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The unforeseeable reality of life after college

Sep. 5, 2018
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Every morning, I wake up to the same rudderless day. My sole routine is the tweaking and proofreading of the same cover letter and resume I tweaked and proofread yesterday. Meals don’t even matter anymore. I often find myself drowning in myriad of thoughts, worries, and unanswered emails. Food only ever crosses my mind when the hunger pains in my stomach become unbearable. Ironically, my days are just as exhausting as they are miserable. When endless sitting, staring, and typing doesn’t tire me, hoping for the best does. At times I feel like there is something wrong with me and that everyone else in the post-undergrad world is living their best life while I sit and type an article about being unemployed. 

I have come to realize, however, that this is not true. 

Job hunting is hard, and a lot more people suffer from the stresses of post-college life than we might think. Just this week, I’ve seen several posts from friends and strangers about the challenges of finding a job after college. 

“Post-grad life is weird,” says a former classmate while another posts a lengthy Facebook post about the realities of post-graduate depression. 

It’s interesting and extremely comforting to see that there are many who are struggling with the same thing as me despite the happy images and messages that we see every day on social media, but it raises my next question: why does everyone try to seem so happy? 

I’m proud of the friends who have been honest about their worries, but I know that it’s far beyond the image of perpetual happiness that we’ve been taught to maintain. It’s nice to feel like I’m on the same level of human as everyone else instead of trying to force a smile for my IG brand. Of course, posting a string of depressing quotes and captions isn’t going to help anyone, but a little truth and authenticity adds a nice touch to reality. 

It’s hard for me to remember the exact moment when I felt that saying “I’m doing well” was a lot more acceptable than saying the opposite, or even that the simple phrase “I need help” was a sign of weakness and desperation. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my little time as a college graduate, it’s that the words “help me,” whether spoken or conveyed otherwise, are two that I will use often. Honestly, it relieves a lot of the pressure. Whether we like to admit it or not, we’re all figuring everything out as we go. We map out our plans and strategize how we will reach our goals, but it’s often in the missteps where we find our footing. 

I’ve been unemployed for three months. I planned to move to L.A. after returning from Barcelona, but that has yet to happen. It’s been a long three months of “hurry up and wait,” a continuous hustle of responding to job ads and hoping for the best. The funny thing is that three months is relatively short in the job hunting universe. I’ve come across plenty of posts with people well into nine months of unemployment. I’ve realized that my sense of time or lack thereof is extremely subjective to my problems, an obvious fact that has become oblivious to many. 

“It’ll take as long as it takes,” says a former professor and close friend whose advice has come to be more of a comfort than an annoyance. 

Time is subjective, and the more I remind myself of that, the more I realize that I am in control. I choose how to spend my time, and I can have power over the things that worry me. The job I want will not be easy to obtain, but I get to choose how to utilize my time in the land of meanwhile. This also means making time for myself. It’s easy to disregard mental health when success seems to be the only antidote to misery. Things I like to do include leaving the house every day, going on a short walk, reading a book, watching Netflix, and practicing Spanish. I have to remind myself that the things I do now will also affect my mental state when I’m hired.   

As much as I would have loved for a shiny job offer to enter my inbox within the past thirty minutes, it did not happen. Instead, this is the part of the article where I discuss self-encouragement and perseverance. Two words that will feel overused and worn out once you’re in my situation but also, two words that will feel like the only sliver of hope you have left. Oddly enough, seeing posts and hearing the problems of others who have been in my situation and listening to how they overcome has been the most helpful. Reading occasional “don’t give up” tweets has also been encouraging but more than anything, I’m learning to be nice to myself. The last post that I saw on Instagram from Adolescent said “Your value is not based on productivity,” and it resonated with me in more ways than one. My worth is unaffected by the amount of work I put into finding a job, and not having a job certainly doesn’t make me any less valuable. My job search will eventually come to an end, but the way I see myself never will.

These are the things that we all need to hear. Sometimes, pretending that everything is great can be more detrimental than sharing your problems. Life after college isn’t easy, and it’s time we stop believing that we need to have our shit together by the age of 25.