What is life like after graduation? How am I going to find a job? Where do I move (if anywhere)? What am I going to do with myself?
If you’re asking yourself these questions, you’re in good shape. Don’t worry, freaking the fuck out is totally healthy. Trust me: I panicked more than anyone else I know.
I graduated in May of 2009, when the national unemployment rate hit a 26-year high. I’d studied creative writing—not exactly a major with a clear career path, even in a healthy economy—and I wasn’t sure what jobs I should be applying for, or what I was qualified to do. At the time, my family didn’t have the money to float me, so I didn’t even have the option of moving back home. I sent out 33 job applications for positions in three different cities and heard nothing back. (I know this exactly because I still have the spreadsheet that kept track of where I had applied.) Between mid-terms and graduation, I woke in the middle of the night frequently, wondering how I was going to survive.
There must be a correlation between the amount you worry leading up to graduation and how well you do afterward. The kids who don’t give a shit? Some of them might be fine coasting, and some of them might not. But here’s a sure thing: students who panic always do well. They search high and low for work, send out about four million job applications. They take risks, move to new cities, meet new people. It takes time, but eventually the things in your life fall into place.
I found a job eventually, and so did everyone I knew who made the effort. True, I didn’t love my first job, or my second for that matter, but it was enough to get by. And from there, things started working out, little by little. Two years out of school, I have everything I want: a job that’s meaningful, an apartment that’s nice enough to vacuum with some regularity, the free time to pursue creative interests, and someone in my life who means more to me than all those things combined. I’m in a place where I might even consider myself a grownup.
I wish I could’ve known that things would work out, and maybe enjoyed my last semester of college instead of living in a perpetual state of hysteria. But truthfully, the panic was a painful, necessary step toward adulthood. The most challenging part about life after graduation isn’t how hard you’ll work. It’s coming to terms with the fact that it’s okay to be scared.