Adulting is hard. Like the, "what do you mean by '401-K' and 'balancing a checkbook' and 'cereal is not an appropriate dinner'" kind of hard. And for those who’ve just graduated college and were flung into the wild festering shark tank of post-graduation (OK, that’s a little dramatic), the impact of growing up feels twice as heavy at first. It's like learning to swim all over again.
Yes, job hunting, crashing on mom’s couch, and taking unpaid internships and a few odd jobs seems far from ideal. And, sure, maybe you're learning more about yourself than you wanted to while feeling spiteful over your fellow classmates' successes. And yes, of course, you're tired of feeling bombarded with what-are-your-future-plans-blah-blah-blah questions at family gatherings. I mean, can't a girl just live?
But you aren't alone — even if those who see eye to eye with you are in the pages of books. It's comforting to know the things you're faced with as post-grad are normal. Here's a list of eight characters from books who also feel growing pains. And, hey, look on the bright side: with all of this time to chill, at least you finally have time to catch up on some reading.
Madeleine Hanna, The Marriage Plot
Think “college dreamland”: early '80s, cool kids reading Derrida and jamming to the Talking Heads, raging house parties, prestigious university. While Madeleine is busy studying the construction and motivations of the heart in her final thesis on Jane Austen, real life — or rather post-grad life — brings her a wildly different reality with two wildly different guys. Talk about a messed up love triangle. The Marriage Plot is perfect for anyone who feels like they’re caught in a tired, directionless narrative. Or if you’re just into cool '80s rock music and New Wave.
Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
This woman feels the struggle, and she feels it hard. Based on a series of lectures delivered at Newnham College and Girton College, Woolf, a clearly educated woman, is still left puzzling over where a woman fits into a largely male-dominated society (how this could still apply today, almost 90 years later, is also puzzling). A Room of One’s Own is a great read for anyone struggling to find his or her own literal or figural space in society.
Hal Incandenza, Infinite Jest
The good news is that there’s a very strong chance your life isn’t nearly as complicated as this monster of a novel. Hal Incandenza, a student at a prestigious tennis academy, endures both an endearingly screwed up family, and a deep philosophical questioning of why entertainment has become so domineering in our lives. Head in a rut, existential longing — sound familiar? No? Psh, me neither.
Richard Mayhew, Neverwhere
Similar to being catapulted from a school desk to a big-kid work desk, Richard Mayhew was catapulted from his day-to-day work life to a surreal, fantastical, yet all-too-familiar world known as “Neverwhere.” It’s the perfect read whether you're trying to come to grips with life changes, or if you’re just trying to escape life altogether.
Skeeter, The Help
Although we ladies may not face the exact same issues as Skeeter in 1962, what she was up against is still all too familiar for some: a college degree, a list of credentials, the want to succeed, and the big hand of life tugging us backwards. Read The Help if not for its timelessness and relatability, then for the crap pie scene.
Nicholas Urfe, The Magus
A suspenseful thriller may be just the thing to jolt you from your rut. In Fowles’ The Magus, Nicholas Urfe, a young Englishman who accepts a teaching job on a remote island in Greece, gets caught up in an unsavory friendship with a local millionaire. Things get mad eerie. Read this novel to learn how to avoid terrible decision-making or to figure out how to befriend a millionaire.
Benjamin Braddock, The Graduate
OK, this one was obvious. But still so perfect! Embittered by the “So what are you going to do with your life?” questions, the imminent hollowness of a college degree, and moving back home to mom and pop, Braddock gets caught up in a rough affair with his father’s assistant Mrs. Robinson, distracting him from all his woes. Read if you feel like unemployment is trying to seduce you.
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