I, like any other recent college grad, have enveloped myself in the fears and unknowns of post-grad adulthood. For years, I had a routine that involved classes, studying for those classes, and countless hours working to pay for those classes. I was so comfortable with that routine that I almost forgot it wasn’t a forever thing. The endless list of unknowns grows each day as I continue to apply for jobs. After almost a year of applying, I’ve basically accepted the fact that very few 20-somethings have their life planned out to a tee. This feeling hit me at graduation almost a year ago. While I have a thousand other words in my head that could apply nicely to the building stress of nothing happening in my year following graduation, Truth is this lovely feeling is anxiety.
Anxiety is a pretty strong word.
Anxiety: A state of uneasiness and apprehension, as about future uncertainties
I gave myself the benefit of the doubt when first thinking about how to take on this topic. Anxiety? Me? No way. And then someone asked me how the new job search was going. That’s when it hit me: I have absolutely no idea what will happen tomorrow, next week, or next month.
I don’t think I can explain how strange it feels to have free time when I’m not waitressing. That may strike some people as unusual. But for me, someone who works upwards of 50-60 hours a week, someone who used to take 18-21 credit hours a semester just to get extra classes in, free time feels foreign. I’m one who likes to plan ahead and stay organized. When I realize that I have a shift off, my initial instinct is almost a minor panic because I don’t have anything else going on workplace or education wise. As for my job search, well, let’s just say that seems to be a never-ending work in progress. It’s that little poking and prodding feeling of uneasiness that sets me on edge. When the post-grad life hit and I didn’t have every detail of my life in my control, that bothered me A LOT. That’s something I wasn’t ready to face.
Personally, I think now more than ever, college students have some right to the uncertainty that may follow after graduation in this not-so-awesome economy. In addition to that, the competition for jobs is higher than ever, as young entrepreneurs strive to become the next Mark Zuckerberg or Sophia Amoruso. You don’t need a college degree for a large number of employers today. So, what if I can’t do anything with my degree that I paid thousands for and worked hard for?
There are so many what ifs that just can’t be answered as quickly as we would like. What if I can’t find a job? What if student loans are too much to handle? What if I can’t afford an apartment or my bills? What if, what if, what if?
To the people who always convince young minds that they would never get anywhere without a college degree: BITE ME. Don’t get me wrong, high school was excellent preparation for college, but what the heck was the superfluous behavior of college intended to prepare me for? I think I know maybe a handful of people that had jobs in place before graduation. My degree and skills have been plastered to application and job boards like CareerBuilder and LinkedIn for over a year. I did everything right: I applied earlier, I took extra courses, I worked on building my portfolio, I got involved when the time was appropriate. But about six months after graduating and still not having any luck with a job, my degree felt like the last piece of toilet paper on the roll: useless.
My increasing panic that I would never land a job outside of the restaurant industry made me realize that nothing can truly prepare you for the real world. The number of what ifs that have gone through my mind is somewhat ridiculous; people always advise that you live day-by-day and take every moment in stride, but you can’t blame someone, especially a recent college graduate, for having anxiety about the future.
However, this transition period will pass.
Everyone else in our generation, believe it or not, is going through the exact same thing. They are mapping out a plan for living, expenses, and employment post-graduation that is likely to change. There is a little over a month left of what everyone believes to be the time of their lives. Hello? How can you not be worried about what’s next? This is a huge leap forward that we can never be truly prepared for. Everything changes after graduation: relationships, friendships, living situations, employment, finances, everything.
Feeling stressed is normal. The important thing to consider when realizing you are an anxiety-crazed maniac after graduating and not having a job or another plan is that you’re not alone. Job searching can take months. Keeping in touch with friends who have gone separate ways can be easy thanks to Snapchat, Facebook, and iMessage. Traveling in your 20s is now socially acceptable and even applauded. Who needs their life figured out by 22? Be adventurous, be spontaneous, be 22. Take time to enjoy the little things that you haven’t experienced yet.
In all seriousness, over the last couple of months alone, I’m realizing that the anxiety that I experienced post-graduation is okay and actually normal. You’re not supposed to know what will happen tomorrow. Life is unpredictable. Make unpredictable your motive for life after graduation. No, I’m not asking you to fall off the radar or drop all of your ambitions. I’m saying consider the what ifs as a challenge to making this transition time an adventurous one. Experiencing and embracing the what ifs in life is something you won’t be able to do with a full-time job and a family. Consuming yourself with worry about things that you can’t control isn’t the path for you; your fear of the unknown could hinder your possibility of unpredictable greatness. Make those months after college spontaneous. Make those what ifs a why not.
While we’re on the note of life being unpredictable, I was recently offered a job that I never even applied for or knew about. Turns out this job is exactly what I had been looking for in all of the wrong places. See, things really do work out.