Post-graduation: let’s get vulnerable

I am 24 ! A year away from 25, from a quarter of a century, from the golden age, halfway through my twenties!! Not even a year away but 9 months away!

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Whenever my brain starts drowning in these thoughts, lingering around the dark conrners of my regrets and insecurities, my very helpful consciousness makes an appearance only to make me realize that I have just graduated. I am still without a job, I still don’t know exactly what to do, I still don’t know exactly what I want to do and I am still kinda lost. It starts reciting all these facts like a fucked up lullaby playing endlessly in my head and it takes me a long time to calm the throbbing in my heart, dry the sweat in my palms and finally say, it’s gonna be OKAY.

Post-graduation anxiety-depression* is real, but we seldom talk about it.
*I use the terms of anxiety and depression to express none chronic conditions. They are deviations from the present state as I will be explaining later on.

We all like to walk around and talk to each other like, YES! I have done this and achieved that and on my way to this and leave out our deep insecurities and struggles because well, society. We need to feed our ego from outside recognition and  hence we avoid being vulnerable and we hide our insecurities.

But I choose to be vulnerable.

I remember when I was a small kid and I walk by an adult, probably in her mid-twenties, driving or just walking by and I keep staring at her thinking “Wahouu !  I want to be that when I grow up”.  When I come home, I watch these people changing the world and making a huge impact and I tell myself “that’s what I want to do, I want to change the world and I can do so”. And so I start atistically drawing this visual portrait of the 25 year old me and daydream of how satisfied she is and how she’s on her way to impact the world and has her life all put together.  I can still remember vividly those daydreams; but they were that poisonous seed that got planted in my innocent and naïve brain promising me what turned out to be merely an illusion. At that age, I have always thought those adults (well we are ones now right? Unless you are a kid reading this) have it all together, got it all figure out and live a fun independent life. When the matter of fact, if those people actually opened up to me at the time, they would tell me the ugly truth. They still don’t know what they are doing, they still have crippling doubts, they still have struggles and challenges, they still sometimes don’t know where they are going. And that’s how I exactly feel and might feel for the years to come.

But you know what? That’s okaaaaaaay.

I have grown my consciousness and wisdom regarding this now. Yet, those hopes and dreams have been planted in my subconscious so deep they resurface very hard at this time of my life. Here I am 24 yo, sitting at this trial with no lawyer and getting judged by the 12yo me for not living up to her expectations and persecuted for breach of contract.

You might be saying, well you shouldn’t give up on your dreams now, accept mediocrity and aim for a greater life. Keep up ! Level up! Yes, I am nodding and cheering for you because this what I have always preached. But let’s not forget the real problem, the root of what the post-graduation depression/anxiety is expectations VS reality.

As much as I had a broad vision of what I wanted to do overall, the specifics change overtime which makes the organizer-planner in me go nuts. Which is actually the main cause of my post-graduation anxiety. I feel crippled not knowing where to apply, which field, which position; I have no idea what my next step should be. When I held the diploma in my hand, I was more overwhelmed at first with a sensation of surprise. Is this what I was working for all this time? After the chock had worn off, I told myself: now what? What should I do with my life?  The first question triggers depression and the last, anxiety (I will explain the difference later on) . And this is why we find ourselves in this rotten situation.

To my dismay, although I knew Uni was only a transitional phase and was practicing throughout it outside activities and thinking ahead, It has been at times this warm cocoon and safety net. It blinds most of us from tackling the real question of what should we do with my life? And once the carpet slides down from underneath our feet, we find yourself cold and naked on the ground.

Let’s not make general assumptions here. You may be totally fine, you know yourself well and got your life together and sure 100% of your next move. However, never forget the classical saying that life comes in ups and down or as I love to call it “life is roller-coaster ride”. You may find yourself someday heading down a wrong road or hitting a solid wall. You either enjoy the rollarcoster or end up hating all your life and this is the perspective that will let you win the game of life.

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Credits: http://www.waitbutwhy.com

 

Anyway, now that I have poured my heart enough. I will move on to the practical side of the topic. Yes, we feel lost, sad, we sometimes wish Uni was never over or wish we haven’t accepted that first job offer …. But we cannot dwell on all of this forever, we are now either heading down the roller-coaster or already at the existential crisis valley. And it’s time to figure out how to climb up and grow. Here are some of my golden tips and strategies.

Practical strategy and process:

Let’s first dissect these feelings and bring some sense into it.

You feel lost = you don’t know where you are heading = thinking about the future => Anxiety
You feel down = You wish you had studied this, interned at this, applied at this, didn’t apply to this = thinking about the past => Depression

All of these feelings occur when we stray away from the PR-ES-ENT moment. This is why you need to first fix your state so you can tell yourself a better story of the problem to be able to strategize and think about well.

I borrowed this process from Tony Robbins and many other very well-known successful people use it. It is a golden rule to always put in mind.

STATE -> STORY -> STRATEGY

  • First, fix your state:

In a negative state, you tend to be stuck in this non ending negative loop in your head playing the same broken record over and over.

