Homeward Bound: Not All Post-Grads Stay in Portland

A post-grad returns home with numerous pairs of eyes staring at them. Illustration by Charlotte French.

Every senior has been asked where they are headed after graduation, and sometimes I do not want to tell people my plans. It feels like everyone has some sort of stake in my future. No matter what my answer is, whoever is asking me seems compelled to share their own opinion. Many graduates are staying in Portland, and people are excited for them whether or not the student has a job lined up. Although these graduates are going to be living in the same city, they will be doing so as a new person: a college graduate. The perception is that this will be an exciting experience, one defined by a sense of freedom that they have earned by completing school.

On the other hand, some students are going back home, and this garners a much different reaction than the approval those staying in Portland receive. I know this from personal experience: as of recently, I am joining the group of students returning home after graduation. After hearing that a student is returning home after graduation, most people scrunch their faces into a mixed expression of pity and disappointment. They try not to ask if it is because we cannot find a job. Often, they will ask how long we plan on staying there. The message here is clear: those who go home after college somehow messed up. Why do we feel that way, and is it warranted? I find myself feeling as if I have somehow failed by returning home, yet logically know that I have not.

College is an expensive and time-consuming venture. People want to believe that this investment was worth it. “Worth it” is often quantified by having at least a somewhat desirable job after graduation and a place to live. When I was growing up, I was always told that I needed a college degree to be successful. Now that I am about to finish earning my degree, I want to start in on that success I was promised. I understand that this will probably not happen quickly and that my degree is not a guarantee for anything in my future. It seems that other people do not understand that. People will ask me why I want to go home after I graduate. When I tell them that I do not have a job yet, they give me vaguely reassuring pats or semi-encouraging words. In their eyes, I can see that they already think I have failed.

However, going home after college is not a failure. It is a cost-effective move that can help you get on your feet. If you do not have a job, it would be irresponsible to start paying rent anywhere. Many people do not have the money, from their family or otherwise, to continue living in Portland after graduation. To have some time where you can focus solely on figuring out your life after college seems like a smarter choice than spending the last month of school ignoring schoolwork in favor of applications for jobs or graduate school. It also opens up the possibilities of where we can go next. I do not need to have the answers right away. After being at home, I could find a place there, back here in Portland or anywhere else in the world. Going home gives me time to plan out the next chapter of my life.

Not everyone has the option of staying at home for any period of time after graduation, but those that do should not be discouraged on account of embarrassment. It is an opportunity to spend the end of college being a student and have more time later for life planning, which seems to me to be the opposite of a failure.

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