What My Life is Like After Graduating from an Ivy League in 2020

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Photo taken by Cornell Theta Tau

My name is Brandon. Here is a picture of me standing in front of Duffield Hall, one of the many engineering buildings on Cornell University’s campus. This winter, I graduated from Cornell with a degree in Operations Research. If you don’t know what that is, let’s just say I was an engineer who did a lot of math.

I like to believe I had a pretty amazing college experience. I joined a bunch of clubs, participated in Greek life, and made lots of lifelong friends. Those four years of my life will always hold a special place in my heart. From awkwardly making friends freshman year, to nights of absolute degeneracy during the end of senior year, there is no place I would rather have graduated from.

Looking back on my last few days in college, I was a jumble of emotions. Excited, nervous, thoughtful, delighted, determined. The only feeling that never changed was my optimism for what the rest of my life would feel like. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize until a few months later that my expectations would be a little far from reality.

In the beginning, my post-grad life was even better than what I had hoped for. I didn’t have to scramble to find a job out of college. I was fortunate enough to have gotten a return offer from my internship the summer after my junior year and had a couple months of freedom before my start date. Wielding my college degree and complete lack of responsibilities, I planned a month-long trip to Asia with a few close friends. This graduation trip was everything I wanted but never got the chance to experience before. We ate tteok-bokki in Korea, payed respects at Fushimi Inari in Japan, and climbed up to to Victoria Peak in Hong Kong. Each day was packed with sights to see and delicacies to devour. I even decided to create my first few travel vlogs during this trip.

Life was bliss.

In the beginning of February, I flew back home to Chicago and life was…different. I had hoped that my everyday life would have the same excitement as I did in Asia. I had finally graduated from college! I had all of the adult freedom and none of the responsibilities. I planned to live at home with my family for a while to save up money but that wouldn’t stop me from having fun. Right?

I spent my first few days back at home relaxing. My days started when I woke up in the afternoon and consisted of playing video games and binging Netflix or YouTube. Since I graduated in the winter, I didn’t have much to do back home as most of my friends were still in school. I quickly grew comfortable again with having meals prepared by my parents and not having bills to pay. Before I knew it, the days were starting to blend together and I stopped caring whether it was two p.m. on a Tuesday or two a.m. Sunday morning. I felt as if I were stuck in a dream world where time didn’t exist. The comfort of my home was tricking me into complacency. I realize looking back now that because I didn’t have to scramble to finish a problem set or cram for the next test, I had no tangible short term goals for myself. I kept telling myself this was fine and once I started my full-time job, I would once again be on the right path.

As mid-February rolled around, I was ready to finally become a functioning component of society and start working. I really enjoyed having structure in my life again. Every day, I would wake up, head to my 9–5, hit the gym after work, and relax for a few hours at home at the end of the day. During the weekends, I would treat myself to a nice restaurant(a.k.a Chick-Fil-A) and hang out with some friends. I was having no problem adjusting to my new life and was starting to enjoy my life through work and friends.

Sadly, sometimes in life a bird flies over and poops on your shoulder. That’s how COVID-19 came out of nowhere and flipped the world upside down. A stay at home order was issued late March in Chicago. This prompted my workplace to transition to a semi-permanent work from home period. Despite these events, there were no drastic changes in my daily life. So what is my life as a twenty-one year old college graduate like now?

I don’t do much. Seriously.

I work on the weekdays and spend the rest of my days laying in bed scrolling through Instagram or playing video games. I am lucky to have the chance to live at home during this time in my life and am grateful for my family. This definitely wasn’t how I imagined my adult life would unfold, but all things considered, I am undoubtedly appreciating the life I have right now.

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