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A year ago, I graduated from college. I was bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and ready to take on the world with my fellow grads. Anything was possible. Since then, my optimism has faded. I’m still glad that I went, but I wish I’d known a few things back then that I learned over the past year.

1) It’s okay to settle for a less-than-perfect job

For some reason, I thought a bachelor’s degree was my golden ticket to my dream job. I was going to land the perfect gig and work there until I retired (or at the very least, I would get a cool job doing something I was trained for).

It didn’t happen. I didn’t get into my field. I didn’t even get a job that requires the degree I spent four years slaving over. At first, I was disheartened. But the more I heard similar stories from my old classmates, I realized that our expectations were wrong.

The economy is bad and getting any kind of work is difficult — even for highly intelligent, highly qualified people. It’s okay to settle for something less than ideal. Getting to the dream job is a long climb and you’ve got to start at the bottom and struggle your way up. Along the way, you might even learn a thing or two they didn’t teach in college.

2) Some Things Never Change

I used to believe that the transition from college to post-college was a magic door that would transform me into a “responsible adult.” I had to trade in my screen-printed t-shirts and hoodies for a suit and tie. Fun was forbidden.

The truth is, there’s no point when you’re “too old” for silliness. Graduating and getting a job may make you feel self-important, but you’re the same person you’ve always been. I’m only as old as I want to be.

I could take myself seriously, or I can have fun while my joints still allow me to dance and my metabolism still allows me to overeat. Just because I’m in the “real world,” it doesn’t mean that I have to give up on fun. So what if you have to wear dress shoes to work? Go to Denny’s at 3 am with your friends and eat some pie.

3) You Don’t Know Everything

You’ve completed a rigorous course of study at a premier institution of higher education. That’s not a license to let your brain turn into mush. College can’t prepare you for everything; it’s important to keep an open mind and be ready to learn new skills (like how to reset a jammed garbage disposal or how to speak sign language or how to design a website). The world is full of things you don’t know.

Even if you don’t return to formal education, you can still learn a lot. Read articles, travel and talk to people from wildly different backgrounds. You can gain so much from new experiences that you’ll never find in a textbook.

Education makes us more human. So learn and grow. You’ll be a better and happier person for it.

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Jonny Eberle graduated in 2012 with a degree in Journalism and Political Science. In his free time, he likes to come up with Top 3 lists, which are easier to write than Top 10 lists. You can also find him on Twitter: @jonnyeberle.

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