How To Survive And Conquer Your Post-College Melancholy

image - Flickr / Zach Dischner
image – Flickr / Zach Dischner

To “commence” is to mark the beginning or onset of some kind of temporal event happening in our lives. Conversely, to “commence” is also to mark the culmination of something, such as a commencement ceremony, which signifies the end of a college career. The complexity and versatility of this word never ceases to amaze me, which is why—being a recent graduate myself—I would attribute one more definition to the word commencement: A time of uttermost chaos, transition, and uncertainty.

So, here we are. We endured countless sleepless nights, successfully completed an infinite amount of papers, projects, and tests by their respective deadlines, and even made it across the stage without tripping. In front of esteemed faculty members, family, and friends we finally did it—we commenced. It’s an accomplishment for the books, and it feels great, right? Well, great for the first week at least.

The first post-college-week off is amazing. We finally get to catch up on all the sleep we missed during the past four years of school, be reunited with our family and friends from home, and binge-watch our favorite shows on Netflix for hours in our pajamas without judgment. It’s quite literally everything we dreamed it would be while we were secluded in our dingy library cubicles for weeks on end. But that feeling of post-grad freedom is about as fleeting as the four years spent working to attain it.

On the one hand, I was relieved. Commencement meant no more roommates, no more 8 a.m. classes, and no more all-nighters. As time passed, however, commencement adopted a whole new connotation—one shrouded in chaos, transition, and uncertainty. Suddenly, I was terrified. My college experience may have been hectic and unpredictable, but at least those were feelings to rely on. I began to feel lazy—guilty even—for frittering away my first week and spoiling my hard-earned Bucknell degree.

So, naturally, I drastically overcompensated—and spent my subsequent days channeling my college-grind by perfecting my resume, organizing my LinkedIn account, and filling out innumerable job applications. Still, however, I was largely unfulfilled.

That’s when it hit me: I had the post-college blues.

I may take comfort in the fact that it is a universal feeling, but that doesn’t mean I’m succumbing. Recent reflection quelled my anxieties, so here are some things to remember to help divide and conquer your post-commencement depression:

  • This is a transitional period of your life: embrace it. There is so much emphasis placed on finding a job the very second you graduate—and not just a job, but the job. This pressure is perpetuated by faculty members, family, friends, and fellow graduates, and is largely grounded in competition to be the best and have the best immediately. The reality is, however, this transitory time between graduation and employment is actually tremendously important. Of course, the uncertainty of the future can be a bit daunting, but so is diving headfirst into a job without any forethought, reflection, or real-world experience to back you up. Taking some time for self-discovery to figure out who you are, what you want, and how the world works is essential. So, however this self-discovery manifests itself—whether it means traveling abroad, spending time with loved ones, volunteering, or just reading for pleasure—there is no better time to do this than the present.
  • Do not punish yourself, your time will come. Fostering connections, looking for internships, and applying to jobs are essential parts of this post-grad phase. After all, it’s why we went to college and it’s what determines our future. But there is no shame in taking a guilt-free break every now and then, too. The reality is, looking for jobs is a full-time job, and everyone deserves to take some time to detox occasionally. So do what you can, but don’t overcompensate and add additional pressure to the already stressful experience of job-hunting. When the opportunity is right, you’ll know. Until then, try not to stress unnecessarily. And above all, do not settle for less than you want or deserve both personally and professionally.
  • Get reacquainted with your passions. College was a great time, no doubt about it. But, for many of us, it was also an exceptionally busy time. Inevitably, our involvement with clubs, activities, school, and work took precedence, and many of our passions fell by the wayside. Now, during this transitory period, is the perfect time to get reacquainted with everything you love to do but never quite had the time. It is also the best way to combat the pessimism, fear, and jealously that can creep in when we see others being offered opportunities before us. By reconnecting with our passions—whether through reading, cooking, exercising, or volunteering—we learn important life skills including patience and acceptance
  • The path to success is an individual one, make it your own. The yardstick of “success” is unique to everyone, so comparisons about “who got what job” and “how quickly they earned said job” are futile and draining. As an English major, I receive a lot of negative, unwarranted commentary concerning my career aspirations. But guess what? I’m not here to be a Billionaire or to have my name on a billboard for all to see. For me personally, success is doing what you love and doing it better than everyone else. I’m here to inspire people and to change lives—and if my words can help me achieve this, then I consider myself the most successful person in the world already. It may take a while for me to commence, to find my niche in the journalistic world, and that’s OK. Success is not a race; it’s a lifelong journey, and I’m going to be sure to revel in each step I take along the way. TC mark

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