If you were anything like me at 20, you were likely immersed in university life, working diligently towards completing your degree and filled with optimism for the future. Little did we know the challenges and uncertainties that awaited us beyond the moment we received our diplomas and were celebrated for our achievements.
During university, there was a comforting structure that spanned at least four years of our lives, which we didn’t need to question. We had academic advisors to guide us in choosing the right courses, and all we had to do was attend classes until we had fulfilled all the requirements. In retrospect, the university served as a sanctuary for my anxiety, even though I was not fully aware of it at the time.
Upon graduation, however, everything changed – including my perspective on life and its myriad complexities.
Why do I feel such pressure to have my life together 24/7?
Upon graduating from university, I found myself with the expectation that I should immediately embody the persona of a 40-year-old man who has spent 15 years in the same career. I imagined this individual waking up each morning, energised and eager to make a meaningful impact in their workplace. This seasoned professional would be well-respected and enjoy a generous salary, enabling them to lead a fulfilling life.
This is the expectation that we have for ourselves as we walk back down the aisle after being awarded a degree.
The best advice and answer to this question I’ve ever heard are that we can’t expect ourselves to do something we’ve never done before. We step off the stage expecting ourselves to go and be wildly successful at something we have never done and only read about. That 40-year-old man who I look at as successful has been doing the same work for 15 years already. That is 15 years to have practised and gotten better at the craft he’s specialised in.
Next time you begin to compare yourself to someone, ask yourself how long they have had to practice that you haven’t.
Why do I feel such pressure to have a specific job outside of university?
We graduate with a certain degree, and often times we don’t follow the exact plan we had during university. I graduated with the plan of being a therapist that worked with the deaf community, and now I am sitting here as a freelance writer. We feel pressured that if we don’t use our degree for a specific job then it’s a complete waste of time and money. This is simply an outdated way of looking at our university experience, and let me tell you why.
You are experiencing other aspects of life during university than just a strict class schedule.
As I walked through my years of university, I was taking psychology classes that had in-depth writing assignments in them. I enjoyed these classes much more than any of my other classes and I always assumed it was the topics until I realised it was the writing itself.
We have to be willing to consider that university opened our eyes to something new that we might never have realised without it.
So if you are struggling with the decision to veer off the carefully planned path you had in your head then remember that all university was there for, was to help you get closer to what you want in life. It wasn’t there to force you into a box with the rest of the world and feel miserable for the rest of your life.
Why do I feel such pressure to be successful immediately after university?
This is another example of outdated thinking that comes from generations before us who firmly believe that you should have that successful job right out of the gate. They don’t understand that the world they lived in during their twenties is wildly different from ours. The majority of twenty-somethings today also believe in work-life balance and having meaning within their work.
This leaves us pickier about the jobs we take and stay at for numerous years to come.
If you are pickier about the jobs that you are willing to work then you are going to have a harder time finding a job immediately that pays what one dictates as successful. This is just fact and a clash between generations. We are willing to take our time and find meaning in our work rather than just money and the older generations have trouble understanding that.
Just because someone doesn’t understand your actions doesn’t mean your actions are wrong if they are creating the life you desire. You have the power to break the mould and define success for yourself.
Upon graduating from university, many of us experience a significant amount of anxiety when faced with the prospect of navigating a world without structured four-year plans. It is essential to recognise that you are not alone in feeling this way, and that life after university can be just as enriching as the educational experience itself.
Embracing the uncertainties and the opportunities that arise can lead to personal growth, new friendships, and the chance to explore various career paths.
Remember that it’s OK to feel apprehensive during this transition, but with time and perseverance, you will find your footing and thrive in this new chapter of your life.
Emily VerMeer, a dedicated freelance writer, diligently seeks meaning in each endeavour she undertakes. Discover more of her captivating work on her website.