Updated: Feb 16
I will admit this is my second time writing this. In my first attempt, I tried so desperately to sugar coat too many truths. I wanted this post to be a beacon of light instead of an unfortunate shadow of gloom and despair. After debating with myself for hours, taking a step back, and recollecting my thoughts, I decided that you guys deserve raw honesty. So fair warning, there are a good amount of low points to this article, but please hold out and keep on reading as there are some beautiful high points too.
Let's Paint the Picture
Graduating from college is a very coveted and well-celebrated accomplishment. For many, this accomplishment is the mark of excellence, endurance, and willpower. I don’t think it was ever a question of whether I would actually attend college for my family. My mom being a four-time graduate, has always set the bar high, so to not follow in those footsteps in some way I can only imagine would’ve been a letdown. I always admired her perseverance, and I ultimately wanted to prove that I, too, could have that mark of excellence. Although I did not follow suit and stay within the medical field as my mom has chosen, I still set off on my adventure to achieve my own sense of greatness – and that I did.
It might come as a shock, but initially, I had no intentions of going to college. During my senior year of high school, I could not wrap my head around the idea of spending another four years torturing myself with more school. Yes, I got good grades and excelled in most of my classes, but I was tired. So, in an attempt to bypass four years of stress, I thought of many other unconventional career paths that did not include traditional college. However, all of those just seemed to lack something. So, after some thought and a spur of the moment trip with my high school best friend to my now alma mater, I decided college was the right choice for me.
So boom, I went to college at THEE University of Arkansas AT Pine Bluff and graduated in May of 2020. Of course, the pandemic stole the spotlight, but I had come to terms with the outcome. I was just glad to finally have my degree and be able to “start” my own life and make a path of my own in this world. I mean sounds perfect. Like right out of a young adult coming of age novel. It sucks that nobody actually prepares you for the fact that only a slim few will experience that dream life after college. You may expect to step out directly into the job of your dreams, making a generous salary, having a balanced social and work life, with your first dream apartment – like a happily ever after college edition. If these are your expectations, then expect a lot of disappointment because, as I said, this is reserved for only a few lucky graduates. I’m sorry to say, but I’m sure this sad feeling is the reality for many of my peers. I’m here to truthfully tell you that all your long and almost endless nights spent stressing over grades and graduation may not actually amount to the immediate success you’re expecting; I know mine didn’t.
It Is What It Is
Let’s just cut the fairytale crap; life after graduation is HARD! I’ve found myself going through several coping stages with the aftermath—the first stage: bliss. When first graduating, it felt very surreal. Like it was almost too good to be true. I just felt good, great, fantastic even. After a while though, that began to fade, which led me into the second stage: relaxation. I just felt so calm and relaxed for the first time in four years. I honestly had nothing to do, nowhere to be, no obligations whatsoever. It was such a peaceful couple of months. Eventually, that peace began to transition, and stage three took over: uselessness. At this point, the summer was coming to an end, and I still hadn’t landed a job. I just felt like my life was passing me by. Every day was spent the same: waking up, eating, napping, binging shows, and then going to sleep to get up and do it all over again. Sure, I went out places to fill the void, but ultimately, I just felt like I was doing nothing useful or productive. I had goals to meet, and I was nowhere near close to meeting them. However, eventually, I landed a job, I felt really good again. I felt stage four: Hope. I felt like finally, my time was coming, I was going to begin my transition into adulthood and get myself to that dream life I sought after. For some months, this lasted. I was finally doing something useful and working on some of my goals. But the good times don’t last forever, and although I was grateful to have a job and be working towards my desires in life, something was still missing. So, we go to stage five: complete and utter confusion. I was confused because why am I not happy, why is this not enough, why am I ungrateful. I think the biggest issue is that I always envisioned landing my dream job after college. I had expectations of landing some fancy job writing full-time. I basically wanted to be Andrea from The Devil Wears Prada without the blood, sweat, and tears. I wanted to skip ahead to the end where she found her dream writing job and everything in her life just fell into place, ya know? That, however, was not my reality. Do I have a good-paying job? Yes, but it’s not at all what I thought I would be doing. So for about a month, when the hope had faded, I was just down in the dumps, sad, depressed, not enthused with anything, just not myself at all. I want to say nobody knew as I’m not one to let people see me in that state, but when I was by myself, left alone to my own thoughts; I was a wreck.
This leads us to the present day. After that rollercoaster of emotions, what stage am I in now? I’m not quite sure, honestly. I guess we can label stage six as a mixture of hope, faith, and peace. I mean, lately, I really have been carrying each of those words with me day in and day out. I’ve begun to come to terms with knowing that although life after graduation isn’t all rainbows and sunshine, that it’s still something to be proud of. And more importantly that each stage in life is worth savoring. I’m sure one day; I’ll look back at this strange gap of post-graduate life and smile. Smile at where I was and how far I will have come. You cannot rush greatness, folks, and ALWAYS remember that the best is yet to come.
Oh, and let’s add one more word to this stage, determined. I’m determined to reach that dream we all think of after graduating, and I’m not stopping until I get there.
You shouldn’t either.
I will not tell you that I am bursting with light and wonder every day -- I am not. I revert to each of those stages on and off. It's a constant process and test for me. Some days I don't want to even get out of bed, and on those days, I have to muster up whatever willpower I have within me to push through. Every day I have to pray for energy and perseverance, and on some days, I have to pray a little harder for strength. It hasn't been an easy path, it isn't an easy path, but you will get through it.
So, please, I encourage you all to take a moment and go back to the instant you first received that degree in your hands. Go back to the day you spent hours obsessing over making yourself camera ready for your senior pictures. Remember those moments of joy and that stage of bliss. I urge you all to keep that with you despite the stage you may be in now because it is still and will always be a major milestone to celebrate. It is something to be proud of.