The Graduation Interrogation
So it’s spring semester. UNH Instagram has reminded us every chance they get that graduation is approaching. Your family began asking questions long ago about what your post-grad plans were, but they’ve become so frequent that you might as well just tattoo your elevator speech on your forehead. Hopefully you’ve applied for graduation by now; if not, I’m pretty sure you accidentally extended your stay here another semester. Either way you probably feel an anxiety-inducing slew of sadness, fear, nostalgia and excitement on the daily. Here’s how to work through those feelings and, more or less, survive.
Absolute optimism. Misery loves company and a lot of people have happened into a life they don’t necessarily want. They’ve been manipulated into valuing certain things that aren’t actually what they as individuals value. But here’s the thing: just because something is true of someone else’s life, doesn’t mean it will be for yours. If you don’t want an office job, don’t apply for any! If you need one to move away from home and that’s what you feel is best, take what you can and run with it. Create and seek out opportunities for yourself that push you and place you in situations for growth and appreciation. That being said, don’t wait to be in those spaces to practice blind optimism. Practice this with abandon.
I noticed at a recent family function that the negativity – others’ and my own – will not subside until I force it to by insisting on the opposite.
“Aren’t you nervous about not having a career-focused job out of graduation?”
Not as long as I’m making enough money to survive. I have 50 years left to work and figure it out, I’m in no rush.
“What about living with your parents, you won’t hate that?”
No, I love hanging out with my parents. Plus, the whole not pouring my life into a job only to afford basic necessities. On top of no longer living in a box. Also, Trivia Tuesdays with my parents and their friends. Yeah, no I’m pumped.
The questions will go on for a bit, but then they will slow and eventually cease. Giving in to the negativity will serve as a comfort to others at the expense of your own comfort. Avoid at all costs. Even if you are actually very worried about the things they’re asking about... fake it till you make it. So long as you nurse the idea that you’re dreading everything about post-grad, people will continue asking about it because it’s an easy, often relatable topic. When you write it off as a positive thing, it will become that in your mind and in theirs.
Having a difficult time committing to optimism and the questions have already gotten to you? Sending you over the edge into a pit of self-despair? Honestly same, dude, we’ve all been there. Here’s what you’ll find me doing while curled up on the floor in the corner of the room at the family reunion: rationing with my irrational mind. When your heart is heavy thinking about something or all of the things you will miss at UNH, write them down. Go through that list and hone in on what exactly you will miss about those things. What will you crave? Then next to each one, write how you can satisfy that craving beyond the boundaries of campus.
Example: I’ll miss being so close to my friends all the time. Treat it like you would a long-distance relationship, because that’s exactly what it is. Make sure to always have a plan for when you’ll see each other next. Schedule out a whole weekend to make sure the time is high quality. Facetime. Call. Send platonic love letters through carrier pigeons and Morse code. The time you have together can be so much more appreciated and of such greater quality than your 37th night in a far-too-swampy bar basement. Yeah that’s right, I said it.
Example: I’ll miss having stimulating conversations with professors and peers. Join a book club or discussion group. Attend public talks at a college closer to home. Ask your grandparents or neighbors or strangers about their lives! Everyone has some knowledge to bestow upon you, not just the ones you pay money to learn from. Welcome the new (free) resources that are at your disposal.
Reframe. Back to the optimism. I know, annoying at first but trust me. I’ll walk you through this one. You will probably never have this much freedom in choice again. You definitely will never have this much life ahead of you. That’s so exciting... you can literally pursue one career, then do a 180 and choose a different one.
You might end up hating it and switch it up again. We’ve been so restricted to a strict schedule and being told what to do and when to show up where. Graduating college, all of that falls to the wayside. If that means you have to work a temp job to save up money? Whaddup, I’m with you. If what you’re saving up for is a large vehicle to deck out and drive far, far away from that very job in a year? Hey, I’m still with you. My point is, what decision you make right now is yours and that’s really fucking cool. Choose with enthusiasm and change it up if you must.