It’s finally June, which means that a good portion of the population is wandering around in a state of emotional turmoil. I’m talking about the recent graduates; those “not a kid, not yet an adult” creatures that have just been tossed head first into the “real world” with no floaties or ladders or water noodles to help guide them. No one tells you how to deal with the weird combination of joy, sadness, and confusion that hits you when you graduate and after a few weeks, all of the competing emotions inside your brain can start to make you feel like a crazy person. (“I’m crying. How long have I been crying? Are these happy tears? I DON’T EVEN KNOW.”) Here’s the good news: This is completely normal. Everyone goes through these confusing “post grad” phases and most of these stages are pretty easy to recognize. Let’s talk about what to expect.
1) The “I’m Finally Done!” Stage
Say goodbye to the late night cramming sessions, the mountains of busy work, and the unhealthy junk food diets. It’s over. You’re free. You’re freer than Dobby with a pair of socks or a wild horse in a beautiful pasture or a dresser on the side of the road. With no homework or essays weighing you down, you have all the time in the world to catch up on all of those TV shows you’ve been ignoring the past few months. (Jane the Virgin, I’m looking at you.) Those first few weeks after graduation were made for decompressing. Don’t even feel bad about it.
2) The “Wait, Now What?” Stage
OK, so your Netflix queue is empty. And you finished all of the personal projects that your busy class schedule prevented you from completing. Now what? Unless you’re one of the lucky souls that has secured a job or a grad school acceptance letter, you may find yourself staring at an empty calendar with a pen in hand and no idea what to do with it. This uncertainty can be crippling and can set off the next phase . . .
3) The Job Panic Stage
If you’ve been lucky enough to spend some time lounging, you will eventually find that even the most dedicated Netflixer has a limit. After four weeks on the couch in your pajamas, you may decide that applying to jobs may actually be preferable to doing nothing all day. (It sounds crazy, I know, but you can only watch so much 30 Rock before you start getting restless and talking like Kenneth.) Maybe you take a random job just so you have an excuse to stop looking for a while and save some money. Maybe you accept a job that’s not in your desired career path. Maybe you stumble on your perfect position and live happily ever after. I don’t know. All I know is that the need to do something (and earn money) will kick in eventually and there’s no “right” way to approach that feeling.
4) The Life Panic Stage
When you graduate, you will likely stop viewing life in chunks (fall semester, winter break, spring semester, summer, etc.) and start to see it as the big chaotic picture that it truly is. While this new perspective can be exciting, it can also be overwhelming. Imagine spending your whole existence viewing life as a series of manageable puddles only to wake up one day and find an ocean sitting on your front porch. That’s post-grad life and if that’s not terrifying, I don’t know what is. (That’s a lie, yes I do. Bees. Bees are terrifying.)
5) The “Jesus Take the Wheel” Stage
Have you ever been so overwhelmed with responsibilities that you want to throw your hands up into the air, collapse on the bed, and nap? That’s what this stage is about. You may not have your whole life figured out the second you get out of college. (In fact, I’d be impressed if you had your next few hours figured out.) After months of job hunting and soul-searching you may find yourself at a professional or emotional crossroads. As tempting as it is to want to plan every step of your life and find out what lies at the end of every road, doing so will send your blood pressure skyrocketing and will impede the personal growth that makes real life so exciting. Instead of sitting at that crossroads, obsessively mapping out the pros and cons of every potential decision, sometimes it’s better to just pick a road, close your eyes, and hit the gas. You may not be able to see the path ahead and you may have no idea where it’s going but you won’t find out until you take that leap. You’ve totally got this.