You have graduated. Now, what?
I have waited all year to write this post.
The day of your graduation – high school or university that it is – marks a big circle on a day that you will try so hard to tone down, yet it will always glow inside your heart.
A year ago, I was strutting on that stage in my graduate gown, trying to fit that ridiculous hat on my big potato head and dealing with the fact that I had my whole family and friends’ eyes glued to the livestream of me finally getting that piece of paper.
I don’t remember bursting with excitement, or joy, and a year after that day, I feel somewhat sad that I didn’t let myself taste every single minute of this incredible moment.
It’s not that I wasn’t happy about graduating, because trust me, anyone would be happy to finish three majors in three years; but I couldn’t help but feeling a bit empty and I started fiddling with the useless brochures you get at events like that.
I was terrified of what was coming next.
So you graduate and now what?
It’s not really a cute future ahead of us. It’s not like Elle Wood’s graduation at Harvard, nor it’s finishing the year at Hogwarts with that incredible song playing in the background.
No, the real world is incredibly scary, not to mention the fact that it’s void of the right amount of opportunities that each and every one of us needs.
As people were walking on stage with a big grin on their faces and bowed to our school representatives, I couldn’t help but thinking..
WHAT THE HECK AM I GOING TO DO NOW?
And it’s not just at the end of your university degree that you start pondering on these important rhetorical questions; it’s when you finish high school, or leave a job, or finally finish writing that research you have been sweating on for months in the lab.
It follow right after every major important in our constructed human lives.
It’s terrifying to think about what could be our next steps and what they could lead to.
We are terrified of making mistakes, of taking the wrong turn and ending up like those people are parents warn us about, the lazy, unemployed and unsuccessful people.
I don’t think I have ever been more anxious in my life than those months after I completed my degree, a long-time achievement that should have kept me going for days like in a massive sugar hit.
But I wasn’t. I was severely depressed, I spent days working and wasting my time watching movies, reading books to not feel that void that was forming inside of me.
Until I realised something. Actually, I realised many things and I am going to share them with you now, because if somebody had done the same for me, it would have saved me watching the complete seasons of Gray’s Anatomy and eat my weight in raw chocolate.
HOW TO DEAL WITH THE POST-GRADUATION FEELS
Give yourself a pat on the shoulder.
On the day of completing your degree, or your high school diploma, you will feel joy and excitement for it you will be finally able to throw your books in the garbage, and celebrate with your friends and family for the next couple of days. Or you might feel anxious and a bit down about your marks, about your future prospects and the huge steps you might have to take.
Before you dwell into the unknown possibilities of the future, take this present moment to share gratitude with yourself.
It sounds bratty and a bit like Kanye West to show love and gratitude towards yourself, right, but you couldn’t be more wrong in stealing that opportunity away from you.
Sit a moment in silence by yourself and really reflect on how great you have done. You have chosen a difficult path and it might have taken you running through storms, crying from frustration, or it might have been easy as boiling an egg; but you are at the finish line and that’s incredible.
I know it always feels appropriate to downplay our own achievements, so that we don’t feel like we are imposing on other people’s experiences and feelings, but taking the opportunity of self-confidence away from you at a crucial moment like this is what creates such a negative outlook on your future.
Be proud of your achievements, no matter how small they seem to you.
Don’t compare yourself to others.
There will always be someone with higher marks, more work experience and volunteer work than you. As I say, there will always be an Hermione Granger in a group.
You are not the ugly duckling, people are not born the same in terms of opportunities.
Achievements require commitment and prioritising tasks. If somebody got more experience, or better marks than you, it’s not due to you being dumb or a failure, but it’s due to the fact they made certain decisions to prioritize those aspects of their lives.
Per example, I valued earning an income throughout my degree and having time for myself to spend exercising, reading and hanging out with my friends. I know that prioritising those aspects of my life were also taking a small amount of effort from my academic life, but I have always preferred to have good marks and have a social life than having the best marks and no social life.
You have to focus on your own path and your own definition of success. Looking at others will only grow envy and it won’t allow you to appreciate what you really have in life.
