It's graduation season and recent grads are finding themselves at the epicenter of the perfect storm of anxiety, nostalgia, debt, hopefulness and new beginnings. Graduation is a time of great joy but it can become a time filled with many unknowns. Handling these new feelings and situations takes a bit of practice and patience.
Upon leaving K-12 education, I found myself entering into a graduate program without any expectation other than receiving a Masters degree while bolstering my knowledge and earning potential. But the friendships I left with and the transformations I experienced created a safety net of sorts for me that I’d grown accustomed to. The effects of that final surreal week were not felt until the Monday after graduation was over. Had I known that my body would need to readjust, I would have taken a week off of work.
I found myself sleeping excessively, emotionally confused and in a mental haze of sorts. At one point I was lost on my smartphone, wondering which app would help me find my way down the street… Yes, it was that bad. What was happening to me? I then realized that my body was going through a detox from the lack of sleep and the heightened amounts of adrenaline I lived on for the two intense years of my program. Besides that, the elevated and somewhat euphoric state of the actual graduating experience- putting on the cap and gown; seeing family in one place all focused on me; saying goodbye to people I’ve grown close to; and the whole host of other high energy, celebratory activities that burst into the fireworks of you’re now done- left me emotionally spent once it was all over. When the dust settled, what’s left?
I was left with a lot of questions. How am I going to make my loan payments and sustain my household? What was I going to do now? How will I make this degree work for me? When will I empty my inboxes? What should I fix first in my home? When will I tackle this mountain of laundry? How will I fill my time? When exactly are those loan payments starting?
There were so many questions, and even years later some are left unanswered. Ultimately it takes time to recover and heal (yes heal) from intense post-graduate study. Here’s a bit of advice I have to help soften the blow of graduation for recent college grads:
It's easy to feel overwhelmed but keep it all in perspective. Nothing happens overnight; growth is a process. It took time to get from application to graduate. It’s going to take time before you fully recover, appreciate the experience, and opportunity that was available to you. Believe it or not, you’ve got a lot of time on your hands. You’re either going to fill your calendar with anxiety, more work, nothing, obligations for others or activities you enjoy- choose wisely. Congratulations!
Did I miss anything? Please share any helpful tips you have in the comments!
I'm a former teacher and former college athlete, currently working to make life more equitable for all people. My mission is to get parents to partner with their child's teacher.