LifestyleSelfhelp

The Truth About Post Grad Life

What happens after graduation? People often either take time off and go traveling to see the world. Others might continue with more school, take on an internship, or land a new job. Some simply go into shut-down mode and hide in their parents’ basement. Before you reach the conclusion that there’s only one right path, no choice is necessarily the wrong move. Ultimately, we do what is best for the pace we go at.

Currently, we are the most over-educated and underpaid generation. I graduated from college two years ago. Looking back, it still feels just like yesterday. But I’m not going to be the type of person to romanticize it and say that I miss it. Because I don’t. There were so many torturous nights I experienced asking myself what I was doing. And I still ask myself that question today. But the difference between the person I was two years ago and the person I am today exists in the manner of which I am prepared to live with the consequence of each conscious choice I make.

When you’re in your 20’s, it’s so easy to rely on your youth to make up excuses for yourself, believing that none of your actions have to be justified. The people you hurt —the plans you bail out on —the things you choose not to be honest about —all of those decisions will eventually catch up to you. And then you ask yourself why you’re nowhere close to having the stability you crave for. I ask that, before you take the next leap, look behind you and all of the fires you still have yet to put out.

I used to be a person driven by fear —paralyzed by it, too. And I hated myself for it. But luckily, I broke out of that terrible spell when I watched my own grandmother collapse on the sidewalk in Hong Kong and realized I wasn’t living the way I wanted to enough. She passed away last summer. Death waits for no one, and people change at their own accord. You can’t ever reverse the damage; you can only count on the present.

When people place expectations on you, it’s inevitable that you will fail them. Failure is a large part of life. Once we can get past that, it’s not a big deal. When I first started out as a cocktail server as a sophomore in college, I felt massive relief when I spilled red wine all over a man’s khaki pants. The good news is that he didn’t kill me. He wasn’t even mad at me. Instead, he was actually a decent person and let it go.

Sometimes, it’s not always that pretty, but in life, the stains we get from red wine is unavoidable. Things get tipsy and rocky all the time. That’s just the way it goes. So, if you’re trying to live your life according to someone else’s standards, I urge you to ask yourself why you’re spilling someone else’s wine and not your own. Wine is expensive. And so is the time you can’t get back.

It’s hard to say where our true potential lies these days, but that doesn’t mean it was never there to begin with. We are the generation most laughed at and looked down upon because instant gratification is our middle name. We’re always one click away from getting answers on Google, one swipe away from meeting a love potential, and one friend request away from expanding our social network. Our world has become limitless and conveniently accessible.

Today, we have jobs that didn’t exist when our parents were young. They had to grow up fast because they had no choice and were thrown into their own generational difficulties just to provide for us. It’s so easy to take those things for granted, especially when things get lost in translation from the arguments, the misunderstandings, and the stress on both ends of figuring out where we’re both headed in our lives intertwined. In the process, we forget to humanize ourselves and each other.

It’s such a loaded question when someone asks you who you are and what you want to do in life. Maybe instead of asking what your future plan is, we should ask ourselves what we are afraid of. Everything stems back to our childhood from the moment we were conditioned how to handle and react to life.

I’m afraid of dying and what comes after. Afraid of people not caring enough. Of being reduced to regulations and systematic conventions. I’m afraid of waking up one day when I’m old, realizing that I didn’t make it to self-actualization. I’m so used to pondering over the big picture, because it’s the one thing that has kept me going when I think I’ve reached the lowest of my low. When you’re sitting in a well by yourself, all you can really do is stare up at the night sky and let the stars keep your sanity intact. But fear isn’t the end of something —it is only the beginning. Once we acknowledge this, it gets easier admitting what we actually want out of this life.

For some people, they already know what their passions are early in life and go after them wholeheartedly. For others, it kicks in like late puberty further down the road. The thing is, we need to stop comparing ourselves to others, thinking the grass is always greener on the other side. It’s not a race. Your best friend is getting married. That’s amazing. Your other friend just landed her dream job. Whoo! And you? Wherever you are right now, be thankful that you’re still alive and take life one step at a time. Trust that the universe will work in your favor, but don’t waste your time waiting for all the signs to fall in your lap. There’s a difference between living your life passively versus not having everything figured out, but still working on yourself.

The other night, I sat outside with my group of friends on one of their backyard porches. We sipped chamomile tea and talked about where we wanted to live in the future. It was so much better than going out to a raunchy bar drinking our brain cells away, because at least the silence was pure enough to let honest conversations flow. I watched the way her father played with their dogs and it all felt so simple and right. I wondered what life was like for him when he was our age, and I imagined it was probably just as turbulent, so seeing him in such a calm natural state gave me hope that that’s where I’ll end up one day, too.

