Some of the challenges of life after college are almost universal, like adjusting to a full time work schedule, saving money, and finding a good place to live.
Other aspects are less relatable.
When I say, “I miss school,” many people respond with, “Me too! I miss when all my friends lived so close! I miss happy hour at our local bar! I miss weekday afternoons!”
I miss those things too. But I also miss the school part.
I know, I know. Don’t I remember all-nighters at the library? Don’t I remember the boring classes and the exams? I mean, it’s finals time for colleges right now—how dare I say these things while students are suffering?!
I can’t help it…
I miss learning.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve learned quite a bit over the last two years, both in work and in life. But most of this is specific knowledge related to my particular job, or it’s general knowledge that I’ve extracted simply from growing up.
That’s not the kind of learning I miss.
I was a Literature major in college, so I’ve always been the… learny type. Sure, I completely passed on a couple of books (sorry Great Expectations) and took classes I absolutely dreaded, but overall, I kind of loved my classes.
This might be weird to some people, but I’m sure I’m not the only one. I know there are other bookish, academic strays out there secretly pining for a good brain exercise. It’s just not always easy.
There are a lot of resources out there to keep graduated minds active. There’s iTunes U and Open Culture for downloadable college lectures. If you live close to your college (which I do) you can audit classes (which I haven’t). You can take classes online from many universities.
I have taken advantage of exactly none of the above resources. Why would I spend a Saturday in class when I can spend it at the outdoor patio of my favorite brunch location?
But I have found a few ways to keep my brain satisfied in spite of the 9-5 drain.
Book clubs. I’ve been a member of two book clubs and one writing group since graduation. The first book club turned into a wine-drinking club (fine by me), and the writing group petered out once we all realized no one had time to meet twice a month. The second book club managed to get through Moby Dick (and a lot of beer), and I’m not going to lie… it was awesome. (Yeah, I see the look you’re giving me.) It’s not something I want to do every month, but I’m glad I did it.
Podcasts. I’m obsessed with podcasts. In love. I’ll shout it from the rooftops. They’re informative and thought provoking without being too challenging. Listening to a solid podcast is my favorite way to spend my commute. A couple of my current favorites are WTF with Marc Maron, Stuff You Should Know, and Stuff You Missed in History Class. It’s just enough thinking to get me going without being tedious. And they’re almost all free.
Go do anything not on a screen. The biggest source of my brain drain, by far, is staring at a computer for forty hours a week—and then going home and answering the call of Netflix. I try to do different things as often as possible to feel more human and less robotic. If you’re feeling ambitious, go see a play. If you get a good deal, go see a stand up comic. Make dinner using a new ingredient or read a really easy book. Even going out to a bar counts for me, especially if good conversation is involved.
And like all exercise, brain exercise should be rewarded. Just like you should eat ice cream after a good workout at the gym, I maintain this brain exercise in preparation for my TV candy.