Your college years are a self-affirming stretch of time in which no life choice is ever really wrong. In spite of all its mayhem, an overarching sense of purpose validates this time of your life – even if you flunked your postcolonial film censorship class or had beer bongs before your chemistry exam that time, chances are you’ll graduate with a very meaningful piece of paper.
Once these meandering, golden years come to an end, the great abyss that is Real Life ensues. Suddenly, there is no timetable, no course adviser and no mandatory subjects. Just a vast expanse of free days with too much time to think about how overeducated and underexperienced you are.
Your days are spent at home pimping your LinkedIn, waiting for callbacks and wondering why Mr. Whoever from Blah & Blah didn’t recognise your unbridled potential and hire you immediately. It feels like you’re in a hopelessly long queue at a soup kitchen, where the meal they’re serving is your future.
The pressure of schoolwork is a double-edged sword. It weighed you down but it also anchored you by giving your life meaning. Without it, it’s easy to become downtrodden – waking up each day with a giant question mark over your life and feeling this immense pressure to do something with all that you learned:
1. When you feel down, just take a deep breath and look at the big picture.
Life is what happens to you when you’re making plans, so rather than thinking of this stage of your life as a waiting game, conceive that you are living like an adult, perhaps for the first true time. I know that’s confronting, and it’s scary, but it’s also exiting… You are a blank canvas and life is your paint.
2. Wait for the right job, rather than the first job.
We have (d)evolved into a species that don’t like to wait. For anything. So when it comes to serious job-hunting, it feels like the longer you don’t get a job, the greater the likelihood that you’re going to disappoint everyone who ever believed in you. Try not to be in such a desperate rush that you take a job just because it was the first one that came your way, cuz then you’ll be too busy to work out what you really want to do. Take your time with the important things in life – no job, relationship or experience should be hastily embarked upon due to fear of life passing you by.
3. Don’t rely on a relationship for your raison d’être.
When one’s life is in flux, romantic affection satisfies the security we crave. This is why people often get into a new relationship or get back together with an ex in the months after college. Be careful not to use this relationship as a shield from your problems. If this person starts to feel like the only good thing in your life, then maybe you need to be single for a bit so you can work things out on your own.
4. Dress up nice every other day.
While I’m not purporting that “dress for the job you want, not the job you have” bullshit, don’t underestimate the importance of getting out of your sweatpants every now and then. Whether your idea of ‘dressing up’ involves a turtleneck or a pair of fishnets, dress to impress even if you have nothing big social event to go to because looking like a slob 24/7 doesn’t exactly breed ambition.
5. Look up photos of successful people when they were nobodies.
Whether it’s Barack Obama at a political internship, Channing Tatum as an actual stripper or Lindsay Lohan pre-cocaine, a little Google Image search will remind you that whatever someone ended up doing with their life, they had to start somewhere.
6. Don’t compare yourself to other people.
Be a good sport and congratulate your friends when they deserve it, but it’s perfectly healthy to admit just how jealous you are of your friend’s three-year grad position at Google where he already earns more than you probably ever will. But maybe a three-year contract would freak you the fuck out due to the commitment, maybe you need to travel more, who knows. As hard as it is to stomach at this point in life when all your peers are clawing for a life worthy of envy, accept that everybody is different and follows their own path.
7. Watch Girls, on repeat.
Watching problems similar to your own played out in satisfying 20-minute snippets is totally therapeutic, and you can feel smug in the knowledge that at least you don’t have the shittiest friendships in the world.
8. Work out A LOT.
You’ll never have as much time as you do now, so you really have no excuse not to get really hot. Plus, if all else fails, you’re in a good position to segue into a porn career.
9. Party with caution.
When you’re not doing much of anything most days, partying always seems like a good idea. But when there’s nothing in your life worth celebrating, getting wankered on tequila shots four nights in a row gets old, fast. Mindless partying will only leave you feeling hollow right now.
10. Embrace the fact that you don’t have to go to work every day.
Applying for jobs and carting yourself off to interviews day after day is exhausting, so when it all becomes too much, do something different. Go for happy hour cocktails, get to know interesting acquaintances better, go see a movie at 11am, check out galleries, learn how to drive, volunteer your time. Make the most of being a lady of leisure and you will likely be more energised the next time you sit down to scour some job sites.
11. Remind yourself that this stage is just a stage, and it too shall pass.
It’s hard to have a nice day when you wake up to call informing you that, yet again, you didn’t get the job. Disappointment throbs through your body like a bottle to the back of the head as the perky voice on the other end of the line says you “interviewed great”, but they went with someone who had more experience.
It’s seems impossible to conceive in dark moments like these, but remember that one day you will be the one with the experience landing the job. Your current feelings of inadequacy will then be a distant memory because the funny thing about dreams is that once you reach them you forget what they ever were.