School is a common place to learn about a topic you’re passionate about. But, it’s not everything and nor should it be. Life teaches you best when you fail your hardest. Failure teaches you resilience. And you can’t grow with perfect scores and smooth roads. That’s a terrible illusion. People should go into school with the mindset that it’s a place where they know they have to be to make their life goals come true. But that it’s all merely theoretical, and real experiences outside will do the ultimate testing.

You don’t know what you get yourself into until you’re actually doing it. It’s daunting because you’re probably sitting there, asking yourself if going through all those steps and years of schooling and pulling all-nighters was worth it. You may find you don’t ultimately want a job in what you studied for. The truth most people don’t like to admit is that it happens a lot more often than you think it does. It’s okay to say goodbye, take a break, and do something completely different and off the beaten track. Straying from your normal path in pursuit of what eventually feels right is a motion that normally occurs more than once. People often think that they have to choose a passion in life, but the passion actually chooses you instead.

The next question people often ask and have a difficult time balancing is finding ground between following their passion and aiming towards practicality that will pay the bills. It’s hard to say, especially coming from someone who doesn’t have all the resources herself. Right now, I’m actually in a position where I’m putting my dreams on hold. I came to an important conclusion just recently that I have to most likely work multiple odd jobs to save up until I can eventually go back to school to do the one thing I’m in serious pursuit of. Once I finally admitted to myself what I want, I felt better about things, no matter how uncertain or daunting the next few years look ahead, because at least I know now that I’m one step closer to knowing who I am.

Coming from my own experiences, it’s a lot better to face more struggles going after what you like instead of becoming addicted to making money with no actual self-growth. People think there’s an expiration date as to when you can and can no longer pursue more schooling, but that actually all depends on your own willpower. It’s never too late. The thing is, is everyone wants the ultimate dream life, but no one is actually willing to go through the pain, rejection, and uncertainties along the way. Again, we live in the age of instant gratification where we expect things to just happen. It’s dangerous to have that mindset because only stagnation and mud will be created.

I think as long as we stop putting up a front and realize that we’re all struggling in some ways to get to the one place we want to be, and help each other out instead of seeing others as mere competitors, people would feel better about voicing their concerns for the future. We’re all aiming towards it, so why all the secrecy of the pain we’re repressing? It’s okay to mess up and be stuck in limbo. And it’s okay to be the worst versions of ourselves. It’s all a part of the journey, so why rob yourself of every single opportunity to be your rawest, most authentic self? We live in a culture that’s polished behind Instagram filters, spell check, and Photoshop. It’s hard to find your real self when you’re constantly putting on a one-person performance for the world to appreciate. It can be suffocating.

It’s hard to be motivated about anything in life when you have no idea who you are, so don’t beat yourself up if you have no aspirations. It doesn’t make you any less of a person. There were definitely days that I didn’t think I could ever pick myself up again. I felt frightened and only wanted to shut the rest of the world out even more. Things seemed so meaningless then. The only way I got better was by picking one thing I cared about and completely immersing myself in it. Even if it started out as an innocent hobby. Sometimes, that’s all it takes to make things finally click.

I hope you have the guts to be the person you were meant to be. I hope no matter how rough the ride gets down the road that you won’t see conflict as an end. But rather as a test to show your true strengths. And I hope that you find someone —whether it’s your family, a friend, coworker, or a lover whom you can go to that you can share both your failures and successes together. It’s imperative to trust that who you are is enough to take you on the journey you were meant to take- which is within yourself. Good luck.

 

Recommended read:

Schwarzenegger, K. (2014). I Just Graduated…Now What? Honest Answers From Those Who Have Been There. NY: Crown Publishing Group.

 

 

Edited by Viveca Shearin

Catherine Huang
Catherine Huang graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a BA in English. She has a penchant for storytelling, ramen, and psychology. Catherine is a writer for Psych2Go and looks forward to reaching out to its growing community, hoping to encourage others to tap into self-examination and confront life's challenges head on with the most difficult questions.

12 Comments

  1. Love this! I can relate to and agree with what you’ve written. I enjoyed reading it and also felt glad someone thinks the same way as I do! It reminds us that we are not facing this alone.

    1. Hi Kelly! Thanks so much for reading! =) I’m glad I made you feel less alone. If I could, I would’ve given my old anxious college self this advice if only I knew then what the reality was. But, things can only be understood in retrospect. I hope you have a great day!

  2. Hi, Catherine. This post is awesome, reading it made me somehow happy.
    I can relate to the struggle. Graduated a year ago and got a job somewhere totally unrelated. Got myself into a “robotic” state where I would go to work just to be there waiting for days to pass by. When depression hit me I started finding myself again and remembered what I feel passionate about in the first place.
    I realized I do not want to work in the field I studyed for 4 years and would like to follow a differerent direction. And I am ok with it. In a way, I feel happy that things turned out this way. I learned that is ok not to follow that “finish highschool, choose a college, get a dregree, work the rest of your life in the field” pattern. The only problem now is the expectations other people have from me. But I have to handle this somehow, and I have the luck to have really supporting parents.
    The point is, we are here to live our lives, and the only way to truly live is to be our true self, to live in such a way that we are improving and learning everyday, to feel passionate and driven. If you get caught in other people expectations and limit yourself to what other people say it’s the “right way” to live, you are limiting your happines based on little moments happening at the end of the week or when Christmass comes around.

