Monday Musings: When The Post-Grad Blues Hit

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Welcome to ‘Monday Musings’!

A new segment from Teenplicity, ‘Monday Musings’ will explore personal interests and thoughts in a multitude of ways. Whether it be through lists, fan interaction, or discussion posts, each week will offer a different topic and new perspective from Teenplicity about what is on our mind. The range of topics, just like our interests, will be vast. Some might be familiar, as it could highlight previous feature stars, while others will discuss uncharted subjects for Teenplicity. They might be fun posts with a silly twist or a more serious discussion about something that could concern you.

The goal is for Teenplicity to become more engaged and involved with our readers. The Teenplicity Team is made up of fans, just like you. Let us know what you care about – a show, a film, music, an event or aspect of your life. There are no limits for what can be explored in ‘Monday Musings’ or how we present it to you.

Exactly a year ago yesterday, I walked across a stage in a lemon-yellow dress with a Beyoncé and Hamilton-inspired graduation cap. As I crossed the stage and shook the hands of some folks with high positions at my alma mater who, if I’m being completely honest, I do not remember the names and titles of, I turned around, showing my back and cap to the audience, and I threw my fist up in the air for a brief second.

Exactly a year ago yesterday, I walked across that stage a graduate of Columbia College Chicago with a Bachelors of Arts degree in Creative Writing (more specifically in studying Fiction and Television Writing).

Almost as a parallel to my first Monday Musings post, I think I want to start off establishing what this Monday Musings post could have been but is not going to be. This Monday Musings post is not going to be a “Where Are They Now?”-esque post. This Monday Musings post is also not going to be about the joys of finishing college. It is also not going to be about how ridiculously risky (and fine, I’ll admit, arguably pointless) my degree is in a world that doesn’t prioritize art as a career. This Monday Musings post is also not about the overwhelming doom student loans holds over you. (Although, my goodness that overwhelming doom has a hella stronghold.)

This Monday Musings post is about exactly what the title says it’s about: for when the post-graduation depression (or, ‘Blues’) hits. As I scroll through social media, filled with so much joy and warmth and excitement seeing folks graduate from college getting their Bachelors and Masters, sharing their journeys of what’s to come now that they’ve finished that chapter of their lives, I’m reminded about where I was then and how no one ever really talks about when the graduation high goes away. Or even if it doesn’t ever come at all.

Actually, I guess I’ll start back slightly further and if you can relate, you can relate. Every year when I finished school, I always felt at some point during the summer, some kind of emptiness. It felt weird that all of a sudden, I wasn’t in some classroom for five days a week and I had the opportunity to manage my time differently. I didn’t have to worry about homework. I could choose and read books at my leisure. I could hang out with friends and take naps and do nothing in ways that I couldn’t during the school year. I was a writer and a creative far before I realized it myself and in hindsight, I spent my summers doing that to keep myself occupied as well. And for some reason, this freeing feeling also often times filled me with anxiety. It made me feel like I should have been doing more. It made me feel like I was wasting my time because I wasn’t being “productive” although these were the things I wanted to do.

But, I never had to worry about feeling this longer than the three months it took for summer vacation to end until last year when I graduated from undergrad. Actually, it was a little bit after I graduated. For a while, I was riding what I now call my pretend high of graduating college. To be completely honest, nothing about graduating sunk in for me, but it felt like it did for everyone else so I took in that contact high instead of processing why I felt the way I felt. I was also exhausted. I allowed myself a couple of weeks to gather it all together and deal with the fact that a huge part of my life for so long was now over.

There was no real instant gratification that came with graduating for me. I didn’t have immediate career opportunities related to my field lined up despite reaching out to advisors like I was told to and despite doing the things those advisors told me to do that would “guarantee me a job in my field because I had the talent and drive!” And I’ll spare you the whole “used to being called a gifted student and now questioning just what gifts I truly had” spiel. But it was definitely there regardless.

What no one talks enough about when it comes to graduating is that everything feels instant but nothing feels more instant than the worry of failure if you have even just an inkling of it in you. The worry that you didn’t do enough. That you should have done more. That you didn’t make the right choices. That you aren’t good enough for what you want to achieve and do. That nothing is going to work out for you from now on. That you are going to fail and the fact that you didn’t soar immediately after you got off that stage is supposedly further proof.

I was still fairly busy around the time I graduated. In fact, immediately after my commencement ceremony ended, I went straight to a meeting with the nonprofit I’ve worked with for about two years, ICAH. So, it’s not like I was doing absolutely nothing. And it’s not like I wasn’t doing things that I genuinely love/loved doing because I was and I am and I’m so very grateful to get to do all I do and be around the people I get to be around and learn/grow the way I can. And now, I somehow manage to do this, work with ICAH, and about eight months ago also started to work (the unglamorous life of) retail while working on personal writing projects I hope make it out into the world someday but am too superstitious to openly talk about just yet until I know that they will.

