When Opinions Editor Kaitlyn Liu sent me a text asking if I could write a guest column for the alumni issue, I was both honored and weirded out. It hasn’t even been six months since I graduated from Binghamton University — so, no, I’m not this super accomplished person people believe alumni to be. I doubt I’m even the best person to seek advice from. Still, it was really nice to be thought of.

In these last five months, nothing insanely unexpected has happened, but life has still managed to be incredibly busy. Graduate school is in full swing, I’m living on my own and I’m slowly learning how to manage my time as each week passes by. At risk of overusing the word, life after college is… weird. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good weird, but it’s still weird.

I can grab a drink after a late day whenever I want, I can head out to the park for an afternoon out and I can, slowly but surely, make plans with new friends. It’s almost like I’m an adult or something.

I actually have a class on Saturdays, so I don’t exactly have a full weekend like I used to. I spend my odd days off, mostly cleaning my apartment, cooking and trying to prep for the next few days while simultaneously attempting to relax. Living on your own in an apartment means you clean a lot — largely because small spaces get messy in the blink of an eye, and because you’re responsible for everything. The dishes sitting in my sink are mine, the laundry card that needs refilling is mine and the cat glaring at me for his food is mine. I’m in charge of it all. It’s both freeing and, at times, overwhelming. But it’s also really fun. I do my best to keep the positives on the forefront of my mind.

If you want more practical or specific tips, I’ve got you.

Don’t go crazy with spending money on decorating your apartment, because you’ll accumulate stuff as you go. However, invest in a good bed, a solid couch and, if you work from home a lot like I do, a really functional desk. If you commute two ways on mass transit more than five days a week, just get the monthly pass. Recognize and accommodate your struggles rather than just fighting against them. I know sometimes I get too overwhelmed to plan meals, so I often use a meal subscription. For the love of god, utilize your student discounts. Do what you need to do to feel safe. Clean gradually rather than saving it all for later. Be friendly to people in your building and be a good neighbor. Set up boundaries for all aspects of your life, even with yourself. I personally don’t do any work while I’m eating a meal — I love food too much to taint it with workplace stress. Take the time to know more about where you live. Get a good pair of longish rain boots.

If you had told 13-year-old me that she would be living in Brooklyn with her cat, managing her own life and getting a master’s degree, she’d probably keel over. When you find yourself in a similar position, let that joy and that realization overwhelm the negatives. You’re an adult for the rest of your life — don’t let anyone else define what that means, and certainly don’t let anyone else dictate where you draw your joy.

Elizabeth Short graduated in May 2021 and was Opinions Editor from 2020-2021.