So, Post Graduation Blues. Surely this is a myth? An overly-entitled millennial problem because finding a job is hard work? Perhaps you could be cynical and agree with the former statement. The days and weeks after any monumental occasional can feel deflated. Graduation and end of exams were big moments, I cried a lot, so perhaps any dose of reality would leave a bitter taste.
Except, as is often the case in our social media driven world, everyone spent their summer posting happy snaps online and yet explaining in person how difficult they’ve found this period. I’m guilty of it myself – I posted sunshine filled snaps of a trip to Croatia despite having spent the whole holiday desperately refreshing my emails while I awaited results from two interviews (I didn’t get either of the jobs, for the record).
This post is part of a series focusing on life after graduation, the inevitable job hunt involved, and the moods I didn’t quite expect. Don’t get me wrong – I spent a lot of my summer finally catching up with friends, eating food and celebrating what had been an incredibly hard final year. I (somehow) got a First class result and that in itself was a great excuse to drink cocktails or go shopping for weeks and weeks. But, in every catch up conversation with a fellow grad since we parted ways in July, it’s striking just how many of us experienced some Post Grad Blues. A funk or slump we didn’t see coming and couldn’t quite shake.
Some graduates will tell you they felt unnaturally tired. “It’s like the more I slept, the more I realised I hadn’t been sleeping properly for months – like I was catching up on the whole final year of sleep I needed”, said one friend. Others may feel directionless – “Masters? Grad Scheme? Run away to the wilderness and never look back?” joked another.
I relied heavily, throughout final year, on promising myself that after my final exam I could feel ‘normal’ again. And then, to my great sadness, I discovered it took weeks to regain any sort of balance. The first few days were a happy haze but I couldn’t help feeling like I’d slightly lost direction. I researched every career path you can imagine and yet still wasn’t sure what industry would be the right fit. I also spent the first few days after my last exam unable to make any decision – if my parents asked me what I wanted for dinner I’d practically burst into tears. Life immediately after graduation isn’t perfect – far from it – and it’s okay to admit we’re struggling.
Change of Routine
An article I read attributed Post Grad Blues to a change of routine. Is it really that simple? Well, University had a structure, a timetable dominated my week, and suddenly entering the realm of ‘not a student but not yet an adult’ felt very empty. My days had nothing other than ‘find a job’ and ‘walk the dog’ on my to do list. I didn’t have any money because I wasn’t yet working and yet a lot of my friends found employment more quickly than I did, so I felt a little like I was waiting for my amazing graduate life to start.
Of course, some of the changes were positive. My diet went from cheap wine and Aldi’s finest frozen goods to delicious, home-cooked meals. My sleep routine improved, and I actually started to drink enough water. Daily cuddles with a dog does wonders for your sanity.
Change of Environment
The change from living at university to living at home was as I expected – not exactly seamless. “It’s the little things you forget”, explained a friend. “Your best friend isn’t just across the corridor anymore, they’re suddenly bloody miles away”. For most graduates, life after university involves at least a short period of living at home, back with parents and siblings that you might not have lived with for a few years. It’s an adjustment which can be slightly harder than anticipated because you’re not just ‘back for the holidays’ or ‘back to study’ – you’re back for good.
I found it challenging that I went from living in Selly Oak’s finest area, with easy access to the wonderful city of Birmingham… to life in a village. It’s leafy and beautiful, but there’s absolutely nothing within walking distance. Without a car, life became a little stagnant. Thank goodness for online shopping. On another note, the dog barking totally gives it away when I try to sneak home in the early hours of the morning post gin drinking.
Change of Pressure
More than anything, I found myself wrestling with a tiny existential crisis each morning. Of course, this sounds totally dramatic, but it was probably due to a change in pressure. Rather than exams to prepare for, or deadlines to meet, my goals became huge, sweeping and seemingly impossible statements. ‘Get a job‘. ‘Choose a Career‘. Every moment spent not job hunting felt guilty, and yet all I wanted to do for a while was sleep and watch Netflix.
Is this universal?
Regardless of the reason, most graduates find graduating, moving back home and job hunting a slight shock to the system. Moving to University was scary for sure but there was advice, systems, and people in brightly coloured t-shirts showing you where to go for your first couple of days. Graduating felt a little like being pushed into the deep end and expecting to swim straight away. Of course, we probably make it worse for ourselves, because no one talks about how tough it can feel. I’m going to be brave and say it, to the Internet and mostly my Mum – life post-graduation was scary, difficult, and at times really draining.
Post-grad blues were a real issue for me, and it took a lot longer than I expected to feel like myself again. This blog post has sat in my drafts for months now, because I didn’t want to admit how much this affected me. It’s easier to be vulnerable retrospectively, but this is a conversation I’d like to be part of. Of course, a lot of laughter, sunshine and gin-drinking can help anything. The post-grad slump was unexpected, but luckily, it wasn’t too long before everything balanced out and life was brighter.
Why is talking about life post-graduation important? You can read my introduction post here. Stay tuned for the next bright and cheerful post in this series – Rejection and Negotiation.