I was recently asked to write a guest post for a blog geared toward Millennials who are struggling post-grad. For anyone interested, here it is!
I’m really not a crier, but the day after my college graduation, I found myself absolutely bawling my eyes out in my empty apartment. My roommates had left a couple hours earlier and I had offered to do a last sweep of the building for any forgotten items.
Packing up the remainder of my belongings all alone in a place that had become my home while listening to sappy music (I know, stupid move) just brought the tears flowing unlike anything else. Those tears didn’t really, fully stop the whole 4 hour drive home to my parent’s house either. Looking back, I guess the scale of my sadness at leaving college was a sign that I had an awesome college experience. (It’s true, I did, and I also highly recommend Taylor University to anybody out there looking!)
I wish I could tell you that that day was the last time I cried about leaving college, but that would be a lie. I’m twenty five now and still miss those days – when I thought writing a paper was stressful, when all my friends lived right down the hall, when I could stay up super late with seemingly no backlash the next morning. Even though I miss those days, I can assure you, life gets better. Not just easier to cope with, but truly better.
Here are some things that I had to learn to do in order to get past the post-grad depression in my own life.
#1: Take the Job
I know, I know. You paid thousands of dollars on a specific degree that you’re really passionate about. You had summer jobs and internships that were great experience. You maybe even graduated with honors. People should be dying to hire you for your dream job, right? Wrong. And I know it sucks. But here’s the thing, you’re never going to get that dream job sitting on the couch at home, scrolling through LinkedIn. There are, however, a bunch of other jobs out there!
I was an education major that graduated in December. Since school starts in the fall, there are really not a lot of teaching jobs available at that time. I got so discouraged. It seemed like no one was hiring high school social studies teachers. I got depressed, questioned my choice in major, questioned myself, questioned God’s plan for my life… but then, I took a job. An elementary school nearby was hiring for a paraprofessional position in a special needs classroom. This prospect was absolutely terrifying to me for a few reasons. First, I was not trained at all to work with elementary students or students with disabilities, let alone both. Second, this job was not even something that required a degree, and it was hourly with no insurance. Quite scary when I had just paid for college and moved to a new city with a new rent. But, I took it.
And I am so, so glad I did.
This job was not in my degree area, it was not well paid, it was not even something I necessarily wanted to do, but I learned A TON from it. I learned patience, humility, budgeting, and saying no to purchases that were wants instead of needs. I learned how to love unconditionally and appreciate each person’s uniqueness. I learned how to accept help from others and be coachable. I wouldn’t trade that job for anything.
And, eventually, since my resume said more than just “great at being in college,” I did get my dream job of teaching high school social studies. (Turns out it was because of a connection I made at the job I didn’t originally want, too!)
#2 – Put Down the Social Media
Moving away from your friends after spending four years living nearby is one of the hardest parts of post-grad life. The temptation is strong to spend a ton of time on social media, liking each other’s Instagram posts and Facebook statuses. I know I spent a ton of time online post-grad, but the effect it had on my life was not what I expected. I expected to feel more connected to my friends, but instead I felt more distant, more lonely, and more dissatisfied with my current situation. As Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” And when you’re trying to find contentment and joy in your current, difficult circumstances, the last thing you need to do is see who else got engaged, or pregnant, or hired, or took a trip around the globe just for kicks. Instead of creating community it creates bitterness. If you’re at a point of struggling like I was, put down the social media, and pick up the phone instead. You can still stay connected to your pals around the world without comparing yourself to them, and your relationships will be better for it.
#3 – Savor Your Singleness
Ok, I know some of you are going to laugh and roll your eyes at this one because you know I’m married. But hear me out. So many of my friends struggled a lot post-grad because they envisioned graduating with an MRS degree. No judgment, honestly, because being married is pretty great, but it is also limiting in some ways. As a single person, you don’t have to ask anyone what job you should take or where you should live or what you should do with your vacation days. You just DO it. You do what you want. If you someday hope to have a family, here’s some news for you: this is the only time in your life when you can be selfish and it’s ok. Take that vacation. Move to Seattle, or Boston, or Timbuktu. Stay out late at night. Discover what you’re truly passionate about and what your dreams are. Go after them! When you’re sitting at home feeling bummed that you don’t have a date on Friday night go do something spontaneous instead! Because you can! Savor it.
#4 – Find a Mentor
Trying to do things on your own is hard, especially when you’re fresh out of college. I graduated feeling pretty confident. I thought I could handle anything! However, I soon discovered that I needed some serious help. Finding a mentor was huge for me. I actually found several! One was a woman from my church who helped me out emotionally, and another was a woman from my job who was able to help me professionally. Find someone you can trust, someone you admire, someone who isn’t afraid to give you a hug or a smack depending on the day. It makes all the difference to know you’re not alone.
#5 – Get Active
One thing I finally realized while dealing with my post-grad blues is that I was certainly not the only one feeling this way. There are actually tons of ways to get out there and meet other people in your shoes – people who want to make friends and have big dreams just like you! What’s your thing? Are you athletic? Find a co-ed slow pitch softball team that needs an extra player. Spiritual? Join a church. Like photography? Join an Instagram group that meets up in your town to shoot together. Brainy? Find a good pub with a weekly trivia game and join a team. There are literally TONS of options out there and ways to be active in your new community, and lots of great people just waiting to befriend you, but they can’t do that if you’re hiding at home watching Netflix. Remember your first day of kindergarten? Walking up shyly to another kid and finally getting the courage to blurt out, “Hi! Want to play?” It’s really not so different for adults. Get out there, find some groups, and get smiling again. Real life is more than a job and an apartment. It’s people and passions, and you’d be surprised what kind of groups exist!
College was AWESOME. I loved every second of it. But life after college is awesome, too. I hope that you can find the joy and satisfaction that you’re looking for. No matter what your current circumstances, no matter if it’s nothing like what you thought it would be, life’s what you make it, and you can make it great.