After four years of hard work (and admittedly some partying to relieve the stress from the hard work), I finally graduated from college the April before last.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking, “But it’s been over a year, Sasha! Why are you still thinking about this?”
Well, let me back up. Prior to graduating, I’d assumed that the time that followed getting my cap and gown would be filled with a new job–my first foray into the Real World. Inevitably giving me a career, then successful relationship, and potentially interesting Instagram feed down the line.
It didn’t take long for reality to set in. By June, it was clear that post-grad life was not all it was cracked up to be. In fact, no one had ever spoken to me about this part of life; everything prior to this moment was all about college and how it should be enjoyed. No one told me the emotional stress I would feel.
I didn’t have a job, despite my best efforts prior to graduating, and my social life had seemingly gone from 60 to zero. Most friends moved home or to new cities, and in either case, started their jobs or continued on to grad school.
Over the summer, I began to notice the toll on my mental health. Oddly enough, I was somehow more stressed after graduating than I’d ever felt in school. I became near-obsessive with the job search, and when interview after interview turned unsuccessful (despite the interviewers telling me, “We love your resume!”), I began to spiral down.
By the end of June, there were two weeks where I hit my lowest point: never before had I felt so down all the time and completely hopeless. I’d been rejected from so many jobs, and was confused why after all the compliments to my resume, I still wasn’t getting hired.
To channel my inner-Carrie Bradshaw, I couldn’t help but wonder if the real problem was me?
Technically, I was probably considered depressed. Constantly feeling down for multiple weeks at a time isn’t a terrific experience, and maybe I wallowed a bit. Feeling so defeated and powerless with no specific goal or path in life was infuriating to someone like me who prefers to know the plan and to have a game-plan. My expectations for post-grad life were unrealistic, and my expectations of myself were overestimated.
After countless pseudo-therapy sessions with
my therapist my mom, I finally started to realize that while I’d hit a low point, the only way out was through. I had to keep trying – what was I going to do, never get a job? I needed to figure out how to manage my stress, and how to prevent it from sinking down into a depressive state. I needed to keep moving forward and do the hard thing of not giving up.
Sure, since May 2018 (one month post-grad), I’d started freelancing part-time for a marketing/branding/PR firm, but it wasn’t the same as a full-time job. I was glad to have something on my resume and to have the experience, but I felt so odd compared to my peers that seemingly had everything together: full-time jobs, exciting social lives, a fun trip here or there, etc. I felt behind the pack.
One day I realized: I don’t need to be part of the pack, I can be my own entity, forging my own way, ignoring society’s standards as millennials have always intended! This isn’t to say that I’m completely over my lowest point. I’m still chasing that full-time job and trying to understand Indeed’s many algorithms. I’m still navigating the social scene, trying to reconnect and form stronger bonds with the people that really matter to me. And yes, I still struggle with managing my stress and nerves about the Real World and society’s timeline.
Maybe, in a very millennial way, the first step to success is being self-centered enough to think that sharing my own experiences will not only alleviate my stress, but potentially help others in a similar boat.
No one discusses life after college; we only get glimpses in movies like “Reality Bites” or “The Graduate”–and I can guarantee that neither Ethan Hawke nor Dustin Hoffman-type characters have entered my life. But, as my mom so poignantly said, “This is the same society that elected Donald Trump, and that should tell how much you should care about society’s opinions”.
Oh, and for anyone else in the same spot in life as I am, another (maybe cliché but so true) Mom-ism: “Everything happens for a reason, and everything will be ok”.
If you liked this piece, be sure to check out A New Chapter