and self-starting at your new job so people include you in their plans and make you their friend.  People will make fun of you, but I’d recommend you set up some sort of “Summer Sundays” once a month in a park to get everybody together.  And while there are hundreds of “meet up” groups and political organizations and Zog intramural sports teams to join, but you have to go online and find them. 
I told my sister she couldn’t read this today, but if you’re equally about to go fetal — wait — I’m not finished. 
Yes it is scary.  I know — it is annoying.  And for me it was very overwhelming and even more depressing.  But after you calm down and (I) stop(pped) crying you realize that it’s finally all your own.   

When I was at Boston College I was a Boston College student who’d elected to participate in x,y, and z established campus activities.  I was defined by myself, yes — but more so my surroundings — what was available to me.  Everything I now have I mine.  I made it. I chose it.  In some cases I fought for it.  And I 100% paid for it.  
At first that felt like more than I could ever handle.  But after 4 years — exactly — it feels really, really good.


  1. You’ve 100% earned it! And so will Dani.

    Great post. Although it may not help the unstoppable, emotionally frantic move-out (crying over BC vs ND football ticket stubs, and old bottles of shampoo), three weeks from now, when the tears stop, Dani will find she’s extremely well-equipped to handle whatever is thrown at her– just like you were.

    She’ll be writingsating her own learned-lessons soon enough.

    Happy Commencement Monday to the entire Rosen family! (2 more to go…)

  2. Congratulations Dani!!!

    I potentially cried more than anyone upon BC graduation (while packing our kitchen in Busch Light 30-packs and loading garbage bags of popcorn from the boys’ bathtub, among other things…) and I turned out just fine 🙂

  3. I went to Loyola College, and it seems like we had very similar college experiences. Maybe it’s the Jesuits. But you hit it exactly on the head with this. Losing that insta-community was probably one of the worst things that ever happened to me (I also have a flair for the dramatics) and it takes A LOT of getting used to, but life (and fun) does go on. Not that I wouldn’t turn right back around and do it all again in less than a second if I ever had the chance.

  4. When I graduated from college, I felt so ready to move on and begin my adult life. It had been a wonderful four years but I was ready to move on. However,I was VERY emotional during those finals days (too much partying and not enough sleep) which culminated in me being on my hands and knees, crying and unnecessarily scrubbing the kitchen floor of my suite in my graduation dress after all my roommates had left. I had a sudden feeling of emptiness, possibly just being drained from it all, but also the knowledge that it was all on me now. I was no longer on the conveyor belt, fostered by a secure network of similar people. I do currently live with and near many close friends. However, there is a profound solitariness in this post-grad life that took me a long time to accept. I don’t think I realized how lucky I was to have such a community and how important having people to love and who love you is in life. I have that now but it is drastically different from college and the change has been one of the most challenging aspects of this post-graduation experience.

  5. Thanks for this post Jessie. I begin all this today too…

    I’m not crying, yet–only shocked, awed, and grateful. I guess sadness will creep in more slowly…

  6. It took me this long (four years) to realize that life exists after college. What I learned at BC still stays with me, but I’ve also grown up a ton in the meantime.

    Great post.

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