Not to mention the fact that dwelling on the past is wasting time on the present fact that you should be building for your own future.
So avoid Instagram and Facebook for a while and go MIA, trying to avoid sentiments of jealousy towards your friends.
Have a plan.
This is probably going to sound the most stupid advice to receive after having graduated, but having a plan is key to not get lost for months.
If your job prospects are not particularly exciting or clear to you, you might feel anxious about not knowing what to do.
Because you don’t know what to do, you start hanging around like an idiot, waiting for opportunities to be thrown at you, as if you were some precious snowflake.
You waste time watching shows, movies, browsing the internet, or maybe you go out every night, or you go on bender holidays where you party for days and you call it “cultural enrichments”.
This is what is stopping you to get where you want to go.
It’s going to be terrifying and it will hurt a lot, but you have to rip this planning thing off like a bandaid.
If you are in your 20s, it is even more important that you get this down sooner than later, or you are going to end up staring at your life back and wishing you actually had done something about it.
You don’t have to have a specific plan, but you have to write down a few objectives you want to achieve in the next 5-10 years. It could be in terms of your personal life, or your professional; it could be learning a new skill, or starting a blog, anything that you think could help you in moving forward can be put on this plan.
Once you have identified the objectives, you have to think about what it takes to implement this plan.
And that’s when the schedule stars.
Have a schedule.
See, the biggest problem that post-grads have is not the lack of job prospects, it’s the lack of a strict routine to follow. Unfortunately we have been raised to adhere to strict schedules in early schooling system that resemble a car factory, so when we finally complete the final project that school and university is, we just.. don’t know what to do with ourselves.
So to avoid hanging around the couch and binge-watching episode after episode, you have to build your routine.
Once you know what your objectives are for the next couple of months, build a schedule to ensure that you get things done.
This will not only make you feel in track with your goals, but it will also build self-confidence, organisational skills and will keep your mind busy, when you’re trying to squeeze all the stress and the void you are experiencing from having no direction at all.
Doing a small step every day is better than standing still terrified.
No goals, no party? No problems!
You might be like one of those people who really have no idea what their next step is. You don’t know whether you want to land a big corporate job, or roam around India with a huge backpack on your shoulder.
It’s cool and I am going to tell you a secret. Nobody really knows either.
Even the people who pretend like they have their whole life together, with their perfectly organised calendars and work lunches and big promotions, deep down inside they feel like they might have taken the wrong step and are waiting for the consequences to hit.
So accept the fact that everybody is going through the same terrifying feeling you are going through, and that instead of locking the gut-wrenching emotions of feeling like a failed potato inside, we should communicate it.
You can’t know which direction to take, unless you start walking. Unless you start talking about the directions you would like to take. And mostly, you don’t know what you have ahead of you, unless you allow yourself to see and consider the incredible amount of options you might have right on your nose.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes; it’s not a mistake if you have thrown yourself into something you believed in, and even if it doesn’t go as planned, you have learned a big lesson:
that you need action to go forward.
So start reading more books, watch more TED TALKS, talk to a variety of people. Fill yourself with all the knowledge that you need to fill whole again. Art will give you a direction, because art makes you understand different points of you and you end up being fully aware of the things that you like and don’t like. So it is time to dust off the non-fiction books and start absorbing all the knowledge.
But above all, here is the biggest piece of advice I can share with you.
Just because everybody is following the same path and partying, working, going to the gym and the same old, it doesn’t mean that you have to follow it too.
This is your time to shine in the sense that it is the time for you to understand what you really like and finally dedicate time to it.
Do you like filming videos? Then, do it. Get better at it.
Do you believe that your word can impact others? Throw yourself into it, write every day until your hands bleed.
Don’t forget that there are industries that profit billions from having young people disheartened, depressed and hopeless about their lives.
Doesn’t it make you angry that somebody is swimming in gold because of your feeling of inadequacy? I am angry as hell for YOU!
Making the decision of committing your life to the things that you are passionate about and sharing them with the world is truly what life is about.
It’s not making millions, it’s not winning a race and it’s not landing the best graduate job – it’s living a life with purpose and intention to make something meaningful that can impact our lives and others.