The past couple of months I have taken a hiatus from writing. Not because I don’t like writing, or because I am too busy to write, but because I have fallen into a sort of post-graduation depression. Lately, I have been feeling like I have no mental or emotional fuel to write. So, in a desperate attempt to re-spark my passion for writing, I did what every hopelessly uninspired writer does… I read my earlier work.
As I read through my earlier blog posts, I realized I had changed a lot since graduating college. In just a handful of months, I went from being a hopeful graduate excited for my newfound freedom, to a member of the unemployed-graduates collective — lonely, wandering aimlessly through job postings, and questioning the point of my education. I had changed so much since graduating, that when I got down to reading my first blog post, I barely recognized the earlier version of myself who wrote it. The post, which I wrote one month out of college, talked about how I was OK being in a post-college limbo, how I was totally fine with not having my own place to live, and how I was not worried about my career path or rushing into a job after college. Now all of that happy-go-lucky, go-with-the-flow talk feels inauthentic.
It was easy to feel at peace with a lack of a career plan when I had a summer job and the ink was still fresh on my college degree. However, once my summer job ended and the excitement of graduation wore off, I found myself feeling worthless. Every day, I woke up late with no motivation to get out of bed. I spent my time scrolling through endless job postings on the internet, where I was either under-qualified for anything that sounded interesting or overqualified for menial work. I felt duped and naive. Wasn’t college supposed to be the hard part? Now that it was over, my degree didn’t seem to count for anything.
I spent days wallowing, feeling bad for myself and, much to my horror, reverting back to my teenage self. I despised the idea of living at home, and started acting out by being mean and sarcastic to my family. I didn’t feel like myself anymore. In college, I was a model student: I studied hard, I was involved in clubs, I worked out regularly, and managed to still carve out time for my friends and boyfriend. I was embarrassed of the angry and unmotivated person I had become in just a couple of months. I wondered where the driven and successful person I was in college went, and how I could get her back.
After a couple of weeks of feeling caught in a downward spiral of self-pitying and social isolation, I finally worked up the motivation to go out with a friend. She had also just graduated college, where she had been a very successful student and leader on campus. I had no doubt that she would find the same success after graduation. But, to my surprise, she was experiencing the same issues as me. A couple of days later I caught up with another friend from high school, and found that she had a similar story to tell. I started reaching out to more people I knew who had recently graduated, and I kept hearing the same story over and over again. Almost everyone was having a hard time transitioning to adult life. Over the course of these conversations, I realized that I was not alone in my experience. Unfortunately, feelings of loneliness, worthlessness, and frustration with job hunting are common among post-grads.
Once I realized that post-grad depression is so common, I started to feel relieved that I was not alone. Instead, it felt like a cruel but necessary right-of-passage on the way to becoming a successful adult. I felt solace in the fact that this was a seemingly normal phase that I would eventually overcome. But I also started to feel deceived. If this phase of depression was so common then why did no one warn me that it was going to happen? In fact, everyone told me the exact opposite. I was told that my early twenties were going to be the greatest part of my life and that, with a good work ethic and a college degree, I would be bombarded with exciting job opportunities, that it would be ridiculously easy to meet new friends, and I would have so much freedom to spontaneously travel and pursue my passions. But, instead of being exciting, a lot of the time, being in your early twenties just sucks.
Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful that my parents let me move back in with them and that I am not drowning in student debt. I realize that I am privileged to even have the financial freedom to be unemployed and search for a meaningful career, instead of being stuck in a dead-end job. But, even with all of my parental and financial support, finding a job, a new friend group, and a new sense of drive outside of student life is hard!
There is an unfair pressure placed on graduates for your early twenties to be an exceedingly joyful time. This pressure can be so great that we are ashamed to acknowledge when it doesn’t turn out that way. So, to all the struggling post-grads out there: let this be a reminder that you are not alone, and that you shouldn’t feel ashamed if you are not the carefree, effortlessly successful, and financially independent young professional that everyone said you would be. And, to all the soon-to-be graduates: know that this is an unrealistic expectation to put on yourself. Graduating will not automatically gain you access to a fun and fabulous life, but that’s OK. You don’t have to have it all figured out. I can assure you that almost none of us do.