In a gig economy, a good amount of Millennials and Gen Zers have experience juggling that much (sometimes by choice and sometimes by circumstance). And yet, without fail, everyone’s favorite question to ask a graduate or a soon to be graduate is still, “Now what?” A year later, I’m still constantly asked this and it still fills me with dread. That question in itself is good enough to evoke doubt if you don’t think you can answer ‘now what’ with all of the goals you had set out for yourself. I wasn’t immediately working on a television show or a film set. I knew I was getting published in a book in the upcoming year, but I wasn’t telling anyone until I received proofs for me to approve of first. And besides, I wasn’t getting immediate book deals and that’s what it felt like people wanted to hear.

For a little while, after I graduated, the only things I was actually writing were Teenplicity interviews and emails to publicists about Teenplicity interviews. And for the most part, it had to do with the fact that whatever I wrote felt like it held more weight than it did before I got the degree. I’d have a story idea or the temptation to rework on something I was previously developing and if I couldn’t figure something out easily it felt like I didn’t deserve my degree. It felt like I had just wasted four years of my life. It felt like because I didn’t go the practical route, I screwed up. Even though, in a lot of ways I hadn’t. I’m aware of that now and in hindsight, I also think I knew this then too: that I was overthinking and spiraling because it gave me something to do.

There’s a Fiona Apple lyric in her song “Paper Bag” that goes like this:

I said, ‘Honey, I don’t feel so good,
Don’t feel justified.
Come on put a little love here in my void’
He said ‘It’s all in your head’
And I said ‘So’s everything’
But he didn’t get it

That, I think, was and is essentially it. Post-graduation depression gets in your head. When people say something is “all in your head” they’re usually attempting to demean the situation and patronize the person. But literally where else could it go? That’s the whole point and problem! I assume for everyone, it wiggles its way in there differently for different periods of time and for slightly different reasons. Since we are so much more used to discussing our successes openly, only talking about the hard parts when we can contribute them to a happy payoff, the conversation about post-graduation depression can feel impossible and isolating. It can feel like the world is moving faster than you can even process, or even are ready to process. And still, the world is asking why you won’t just catch up. It can feel like you’re the only one who is driving to a destination that you were sure you knew the route to until you had to take a detour and now you don’t have an idea how to find your way. It can also feel differently for you than this.

There have been moments here and there where I’ve talked about this with other people who can relate. Hearing other people, especially people who from my eyes have/had it more together than I did, also share their feelings of uncertainty and lostness was and is comforting. One of the very great things about social media is that it helps show that literally no one actually knows what they’re doing 100% of the time. If someone says that they do, they’re lying. If someone only ever posts their accomplishments, know that most likely there were some stumbles to get there. Know also that you’re gonna stumble and something may come out of it, either immediately or in the long run. (I know, it’s annoying and it suckssss having to wait for stuff like that because how are you ever gonna know if something was worth it if the potential payoff isn’t instant?! Why is Time like this? Would all of this be fixed if I just copped the time stone real quick??)

So, aside from using this post as a place to openly vent, I also hope this post finds its way to a graduate or an almost graduate or someone like me who graduated a while ago that needs to read something like this. When that post-graduation depression hits, I recommend that you allow yourself to feel it and know that you are not the only one feeling it. Don’t bottle it up, but also don’t allow it to consume you. Try as best as you can to not let yourself think that this is all your post-education journey will be. I really wish I could say that you will only go up from here, that if/when this passes, you will just go higher and higher. Maybe I’m just being pessimistic, but I don’t think that’s true. I also don’t think it’s a realistic or fair way to process this. You will go up and you will go down and you will go stagnant and you will go at varying speeds in unpredictable ways. These ways will teach you more about yourself and what you want, need, and deserve out of life, out of your goals, out of your dreams, and out of the people around you. You will always be learning, even if it’s not in a classroom paying attention to a teacher. There is not a ton of things that can be promised in life, but these, at least, can be.

What is to come for you post-graduation is entirely your own and it’s scary and it’s overwhelming and it’s tiring and it’s unknown. But I will say that as much as you can, I beg that you keep going and not give up on yourself and who you realize, or will realize, that you’re meant to be. If not for nothing else, my goodness, do it so the student loans feel like they were worth it.

Did you like ‘Monday Musings’? If so, you’re in luck! Each week, Teenplicity will feature a new ‘Monday Musings’ post about things we are looking forward to, topics close to our hearts, or suggestions from readers!

Do you have a suggestion for ‘Monday Musings’? You can let Teenplicity know what you’d like to see on Twitter or anonymously on Tumblr! Or you can directly contact Mary Ayers on Twitter and anonymously on Tumblr or Brie Garrett on Twitter and Tumblr

23-year-old Chicagoan and Creative Writing/Television graduate that's always writing, reading, and watching something. Future creator of television and books, co-creator of this website. Follow my Twitter and Tumblr to learn more.

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