I was having a conversation with a good friend the other day, a friend who is another recent graduate, and we were catching each other up on our lives.
“I feel like I have so little that is definite in life and so little stability,” he said. “I spend a disturbing amount of time each day pondering existential questions.”
I agreed with him that the latter was disturbing, and followed with, “Trust me, I understand. I feel very disjointed. And simultaneously constantly anxious.”
“Yeah. Sounds about right,” my friend returned.
This conversation ran circles in my mind for days. So little stability. Disjointed. Constantly anxious.
Is this what it means to be a college graduate in 2014? Do we feel this way because we are job hunting? Is it normal to worry so much about our futures when our present days have barely dawned? Or is this simply what it means to be an adult?
On some level, I think to be disjointed is synonyms with “college graduate.” Think about it. We go to college for four years or more and exist in a world that includes highlighters and Ramen noodles and snow days. Once we are handed a degree, so many of us have not actually made a decision about what kind of career we want. And then we are either shuffled back home, relocated to a completely new place for a year of service or a new job, or plunged back into the world of academia. Either way, a degree equals another step. It is like standing before a staircase that leads to one thousand different doors, and all of them are dark. Which step do you take? Is moving home a step backwards? Or is it actually a step in the right direction?
Of course, the answers to these questions are impossibilities. And that is why we feel disjointed. That is why earning a degree is a huge accomplishment that proceeds to crush you every day because you have it and you must do something with it. But…what?
That is why we are constantly anxious, Class of 2014. Because we have received something that 50 percent of us don’t know what to do with, while the other 50 percent do know what we want but we are facing an entire Internet of opportunities. Which opportunity leads to the light?
Here are the things I have learned since May 17, the day I officially got my English degree:
1. Don’t expect anything to be the way you expected. It won’t be. It’s going to be better than your plans, but it certainly isn’t going to happen overnight.
2. Don’t give up. It is alarmingly easy to slip into a coma of I will never or I don’t even know what I want. You do know what you want. Just quiet your mind down for a minute, stop Tweeting, and feel what your gut says. It has a pretty loud voice when you turn off the right noise.
3. Do maintain a sense of humor. You are going to spend so much time disappointed, confused, and stressed as you try to figure out what the heck you are actually going to do with your twenties. Learn to laugh about it. Talk to your friends. Like I said, the whole reason this blog post happened is because I realized another recent grad was living my life, too.
4. NEVER compare yourself to another person. If we were all accomplishing the same things in the same way, the world would be full of boring people.
5. Keep in mind that, despite the endless rejection letters from various places or ceaseless questions from people who are wondering, “What are you doing with your life?”, your degree does mean something. It does. Anything you put effort towards matters because you cared enough to give yourself to it. Give yourself to your twenties, too. We may be confused and we may be one disjointed group of people, but we all cared enough about something to study it for x amount of years. Don’t forget that.
Give yourself to the next phase, even if you aren’t sure what it is yet. Remember, our present days have barely dawned.