Graduation: A time when you are so happy to be finally done your degree because it means no more studying all night, no more homework, and finally having the time to do what you want. It seemed like everyone around me during graduation was so happy to be celebrating this milestone. Everyone except me.
I loved being in school. Everything about university – the classes, constantly learning new things, living with my friends, being free to make my own food, ordering pizza after a night of late studying – I thrived off of it. I was happiest in that environment, and comforted by studying towards a degree and knowing I really didn’t have to have everything figured out until I had finished. But then the time came to graduate and I was not ready to leave. I didn’t get into the grad school I wanted to, and I had no backup plan – no idea what I was supposed to be doing. I wasn’t ready to be an adult.
In the span of what felt like seconds, I had moved out of my apartment in the city that I loved back into my parents’ house in the town that I hated. The first few months were the toughest of my life, mentally. I fought with my parents about everything. I missed the freedom of having my own space and doing what I wanted without telling everyone where I was going. I missed living with my best friends. I missed my boyfriend. I missed the life that I had built for myself the past 5 years, and more than anything I wanted to go back to my city and continue building it. But, I had no money, and no job, so I knew I had to stay. For the first time in my life, when I pictured my future, I saw nothing. I couldn’t picture getting a job, starting a career, making new friends or even having fun. All I could see was impending doom and unhappiness because I was out of the comfort zone that was university. I spent a lot of my summer in fits of anxiety and sadness because I thought I had to have everything figured out right away.
Now, with September just around the corner and the new school year about to start, I’m more adjusted to being out of school. Looking back on this summer, I had a lot more downs than I had ups. But I made it through, and I learned some stuff along the way that is helping me cope with life after university. Here are 3 things I wish I had known back in April about life after school.
1) Keep busy.
This one feels like a no-brainer, but it is easier said than done. When I moved back home, I looked forward to a few weeks of relaxation and doing nothing but watching reality TV. These few weeks turned into a month, which then turned into 2 months. I was wasting my summer away with T.V. With my plans for grad school out the window, and no job prospects lining up, it was all too easy and comfortable to fall into a rut of doing nothing all day. My friends were working, so I spent my days alone, in the house, and unhappy. One day, I picked up a book I had been meaning to read for a year and finished it in a couple hours. I instantly felt better – reading that book gave me something to do, and it made me feel productive. Something as small and seemingly trivial as reading made me excited for the next day, to read my next book. I also started forcing myself to go for walks, just to get out of the house. I live in the suburbs, so there really isn’t anything around to walk to, but Starbucks has been a good motivator for me. In the past month, I’ve kept busy through job-hunting (which is a job in itself!). I’ve also been writing every day. These seemingly simple tasks help me feel the productivity I felt when I was in school, which makes me feel that much happier. Every day I wake up with a list of tasks for the day, and I end the day feeling a little more accomplished. I now realize that for me, life after university needs to be just as busy as life when I was in university.
2) Just because you’re done school, doesn’t mean you have to be done learning.
I think the biggest mistake people can make when they’re done school is giving up on learning. I’m not talking about formal, in-class learning with textbooks and assignments. I mean learning something you have always wanted to learn, but never had the time to fully commit to because you were in school. For me, it was Spanish. I have always been fascinated with Spain and its culture, and learning the language was a personal goal of mine. I took a class in university, and when I graduated, I thought it was the end of my language learning. But who says this has to be true? Just because I am not in university anymore, doesn’t mean my education has to stop! I’m currently enrolled in evening Spanish classes at my local college, and I am so excited to finally commit myself to this goal 100%. The time after university and before you start your career is special in that you really don’t have any obligations to anyone but yourself. So, learn a new language, take that karate class you’ve always wanted to, or perfect your creative writing skills. With constant learning, the only thing you have to regret is not doing it when you had the chance to.
3) Practice patience, it will make your life easier.
I’ve struggled with having patience my whole life. I like it when things happen for me right away, and I have a hard time waiting for rewards. This was enhanced in school when my life revolved around submitting assignments, writing exams, and then getting my marks back within a few days. I had little practice with being patient. But I’ve learned that patience is as important as ever for life after university. After grad, I was expecting things to fall into place easily, and quickly too. I thought I would apply for a couple jobs, get a few interviews and start working. Obviously, this was not the case. I learned the hard way that these things take time. Sure, I would apply for a job and get an interview, but then I would realize that I really didn’t want that job in the first place – I was just quick to take the interview because I was too impatient to wait for the right job to pop up. I had to get into the mindset that the job I want for the next year or so most likely isn’t going to be the first one that gets back to me. I now know that job hunting is an ongoing process, and finding a job that is the right fit doesn’t happen over night. After 2 months of trying, I have a shot at a job that I really want. Practicing this patience has also helped me realize that figuring out what I want to do with the rest of my life isn’t going to happen over-night and time and patience are essential in this process. With time, I’ve learned that what I thought I wanted to do isn’t really what I want to do anymore. And with patience, I’m learning that it will take a while to figure that out and that is perfectly okay.
With my 4th month of being out of school coming to an end, I still have more to learn about adult life. But this summer has helped me realize that keeping my days busy isn’t such a bad thing. I don’t have to stop learning and taking classes just because I’m no longer in school, and with patience and time, I will eventually figure everything out. Realizing this –the hard way – has helped me be less anxious for the future. I am a little more excited for the upcoming year, and now when I picture my future, I don’t see nothing.