                                                     While ( I feel sad )
{  Feel sad for feeling sad }

It’s time to hit stop the player, and change your state into a calmer and a more present one to enable new ways of thinking and acting.  This way you’ll state a clear, unbiased story where you lay out your problems that you will solve later on.

What is a good state?  A good state is a state where you feel calm, present in the moment but most importantly aware of yourself and your thoughts. Most of the time when we are anxious, we become our thoughts and those thoughts control us and shape up our decisions. One of the best ways to achieve a present state awareness is (be open-minded for this):

Meditation: I am now wondering whether I should lay out my meditation argument here or not. But I will do it and talk about it in depth in some other post. Listen to me carefully: MEDITATION IS NOT A PRAYER!! A lot of people I talk to about meditation start rolling their eyes and say, well we have something called prayers that replace meditation and they almost feel like cheating on their religion if they decide to meditate. The simple difference lies in the fact that prayers are spiritual and meditation is not (unless your religion implies so). Your mind is a muscle that you can train and meditation is one of the workouts you can consider. While meditating you try to sit still, feel the presence of your body and focus on your breath and try not to think about anything. If thoughts occur, you simply view them as these clouds passing by and bring your mind back to your breathing. I cannot emphasize on how important this practice is. If you do it consistently, you’ll train your mind to detach YOU from YOUR THOUGHTS that sometimes linger in the past or the future and leave you depressed or anxious. You are now in control of your thoughts and you can catch yourself stuck in a loop or thinking nonsense so you can change it. I hope this makes sense now : Meditation is a workout for your brain. For beginners I highly recommend doing guided meditation of 5 to 10 mins that you can find on YouTube.

If meditation turned out to be not your cup of tea, try out other practices that will help you achieve the same results. I am still doing a research on the matter to see if I find other techniques out there.

  • Next, Write your story:

Go first make a cup of coffee or tea, find a comfy place, bring a pen and a paper and sit down. You will now write your thoughts down. Do it however you want, with any language you want; just don’t overthink it and write every single thought of yours. Let the them flow. For a start, ask yourself how am I feeling? What’s bothering me about my future or my job search? What’s bugging me about my current job? And little by little, ideas will come out as you write them down. After finishing this exercise, you’ll feel thousand times better. All those thoughts that were spinning in your mind, are now caged in a 2D paper. You now control them and own them.

  • Find solutions & strategize :

What I do next is: I take all my thoughts and look at them critically and as objectively as I can as if I am analyzing someone else’s brain juice. Try to look at everything using a filter made of all fears and insecurities, and pinpoint the thoughts relevant to them. After all you don’t want to be making a decision that comes out of fear or insecurity. This however requires you to be brutally honest with yourself. A strategy I use is ask as many whys as I can.

For example: “I feel anxious, whenever I sit down to write a cover letter or send an email, I feel this huge weird feeling in my heart. “

Why? “ I am afraid my letter, email or CV will suck and won’t be good enough”

Why? “ If I send an email/cover/CV  letter that sucks it will get rejected “

Boom! There it is, rejection. Your anxiousness comes basically from your fear of getting rejected. If you’re able to find the root cause, you’re already 90% done.

As much as I would love to outline strategies or concrete solution, it all depends on the root issue and circumstances of each one of us.

I will share with you a very personal journaling I did to deconstruct my job search anxiety and find solutions for it.

After achieving a good state, I felt relaxed, calm and wise. I made a cup of tea, put on some ambient music and settle down with a notebook and a pen and asked myself why I am resistant towards job search. I knew I have to look for a job, I knew am still not ready to go on my own and build my own thing, I still have no resources and no clear plan yet for that. But I just don’t know why I cannot seem to take any step towards finding a job. The real answer that came up was that I needed to answer the question “Why do I need a stable job anyway?” Yes, as weird as that sound, I have discovered I am a questionnaire. I need to be convinced of something in order to do it and find the motivation for it. The social dogma, salary, whatever common reasons people get motivated by to look for a job didn’t work. You will find in the photos below my journaling and the solutions I have elabored. I hope you can read it with the awful handwriting.

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I feel quite naked, having exposed myself and been vulnerable but I went by the famous Neil Gaiman saying: “The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.” I really hope this was helpful to you and I urge you to be open-minded, experiment with it and try it. In the end, we are all normal human beings riding a rollercoster, battling our demons and overcoming our own challenges and limiting believes. Stay true to yourself, your fears and your insecurities. Embrace them! It’s okay to have those. We all do. We are all fucked up in a way. What distinguishes people who succeed from those who don’t are those who try to overcome those fears, self-ego and push themselves to grow not to “appear” successful but to “be” successful. The real success is  you growing and you being better than yesterday and you getting a little step ahead. What you are experiencing now is called “growing pains”  and is necessary for you to grow and move ahead.

There’s an amazing article by tim urban on how to find a career that actually suits you. I highly recommend you check it out. Warning: it is a hella long article

You are amazing, you got this, just fight it and you’ll eventually be there. Stay strong ! Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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