Fresh outta school… now what?

I couldn’t wait to get out of there. School literally drove me insane. I tried to schedule my breakdowns so they wouldn’t be in conflict with really important tests. That’s how bad it would get. But I wouldn’t say I hated school. I was just very, intensely, excruciatingly discontented. And anxious. And pretty much depressed a lot of the time but I didn’t take it against school! It works for some people. In fact, it works really well for some people. But not for me. Definitely not for me. It was like trying to slam a coconut into a slot on an ice cube tray.

Girl, you couldn’t hand me my diploma fast enough. Don’t get me wrong — I was profoundly grateful for the privilege of my education. I met a handful of friends and professors I will treasure ‘til the day I die. But it was a different kind of education I had always been in pursuit of, and graduation day was the last thing in the way of that.

So there I was, itching in my toga, just another sweaty person in a sea of hundreds of other sweaty persons. The afternoon droned on with speeches by important people (I didn’t know who they were), diplomas (I had one, thank god), some sentimental video (not my thing), a tentatively sung alma mater (at least on my part), and then finally, I was free from the oppressive institution of standardized education! Toss the confetti! Sound the trumpets! Send some champagne to CHED!

Then it hit me. After the euphoria of it all died down, I realized I was free. But only as free as a wee babe thrown into a den of snakes. Fear! Anxiety! I wasn’t oblivious to the hardships of adulthood, and I knew better than to romanticize working life. (Does anyone even do that?) But in that moment, I was actually there. It looked a lot less scary the day before graduation.

Suddenly all the things I wanted to do didn’t seem that fun anymore. Every time I watched Steven Universe, “Fine, Garnet!” would sound like “Find a job, yet?!” (Give me a break Steven, I just graduated!) Every time I opened a book on my “not-school” shelf, all the pages seemed to yell out, “You’re a failure! You haven’t even done anything yet and you’re already a failure!” (God, Little Prince, I said I just graduated! Your aggression is so unwarranted!) Even little joys like adding items to my online shopping cart had lost their luster. (Maybe ‘cause I didn’t have money since I DIDN’T HAVE A JOB.)

Fast forward to less than a month later, and I’m here writing this article right now. And working a couple side gigs. How did that happen? And I guess since I solved the whole job thing, this is the part where I share with you some significant discovery about life after graduation. But the truth is — I have no freakin’ clue what’s going on.

Leaving college, I thought I knew who I was. I thought I was sure of what I wanted to do. I was so focused on my dreams that I had overlooked everything else I had to do to guarantee I’d survive long enough to see my dreams manifest. I thought I was prepared. To every wary adult, I said “Yes, I know it’ll be hard. But I can do it.” You’re a riot, college me. Hard? Hard? Any time anyone brings up anything adult-related, I make puking noises (like, you know, a mature adult would do). These days it feels like the only solace I can find is screaming into the void except the void screams back saying “Nobody cares! And by the way you suck at everything you love to do!”

But you know what, I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s only been a month, after all. It’s been a month, and I’m already working! Sure, I never got to have that break I planned to at least have some time to recover from my college burnout, but I know I’ve got it good. At least, I choose to see it that way. I’ve got it good in the sense that I’m struggling, but just enough to grow. The universe is still so kind.

College was tough on me. It was tough on everyone I know. We’ve all got our strengths, but school forces us to confront our weaknesses (although Calculus and I will never be on good terms again). And that’s how it is after college too, I suppose. Life is going to make us uncomfortable in every way imaginable, and all we can really do is awkward-laugh it off.

School can only equip us with so much. If it could teach us everything, we never would have needed to graduate and move on to something else. The scary thing about life off-campus is that we can never really track our progress. What grade does my new article get? What are the requirements I need to pass to move on to the next stage? When do I move on to the next stage? Heck, what is the next stage? Am I doing what I’m supposed to be doing? Am I doing good? Am I doing enough?

But I’m trying to condition myself into seeing it as finally being able to play by my own rules (well, to a degree). Instead of being anxious about the great unknown, I’ve chosen to be excited. Might sound dumb, but it works. Repeat after me: “I have no idea about what’s going on, and I am excited about it! I have zero control, and I am excited about it!”

Kidding aside, what can I do but watch the world spin madly on? What can I do but join in the madness, revel in it, enjoy every bit of it?

So in between the mini anxiety attacks, I try to picture myself on an adventure. Around every corner is someone new to collaborate with, something new to work on, something horrible to endure, something wonderful to celebrate. I am constantly allowing myself to be shocked, but not shaken. Once a student of the university, now a student of the world — finally. It’s back to square one. Wouldn’t it be boring as hell any other way?

It’s a new kind of crazy out here, folks. And to be honest, it’s the crazy I prefer.

Tags:
#career #school #self

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