3 Things I Learned Post College
Patrick Quinn, Christopher Newport University RUF Intern | September 12, 2019
Sleep deprived, soaked with sweat, and smiling ear to ear—that’s the version of me my university president got to shake hands with as he handed me my diploma at graduation. College was over. As much as I loved (most) of my four years at Christopher Newport University, I was ready to leave college behind and step into the so-called “real world” I had been told so much about. Walking off the stage with my degree in hand, I didn’t feel like the world I had just walked into was any more or less “real” than the one I had just left. Two years later, I can at least confirm that life after college isn’t the same. Here are three things I’ve learned post-college.
(1) My church is far more important to me now
The importance of my church stands high above anything else I’ve learned since graduation. In undergrad, I was thoroughly inundated with Christianity. I was a volunteer Young Life leader, an admittedly flaky RUF student, an a Pre-Seminary major with a minor in Judeo-Christian studies. Even in the summers, I was either working for a church or a Christian summer camp while leading a Bible study for all my friends who were back in town. Though I knew how vital participation in a local church was, it was easy to not feel my need for it in the midst of all the other faith-related activities I was wrapped up in.
Since I graduated, my church has become far more precious to me. I no longer lead Young Life, and my role in RUF has dramatically shifted. Rather than being primarily poured into, I’m the one pouring into others. I finished my Pre-Seminary degree. The void left by these three things was completely filled by my church. The single biggest thing I’ve learned out of college is that the local church is the core of community, service, and spiritual nourishment in the “real world.” It’s where I meet new friends and see old ones. It’s where I give my time and money and talents to help my community. It even helps satisfy my thirst for learning through the preaching of God’s word. Above all, my church is where I get to encounter the living God of the Bible every single week through worship, the sacraments, fellowship, prayer, and confession.
(2) The learning process doesn’t end with my degree
One of my fears leaving college was that the learning process would come to a complete halt. Strange as it might sound to some, I truly loved going to class and listening to a professor teach about something they had committed their life to learning about. I loved taking notes and asking questions. I even got some satisfaction from writing research papers and studying and taking exams, stressful as all that was. The joy of learning was something I wasn’t willing to let go of after sixteen years in school. Fortunately, I didn’t have to let go.
I’m fortunate enough to have a job that necessitates ongoing learning. As an RUF intern, I’m constantly reading books on theology, apologetics, and counseling. I organize and lead Bible studies every week. I even get the opportunity to build sermons and preach a few times a semester. All of this is a huge blessing to me, and these things were some of the strongest factors that led me to take the job in the first place. Outside of work, though, I still have tons of avenues to learn. Podcasts have been huge for me—I’m particularly in love with Dan Carlin’s “Hardcore History” right now. Most of my evenings consist of watching mini documentaries or reading articles on ancient Egypt, or megalithic sites throughout South America. The best part is, all of this learning is strictly based on interest and not necessity. It’s all the joy of learning without any of the pressure college imposed on the process.
(3) I have way less free time and way less stress
“How are you?” Whether genuine or passing, my answer to that question in college was almost always “Busy.” In hindsight I don’t know if that was a lie or not. I’m baffled at how many hours I poured into Netflix, YouTube, Super Smash Bros, and hanging out with friends every week. Objectively, my college experience had way more free time than I do now in the working world. And yet, I always felt busy. It could have been a Friday night at 9pm when I had every right to be out with friends, but that little voice in the back of my head would still be whispering “You have a paper due on Tuesday. Why aren’t you working on it?” Chalk it up to my anxiety, or my university’s workaholic culture, or my deeply-ingrained German work ethic: whatever it was, I was constantly stressed.
Post-college, that nagging voice has gone silent. I have no tests or papers coming up. There are no classes I have to pass in order to graduate. It’s all behind me. That’s not to say I don’t still have responsibility; in fact, I’ve got far more on my plate each day than I ever did in college. Work demands far more of me than classes ever did. I’ve got far less time to watch Netflix and hang out with friends. The key difference now is that when I’m done with work at the end of the day, I really am done. There’s no guilt or anxiety about what I “ought” to be doing. My hard work is balanced by deep, genuine rest. I’ve learned that life, the universe, and my degree don’t hinge on me obsessing over my work; it’s okay to breathe.
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No two college graduates have the same experience in their first few years out of school. For most, the transition to the “real world” is jarring and difficult. I’m no exception, but through the discomfort, Christ has been faithful. I’ve learned to lean on Him in new ways. I’ve learned to love His church more than ever. Whether you’re a soon-to-graduate college student or another post-college believer struggling and growing in this new season of life, I hope you also learn to lean on Him and love His church.