If you are graduating from university this year, you may be experiencing what I like to call ‘pre-grad existentialism’, or what your friends may refer to as a quarter life crisis. Call it what you will, it is scary. I’m talking, no more piss-ups, days off or doing-nothing-and-still-having-proud-parents, kind of scary.
I’ve concluded that despite my obvious, pessimistic stance, there are two perspectives that can be taken on the matter, and consequently, two possible avenues to take:
- You can welcome new beginnings with open arms and prepare for your future by taking a day trip to Ikea and spending every last penny of your student loan on flat-packed, futon finery.
- You can prepare for your inevitable demise by singing ‘Kumbaya, My Lord’ and writing a letter of apology to every family member you’ve disappointed.
But seriously, it’s a tough time to navigate and you may be asking yourself some pretty difficult questions, i.e. ‘what if I don’t do well on my exam?’, ‘what if nobody wants to employ me’ or ‘what if I don’t want to pursue __ after all?’. My personal favourite is asking myself ‘will I even finish my degree?’ as I read the news bulletins each morning. As it turns out, completing a degree amidst a pandemic is more challenging than one would expect.
For the sake of this article having any kind of relevance, I’m going to assume that I will complete my studies and will therefore offer some advice to you fellow undergrads that frankly, I could take myself.
You might be asking, what position are you in to be talking about post-graduation, and to that I say – fair enough! I’m a wannabe-writer enrolled in a three-year photography course. I don’t know much about graduating from uni, nor do I know much about getting a ‘real’ job – though I like to think I do given my recent job as a glorified tea-maker at a photographer’s studio.
No, I don’t know much about graduating at all. I have however, had my fair share of existential crises, and have plenty of advice to give on that matter…
My first tip would be to just breatheeee. (Did you roll your eyes too?) Ironically, I hate this tip, though I can appreciate its importance, as the amount of stress the human body can hold is phenomenal. Ask yourself, are you stressed now? Unclench your jaw, drop your shoulders, and un-frown that frown. Headless chickens don’t win races.
The second tip is to journal. I cannot e m p h a s i s e the benefits of writing in a diary enough. I am a diary whore. They’re not only incredibly good for practicing mindfulness, but they’re a useful medium for understanding the thoughts that rush through your head at 1000mph. Let the pen take over for a while, and you’ll be surprised at just how rational your irrational thoughts are. This is mostly a tip for those of us suffering from anxiety, though really any person with a brain and emotions will reap the benefits of offloading into a pretty notebook.
Tip three, WRITE LISTS. Write lists for everything. What are you passionate about? What brings you the most enjoyment in life? What do you hope to achieve one day? What are your values? Who ARE you??? Nothing too heavy. To-do lists are also incredibly useful. I cannot fathom how people live their lives without them – how do you people function? Granted, mine have become a little excessive as my mother recently pointed out; “do you really need to remind yourself to cut your fingernails Danni?”. Ticking tasks off a to-do list with a fat red marker is one of the most satisfying feelings in the world, and I challenge anyone who disagrees. The stuff that fills your to-do lists needn’t be big either, they could be as ‘small’ as ‘download a job search app’, or ‘write contact details on CV’. An ‘always forward, never backward’ mindset ensures steady progression.
NEXT tip is to get a therapist. Whether you have underlying mental health issues or not, therapy is one of the best things you can do for yourself and all you have to do is show up! If you’re beginning to feel anxious about this change in your life, or if you’re having doubts about your future, it’s good to talk to somebody. I only suggest a professional as, from personal experience, the advice: “there’s no point worrying about it” falls short on anxious ears.
Finally, have confidence. You’ve made it this far and you are making it still – in spite of a global pandemic! If this virus has taught us anything, it’s that life is truly unpredictable, and nobody knows what lies ahead. So have fun with whatever you choose to do next and know that good things are coming if you’re open to believing they are.