I didn’t have the perfect college experience. Who actually does though? College isn’t just academics, it’s a huge part of your life. Most of us enter at eighteen and graduate sometime in our twenties. There is a lot of life you experience through those years. It’s so easy to get comfortable where you are, and honestly, when it ends it hits you like a brick.
Graduating for me was different because I got my diploma in August but I actually walk with my class in a couple weeks. When I was done, I at first had a feeling of relief. Then a couple weeks went by and I had no idea what to do with myself. My friends went back to classes and I was just at work a couple times a week. However, just like a lot of fellow graduates, I didn’t have a full-time job to fall back on once I got that diploma. Seeing my fellow classmates get job offers made me feel worse even though I was happy for them. I just kept thinking “what am I doing wrong?”. I ended up actually going back to a part-time job that I absolutely despised but, hey it was money right? This definitely did not make things better at all for me. Yes, it made a nice dent in my student loan payment but it messed with my mental health in the worst way. I was forced to go back to this job because I needed the money, a harsh reality for my fellow recent grads.
A couple months passed by and I would cry every single morning. I went on a few interviews but ultimately didn’t get those jobs. It felt horrible because I kept thinking that I was just letting everyone down. I would lay in bed for hours on end and just watch movies when I got home from work. Some days I would only get out of the house because I walked my dog. Binge eating and panic attacks became my new routine. The pressure I felt was like if I was being squashed by an 8,000-ton piece of metal. I wanted to open up to my friends, but I felt like I would just bother them. I felt like an absolute failure.
Graduation is a huge transition in your life. Especially if it’s your first time being considered an adult. When you’re in college, you feel included. You’re constantly meeting new people, joining new organizations, and trying new things. Then you’re suddenly not invited anymore, and it tends to get lonely. It’s probably much worse for someone that went to college out of state. People also keep telling you “college was the best years of your life, it’s over now”. When you go to family parties everyone asks you what you’re doing now and you have to pretend that you’re okay. If you’re single it’s also daunting because the pool of guys/girls basically diminishes.
What messes you up the most is that we all have this picture of what your life is supposed to be by now. When I was younger, I definitely thought I would be married by twenty-four. I thought I would be this director kicking butt on set. I’m not even close.
Googling “post-college depression” changed my life. The search came up to all these articles and I soon realized that I wasn’t the only one. More than 18,000 students are unemployed six months after graduation. Your mental health actually deteriorates while you’re in college and gets worse when you leave.
I received my Bachelor’s Degree nine months ago. Most of my paycheck goes to student loan bills. I still do not have a full-time job in my field. Dark days still haunt me once in awhile. However, one thing has changed though, I finally feel good about myself. I’m doing the best that I can, it doesn’t matter who thinks so. If you are in the same boat as I was, you are not alone and here are some tips.
1. Throw yourself into some you’re passionate about: Trust me. No matter what it is, painting, writing, taking pictures, drawing, etc just do it.
2. Stop comparing yourself to others: It’s so easy to think that everyone else’s life is perfect. Everyone is dealing with something. You are doing great.
3. Remember that tomorrow will be a better day: This is extremely cliche, but it’s true. Today might feel like it will never end, but it will get brighter.
4. Reach out to someone: Telling someone how you feel can definitely help. Talking to a family member, friend, or even a stranger when you’re down is probably the best decision. It works wonders. (If you have thought of suicide please call: 1-800-273-8255)
This transition is nowhere near easy so don’t let anyone tell you that it is. Don’t let anyone tell you how to feel either. Any emotions that you have are valid. No matter what, trust me that it gets better.