Life After Graduation: Advice to My Past Self 5 Years Later

I can’t believe I’ve already been out of school and working in the “real world” for 5 years now. The 5 years it took me to get my bachelor’s degree seemed to drag on, but the 5 years I’ve been out of school just flew by.

I can still remember counting down the days until convocation, thinking that once I threw my cap in the air, that’s when my life would begin. Sure, that was true in some respects. Life after graduation is definitely more real, exciting, and chaotic compared to life inside the educational bubble that is university. But man, the things I wish I could go back and tell myself based on what I know now…well, it would be a pretty long list.

Do I have any regrets? Not really. I don’t like the idea of regrets because they imply some sort of wrong-doing or failure. I am at heart a perfectionist, so regrets just don’t jive with me. But are there things I wish I could go back and change? Hell yes! I am a firm believer in everything happens for a reason, so I’m sure my journey will make a lot more sense when I’m 90 and able to see my life as a fuller picture. That being said, there are still a few things I wish I did differently to make things a bit easier on myself these past 5 years.

For instance, I sure wish I took the time to figure out what kind of lifestyle I really wanted before choosing what degree I would pursue. My parents told me that if I wanted to study film I’d have to prepare myself to live like a starving artist. I told them I was totally fine with that, until I graduated and realized that I wasn’t.

Even though I thought I had a pretty good handle on money, I had no clue how much “real world” stuff cost. When I started looking at condos I was shocked at how expensive they were! Same with the price of getting a new car. And when I started reading books that said I would need a million dollars or more to retire on, that’s when it really hit me. The life I always assumed I would have after graduation did not match up with the career I had in mind for myself. Becoming a successful filmmaker is as likely as winning the lottery.

I absolutely loved studying film in university, but ultimately it wasn’t the career for me. I like stability, I like structure, and I also like not having to work 12-hour days. Because of this I had to figure out what career I did want that would give me the lifestyle I always dreamed of. The answer turned out to be marketing, which led me to go back to school all these years later. Had I gotten a marketing degree in the first place, I probably would have been in a manager role by now. Oh well, at least I got to cross “having my film screen at 10 international film festivals” off my bucket list.

Another thing I wish I had done differently was manage my money. I was really good with my money, working part-time while in school and always being able to afford my tuition. But when I think about it, I have no clue how much I made or how much I saved up. Somehow, I always had enough when I needed it, but if I had paid more attention to where all my money went, I probably could have avoided getting that $5,000 student loan in my last year of university and been able to start a nest egg for retirement or a house down-payment.

Instead, I spent a large chunk of my savings on paying down my debt, and only had a few hundred dollars to my name when I finally moved out on my own. Had I known better, I’m sure my transition from new grad to permanent full-time employee could have been that much smoother and less stressful with a few more thousand bucks in the bank as a safety net.

As the saying goes, live and learn. No matter how prepared you are, there’s no way to predict the future. If I told myself that five years after graduating university I’d be married, living in Toronto, and studying at university again, I wouldn’t have believed it. Maybe I wouldn’t be where I’m at right now if I hadn’t gone to film school and had always been really smart with my money.

Film school led me to working in advertising and promotions, which led me to marketing. Not having a good handle on my finances is what led me to the awesome world of personal finance, which led me to start my own blog and meet a ton of great likeminded bloggers. Maybe I wouldn’t actually change anything, because it’s really the struggle that makes you stronger in the end. If everything had been easy, I know I wouldn’t be the same person I am today.

All I can say is I sure can’t wait to see what the next 5 years have in store for me. If I’m still in school though, I swear it better be in a life drawing class or something just for fun because I do not want any more degrees or certificates after this.

If you could tell your college/university self-one piece of advice, what would it be?

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