You always hear the phrase ‘post-grad life’ and the many meanings it may carry. It could translate as: traveling after graduation then coming home to a job and perfectly manicured life in a metropolitan city, moving back home with your parents to work for the first time in your life, doing a contracted gig while looking for the job you really want, or just stewing in your self-made perpetual comparison with everyone around you. Whatever it may be, ‘post-grad life’ is a state of mind that eventually takes over and makes you question everything. Unless you’re in enrolled in a grad school of some kind, for the first time, most people don’t have a set plan as to what they are going to do for the next four plus years. The world is now a blank canvas in which you may do with what you please, which is terrifying. It sounds good at first, but when things don’t go as planned, the unexpected panic starts to set in.
After you graduate, the world may, in fact, be your oyster but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a terrifying ocean filled with sharks called anxiety. You may remember growing up having parents, movies, TV shows, and education system make it seem as though everything is easy. It’s like ABC123- high school, college, travel a little, snag a comfy job, marriage, house, then BOOM! Happiness. Any flashbacks to innocent adolescence? It’s a nice thought, but these institutions omit a large handful of things that the majority of us have to deal with. Unless you have a wealthy and/or connected network that is willing to help you along in this seemingly effortless process, it doesn’t come easy. I have been working since I was 15, paid for everything, busted my ass to get good grades in community college, and made my way into UC Berkeley as the first in my family to go to college. I thought, “Oh, I’m set now. PRESTIGIOUS college, travel, then job.” Right?
There is one haunting word that pollutes the post-grad life: competition. In college, after college, at your job, there is always going to be people you line yourself up against. This results in constant comparison to those around you, saying things like:
“Is that what I should be doing?”
“Maybe I should go to grad school.”
“Why don’t I have a job like that?”
“Their life looks so awesome.”
Etc. etc. E T C.
This concept is what I find most common in people, including myself, after they collect their diploma and head off into the world. Mind you, striving to better is nothing to be ashamed of, it is what you should aim to do- but it often gets mixed up with comparison, which is poisonous to anyone who lets is consume their mindset.
Even though we are conditioned to believe that the certainty of our future should be lined up by the time we are 25, there is something to be said about the UNcertainty. Having everything figured out at such a young age is just as daunting as having nothing figured out. This all depends on a number of things, but I have come to terms with the fact that my life will have a little more excitement because I HAVE OPTIONS. My path can go one of many different ways and that is amazing. I am only 23, not tied down by anything yet, and am able to live out my youth more than the people who are already caught up in climbing the corporate ladder. There is more leeway for a path that you choose just as much as it chooses you.
Having transparency about this weird existential crisis us 20-year-olds experience is SO important, especially those of us who are in ‘unconventional’ industries/careers. The journey is scary and uncertain, but you are not alone. The feeling is present among many, although very few speak out due to fear of being seen as weak.
Being from an average middle-class family and then thrown into the ivy league trenches of UC Berkeley subtly wrecked my mindset that I was good enough. But the thing is, I am good enough; we all are. The thing to remember here is no path is the same, and that simple notion finally hit me at the end of this long chaotic process. I spent so much time worrying about what I wasn’t doing instead of what I had accomplished. I believe that people need to hear these stories and find solace in the fact that everyone is different- the goal is to find beauty in our difference instead of fighting to keep up with massive similarity.