    We should all grow some balls, get up, and kick some ass.

    1. Hi Chill Dee, thanks so much for reading and I appreciate your honesty and own insights. =) Post grad life is tough, especially the fresh years when you’re out of college. It almost feels naked and unreal at times. But, I’m glad you’re doing exactly what you need to do to get yourself out of the terrible funk. The thing is, is that monotony and routine are inevitable, but it’s good to be selective and honest about what routines work for us. Good luck and I wish you the best, really and truly. =)

  3. Thanks for the read catherine. This article couldnt have come at a more relevant time for me. I recently just graduated with a psyche major but it requires grad school to be “successful” and as of right now, more schooling is something i definitely dont want to do and im not sure if thats a path i really want to take. I truthfully dont know what i want to do in life at the moment and its scary but its comforting to hear your words on trusting the universe. Thank you for the wonderful article.

    1. Hi Patrick, thanks so much for reading! I understand how you feel, and it’s totally okay to feel uncertain. It’s completely valid to just take a step back and ask yourself what you want to do. Honesty is huge and critical when it comes to working on fulfillment. The thing about life and growing up is that we’re all so fluid. What we want one day, we might not want the next. And what we thought we would never want to touch, we might end up pursuing. Life surprises us over and over again. Take your time and pace yourself. It’s okay to not know. It’s a lot. But, I think you’ll end up exactly where you need to be one day. =) It all just takes time. I am a firm believer of trusting the universe, but it’s also good to trust yourself, too. Best of luck.

  4. Thanks for that positive text. It’s hard to keep remembering we have only one life and we shouldn’t waste it by doing or being something/someone we don’t like !

    1. Hi Lucie, thank you so much for reading! =) Yes, I think it’s so easy for us to forget that we only have one life, mainly because we’re conditioned to let fear dictate and mold us. But, self-revelations are extremely powerful, because they free us. Best of luck! =)

  5. Catherine

    Thankyou for such amazing article

    Post Grad Crisis

    Pursuing a passion seems so unreal.

    After my first job I just realised I have no skill.
    I almost had a breakdown (not really haha but I have isolated myself) . Worst feeling of my life.

    I’m looking for jobs that will help me in my mphill studies.

    Don’t know Why I am pursuing Mphill. But I intend to do it.

    Thankyou for this article. It was eye opening and just what I wanted to read.

    1. Hello Aqsa Shah, thank you so much for reading! I think wherever we choose to start out, we always feel a little inadequate and give ourselves less credit than we deserve (it’s the imposter syndrome). But, I think it’s okay to struggle, because that part is very much real in anything, especially when we decide to pursue our passions. I think that by experiencing the struggles thrown our way, they test us more than anything else, whether or not we really want something and if we’re willing to go the extra mile to endure those hardships. Pursuing an MPhil sounds very noble, and even if you don’t fully know all the reasons as to why you’re doing it, I think they will unravel eventually as time goes on. You said you intend to do it, which shows that there’s willpower. It’s very much an important part of getting where you need to be one day. =) Good luck!

      1. Such Positivity and Kind Words.
        Thank you.

        Whenever I’m stuck at any point in my life, I feel like I’m hitting my head against walls and it’s of no use. I have had come out of those situations and I really hope this time it’s no different and Lord Help Me, this doesn’t turn into an Existensial Crisis

        Your Writing style is convincing and very mature. Not me only, but many silent readers need writers like you.

        Keep Shinning!

        1. Hi Aqsa Shah, thank you so much for your kindness and encouragement! =) I hope things turn around soon for you. It’s natural to reach a dead end at times. I was at the store earlier today, roamed in the books section, picked up a children’s book, and started reading it. It’s called “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss. They’re such simple words he uses, but they illustrate and highlight the ups and downs of life one will often go through. You can’t have the good without the bad. I think it’s okay to feel as if you’re struggling. It’s a very valid feeling. But, like all storms, they all have an end. And once you reach that, there’s a brief moment of clarity. I think when you look back one day, the struggle will have been worth it, because it’ll get you where you need to be eventually. Even the wrong turns we take in life have paths paved for us that we can take to get back on track. I think keeping an open mind is very important and being flexible to change. They say adaptability is a sign of intelligence, but I also think it’s a way of survival. So, I can only wish you good luck and hope that you continue to adapt to life’s curve balls to the best of your ability. Take care! =)

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