How to Stay Cool after Graduating University

Originally posted on Medium.

They don’t tell you how hard it can be.

Disclaimer: This is very much just a personal laundry list. I’m in no shape or form qualified to give anyone advice. My story, just like everyone else’s, is very personal and unique. There are many people who do not feel these things at all and have it all figured and planned, but I am certain there are many, many that do.

1. After you graduate, you’ll realize that there’s nothing but emotional sentimentality that ties you to your alma mater. This realization will be coupled with the realization that you can finally cut relationships and label it “moving on.” I really hate ending things, I’m sure I’ll even be sad when Rogers finally frees me of their binding contract. Apart from the monthly shocking statement, there was tons of memories in the years of texts and phone calls. As a graduate, you no longer have that freedom of “catching up before class with coffee” or “I’ll see you at that event” or “let’s study together.” The relationships that are meant to be are the ones that are independent of your student lifestyle. And that’s really great, really — trimming the fat is wonderful.

2. You have to have some sort of a life plan. It really doesn’t have to be anything elaborate or grand, but it has to be something realistically possible. It has to be something that’s challenging but not to the point where it becomes crippling. If you can have a life plan that’s longer than a year, kudos. The plan is the only thing that will give you a sense of purpose, something to wake up and do when there is no structure.

3. You have to get your family on board with your plan (or like, really really good friends who will pick up the phone right away). They have to absolutely 100% support your choices and like, still love you. There will be days where you wake up and question all your life choices. There will also be days when you can’t sleep and you just need to hear their voices. If you don’t have them to list all the reasons you’re not a complete failure, you really won’t make it. Also, the more tough love, the better. This is because you’ll want to do really ridicoulous things with your life and they have to step in and tell you that it’s not a good idea in the best way possible. A good support system will also remind you of your capabilities and competences, which is necessary….because you forget.

4. You will actually forget about your skills and your past experiences through the mind-boggling, humbling process that everyone goes through at some point or the other: Job Searching. It’s the most brutal, life sucking thing and I’d honestly rather just go back to school and do exams. But, I think it means truly accepting that it’s supposed to be this hard. And also, having faith in all the gods that you don’t believe in that eventually, eventually, things will have to work out. A comment like, “you’re trying, you really are. you are the definition of auto-pilot motivation” will keep you going for days.

5. If you’re playing the waiting game — waiting back from interviews, waiting from graduate schools, waiting to hear back about this or that oppurtunity, you have to make lists to decrease anxiety. The lists can be about everything and anything under the sun that interest you. You don’t even have to write it down, because this really isn’t homework. I made lists of places I want to visit before I die, lists of artsy craftsy things to make that I actually won’t, recipes that look easy enough to attempt. I made playlists of my favourite summer tunes, lists of book recommendation that I’d eventually get to. My more complex lists were of careers that I could envision myself doing — I thought about everything from nursing to web development.

6. You have to have a hobby — nothing is more important during a quarter life crises or periodic existential crises than a hobby. Although reading has been a pretty consistent hobby in my life, I picked up drawing/sketching again. Reading allowed me to get perspective about the bigger picture. It is an exercise in gratitude to remember all that you have going for you. But in general, there is something beautiful about losing track of time when you have a lot of time. I also started writing again because I have a lot of unexpressed emotions that needed to get expressed.

7. Similar to the last one, you have to keep busy. When your main task is just to apply for things, it’s easy to drown in a pool of Netflix and a diet of Ritz crackers and pop. I’ve gone through cycles of introversion and extroversion, and I’ve learnt to embrace that (not always very elegantly). There are some days you just won’t want to be home and want to catch up with everyone. Then, there are others were the thought of making small talk will bring you more anxiety than deemed possible.

8. You have to be the master of faking happiness. You have to master the art of lying to yourself about how happy you are. I know it seems really twisted, but I believe that when you truly believe you’re super happy, you’ll be bouncing with positivity. And let’s be real — you only get anything done when you’re in a positive mindset. Although fooling yourself is incentive enough, no matter how much your friends/family love you, nobody really likes a joykill and so master the art to maintain your relationships.

9. You have to laugh at yourself because really, what else is there to do? If you keep thinking about your past choices, you’ll drive yourself insane because you really can’t move backwards in time. If you constantly think about the future, you stop living in the present. If you stop living in the present…that’s…that’s….just silly.

10. You have to reach out to all your friends who have graduated and have adult lives and listen to everything they say. They have been through this and now afford rent. Their lives are magical and they tell you ridiculous things like, “it’ll all work out.” Older friends also have great networks and will connect you to amazing people and their resources. They are a standing and breathing ovation to the fact that job searching for x number of days isn’t the end of the world.

11. You have to remember to do all the things that are necessary to living such as eating, sleeping and excercise. Even though you have no where to go and perhaps no routine, your body still needs it’s basic requirements. These are all challenging things when you don’t know what you’re meant to be doing and that you’re just wasting time…. but, yeah.

12. You have to read the news, everyday to remind yourself how small you are in the grand scheme of the world. You have to read the news everyday to remain humble and practise gratitude. You have to read the news to participate in the bigger picture of humanity, perhaps take a stance, have a perspective, understand the issue. You have to remember how small you really are. You have to remember how small your problems are not just within the grand scheme of things, but even within your lifetime.

13. A mentor of mine told me that it’s hard because for many of us, it’s the first time we don’t have a plan. For the first 18 years in your life, you (or I did, anyway) spend every waking moment doing whatever it takes to get to university. You volunteer, study hard, do standardized tests, etc. When you go to university, you became wrapped in student life — figuring out majors, figuring out classes, finding your community and your people. Your main goal is to graduate. Once you do, it’s only natural that you feel this sense of loss because you haven’t quite figured out the next step (in my case, anyway).

Please write to me if you have any thing to add to this or have any personal anectodes. I will happily include and reference you. There will also be the added benefit of being friends and such.