Someone once told me that being a student is a form of identity, and that graduating leads into an identity crisis. Those words resonate with me now more than ever, as I try and figure out the ins and outs of this post-grad, adult world. Being a student really is an identity. It’s a job title when you get the inevitable question “so what do you do?.” The easy answer is, “Oh, I’m a student”. It’s a financial status, when you are eating nothing but ramen noodles for a week and you can easily fall back on “I’m a student! I’m broke”! It’s a living situation, when your house or apartment is falling apart and you can state it’s just a student house. It’s a health status, when you haven’t slept in 3 days or showered in a week during exams, and it gives you an excuse to party endlessly without anybody judging you for it. Being a student really is a judgement free zone from the outside world, and the minute you graduate, your whole world turns. All of a sudden, working at the local coffee shop doesn’t seem adequate enough when your parent’s friends ask you “so…where are you working now that you’re graduated?”, saying you’re broke means you’re just not saving properly, and getting drunk every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night becomes irresponsible and looked down upon.
Often, it feels like everyone around you has it all figured out, and when you build a linkedin profile to try and start your career, the names and faces of those you graduated with are staring back at you, with their successful sounding careers headlining their tiny box.
It’s so easy to feel inadequate and inexperienced when you go up for jobs against those so much wiser in their field. I know for myself, I spent 4 years working tirelessly in classes, in clubs, at networking events, on mentorships, doing everything I could to ensure I would succeed in my chosen path, and yet still left feeling as though I hadn’t taken even one step towards my goals. And that’s for those of us who have an idea of our career path, but for many that’s not the case. Going through 4 years of school doesn’t necessarily guide you towards your dream job, and it’s easy to become lost in a sea of others success when you step outside your post-secondary bubble. Many people opt to travel, which is a wonderful way to expand your horizons, learn more about yourself, and discover other cultures, and is highly encouraged when you are young enough to leave without much of a care. However, it can also feel like another way we try to put off reality, and delay the inevitable fact that we may have to one day face the world of 9-5 and paying bills, of stability and boredom.
Outside of the job front, there comes the struggle of leaving the friends you’ve made over the past four years, and for many people, returning home to live with your parents after years of living away. It’s easy to revert back to feeling like a teenager, living by your parents’ rules and having your dinner made for you. It’s challenging to remember what it’s like to live under someone else’s roof, without the ability to come and go freely and decide when you are going to clean your house, or let it become disgusting. Maybe you feel like you’re growing past your friends, and longing for a change in your surroundings, knowing you’re meant for more than your small hometown, or maybe you’re struggling to catch up.
When you’re young, you think that by 22 you’ll have it all figured out. Hell! You’re a grownup who should be off having a family and a career and a house of your own. But that’s not reality, not even close. I guess what I’m trying to say is this; university life is a really amazing, fun, hard, exhausting, hilarious, and rewarding experience, and coming out of it may make you feel pretty lost and confused. But the one thing to remember is that everyone is going through the same thing, you’re not alone, and you’re not falling behind the “normal” timeframe, because there is no normal time frame for your life. We all are just figuring it out as we go along, we may not even know where we’re going until we get there, but we take it one step at a time, and we all figure it out in the end.