Dear Christine,

I’ve just graduated from graduate school, but instead of feeling excited, I’m feeling really sad. I went directly to grad school after undergrad and I love the experience of being in school – I had friends around me all the time, I always knew what was expected of me, and I had few responsibilities that I couldn’t manage. Now that it is coming to an end, I don’t want it to end! I’ve worked so hard to get to this point, but now that I’m here, I just want to go back. How do I move forward?

~ Longing for the Simple Life, Austin, 24

Dear Longing for the Simple Life,

It’s time to come down from the ivory tower. Life as a student is like living in a bubble and many students are feeling the anticipation of the bubble bursting around this time of year – it’s normal. Transitioning into the real world can be a confusing and frustrating experience, but there’s no avoiding it – unless of course you decide to delay it further by going for your doctorate! Try not to obsess about the “glory days” and focus on the present moment. You are a certifiable grown-up now. And here’s the good news – no more finals or pulling all nighters to finish a paper!

Your first step into the real world should be to get a job or embrace the job you have already lined up. There you will most likely be around like-minded people and will have ample opportunity to meet friends at work. Making connections outside of work will involve a little more effort on your part since friends aren’t delivered like they were in college. Open yourself up to new experiences. Take that cooking class you always wanted to, join a hiking group, start becoming a regular at a favorite coffee shop – and keep in touch with your buddies from college and grad school. Just because you’ve all graduated doesn’t mean the friendships end.

In terms of not knowing what’s expected of you – you are now in charge. Focus on the expectations you have for yourself, not leftovers from parental advice or comparisons with friends. Start figuring out who you are and what you really want to do. Short term goals can be extremely gratifying. Think of one or two things you can achieve or change and can accomplish quickly. Once achieved, you will feel like you’ve made progress and won’t feel so stagnant. Listen to the expert advice of Chris Schonberger, Editor-in-Chief for and co-author of The Guide to Life After College. “The challenge of finding opportunities and applying (or adapting) your skills outside the predictable structures of academia brings with it a new sense of accomplishment that is rare in school, where expectations and results are pretty well set in stone. Embrace your new independence and have fun.”

A part of living in this world is having responsibilities: big and small. Why do you think you won’t be able to manage these new responsibilities? You didn’t take out all those student loans to rack up insecurity! Have a little more faith in yourself, and if your comfort zone lies in being a student, then keep learning in the school of life. Read up on finance, job hunting, resume advice, etc. The more knowledge you have, the easier it will be for you to learn to handle whatever comes your way.

Schonberger adds, “The notion that the “best four years of your life” are behind you is a myth. You might feel burnt out, uncertain about the future, or just sad to be leaving a comfortable lifestyle and built-in social scene, but on the flip side you no longer have to deal with the irksome aspects of student life. You can own your free time and pursue your interests beyond the confines of a syllabus.”

So put on that cap and gown with a sense of excitement and maturity rather than nostalgia and embrace the next chapter of your life. You may find out the real world isn’t as scary as you thought.

~ Christine

Christine Hassler supports individuals in discovering the answers to the questions: “Who Am I, What do I want, and How do I get it?” She is a Life Coach with a counseling emphasis specializing in relationships, career, finances, self-identity, personal and spiritual growth. Her expertise is centered on the twenty and early thirty something years of life.

Christine has authored two books: Twenty-Something, Twenty-Everything: A Quarter-life Woman’s Guide to Balance and Direction and The Twenty-Something Manifesto. As a professional speaker, Christine leads seminars and workshops to audiences around the country. She has spoken to over 10,000 college students as well as to conferences and corporations about generational diversity. Christine has appeared as an expert on The Today Show, CNN, ABC, CBS, FOX, E!, Style and PBS, as well as various local television and radio shows, speaking about life issues and “Expectation Hangovers®” – a phenomenon she identified and trademarked.

Christine is the spokesperson for Zync from American Express and the key resource for their Quarterlife Program, which empowers young people to take control of their finances. She also created a life balance curriculum for the Leadership Institute and is a member of Northwestern University’s Council of 100. Beginning this fall, Christine will serve on the faculty of the University of Santa Monica.

Christine grew up in Dallas, graduated cum laude from Northwestern University and received her Masters Degree in Psychology from the University of Santa Monica.

You can connect with Christine on Facebook, through Twitter or at her website.