This post was originally published in my Lusty Vegan column on iEatGrass.
Since graduating college a few years ago, I’ve noticed a trend with the relationships of the people my age. When I look at my pool of close friends (and scrutinize the pages of my Facebook friends), everyone who was in a serious relationship during college is either engaged or split up. The majority of these changes occurred within 12 months of college graduation, and I’ve deemed this awkward Not-A-Student-Not-Yet-An-Adult year the “gap year.”
In college, you may both think you have a good handle on who you are. You’re students. That’s your job. So while your hobbies may differ, you have that common thread binding you together. You’re both working toward a common goal. But after college, you’re both thrown out in to the real world–and for anyone who graduated in this recession, it’s a pretty harsh world. You’re looking for your own niches, you’re moving around as you chase pipe dreams, and you’re growing. While it would be ideal to think you will grow together, in many cases, you grow apart.
“We fought a lot after graduation,” said a friend of mine, “because I got a job and he didn’t. I think he really wanted to be happy for me but ultimately he was resentful. Our schedules grew to be so different it felt like we had nothing in common anymore.” Their relationship bit the dust 6 months after they donned those caps and gowns.
Another friend describes his college girlfriend as the one to get a 9-5 job right out of school, while he worked a night shift. It was hard for them to see each other, and when they did, their living situations put a strain on things. “I got an apartment before she did, and she was weird about staying over, because she was still living with her parents.” They split up 8 months after graduation.
Then there are the couples I know who moved hours away from each other and couldn’t handle the distance. And then there is my own gap year relationship…
We dating for most of college, moved in together after graduation, and then split up. I used to think moving in together was the catalyst for my sudden commitment phobia, but now I think it only highlighted differences that were easy to overlook in school.
He didn’t have a job yet,which was fine, I understood it was difficult. I was lucky to have landed a full time editing gig that allowed me to work from home. But what I didn’t understand was the rate at which he was searching. It had far less momentum than anything I could fathom being comfortable with. As Little Miss Productivity, I was sort of horrified at the way he would spend his days. He would fill out two to three applications a week, and spend lots of time playing Wii in the living room while I toiled away in the office upstairs. I would come downstairs occasionally and ask how his job search was going. I was nagging, and I felt like his mother. Not to mention I was shouldering the rent because, like I said, he didn’t have a job. And he seemed to be okay with this.
Now don’t get me wrong—my ex is a fantastic guy. And it was a difficult time for him. He was considering going back to school, and wasn’t really sure what he wanted. I was trying really hard to be supportive. But his level of ambition and the speed at which he was moving forward just didn’t match my northern go-go-go attitude. He got a job eventually, but the jarring difference in our level of motivation had taken its toll, and I had gotten cold toes about our level of commitment. I could see this becoming a huge problem were we to continue moving forward together.
In college, when all we had to focus on was class, it was easy to overlook this personality trait. An extremely driven person myself, a healthy, competitive drive has always been extremely sexy to me. And a lack of it? Not so sexy. The gap year brought this to my attention.
But for others, the gap year is sealing their commitment to each other. The majority of the girls I lived with during school, girls from the south where they still get married earlier, are married or engaged. One even has a baby. Like…you know…on purpose. Not a Whoopsie baby. So not everyone is calling it quits, but I do think the first year after graduation is a make it or break it moment.
What about you? Any gap year stories?
The Lusty Vegan is a lifestyle and sex column focusing on living and loving as a twenty-something year old vegan. More rants from Zoe Eisenberg can be found at www.sexytofu.com. Follow her on Twitter @Sexytofublog.