By Danae Reid
In a matter of minutes, I was transmuted from protected child to a young adult in charge of her own destiny. I’d love to say that I was overwrought with only positive emotions, but in reality, graduation isn’t always the Kodak moment that it’s revered to be.
A year ago, I could not get out of bed; not for class, not for work, not for chapter meeting, nothing. What was once an enthusiastic and sanguine young woman, became a shell of uncertainty almost overnight. I was filled with self-doubt, and felt more unprepared for life than ever before. I could no longer pretend to care about my classes. I wanted school to end, but I also prayed that it never would. I was sure that I wanted to be a talk show host, but worried that I hadn’t taken the steps to achieve that goal. A brick wall had conveniently placed itself around my person, and I didn’t have the tools to knock it down. I was lost.
Months prior to my undoing, I’d read an article about pre/post graduation depression, but I wrote it off, believing that it would never happen to me. I was wrong. Prior to that article, I wasn’t aware that pre/post graduation depression existed, much less that it was common. No one ever talks about that part. I’d never been depressed before, and couldn’t understand why something as monumental as graduation could make anyone anxious, scared, and/or sad. I held on to the ignorant belief that pulling yourself out of sadness over something so “trivial” wasn’t arduous for people committed to feeling better. I was wrong yet again.
My pre-graduation depression was a sly fox. As my college experience was chipping away, I began to realize that the community I’d cultivated and the life I’d made for myself on campus was slowly deteriorating, one year-ending ceremony after the next. The more endings that I encountered, the sadder I got. I cried… a lot. It felt like literal death. How did those years get away from me like that? Did I make the most of my time? Will my degree be worth it? Truth be told, I still can’t answer any of those questions.
Orientation leaders, advisors, professors, etc. do an astounding job at making students believe that there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But college is not always rainbows, and the imp waiting with the pot is actually Sallie Mae waiting for her loans to be paid back. Thankfully I went to school on scholarship and did not have to worry about loans. However, regardless of the multiple internships I’d had during my tenure, finding a job seemed impossible. Whoever decided that convincing college students that a degree equates to a career is the spawn of Satan. In fact, approximately 67 percent of college graduates do NOT have jobs lined up, according to “Student Voices.”
I’d say my pre-graduation depression was non-existent by the time I walked across the stage and grabbed my diploma. I still felt insecure, confused, and a little lost, but they were overshadowed by the pride I took in being able to say “I did it.” I began to feel normal and happy again, but only for about three weeks. My pre-graduation depression was back, but it had morphed into post-graduation depression. The fact that I’d graduated had sunk in, was still living at home, and applying to jobs was a job in itself. Not only was establishing myself difficult, but I also fell into the trap of comparing myself to others.
In order to pull myself out of the darkness, I began to travel, hone my skills, find new hobbies, and immerse myself in new experiences. It turns out that not focusing so much on finding a job, made finding a job that much simpler. Little by little, I began to feel better and became the best version of myself that I’d ever been. Towards the end of 2018, I started my own talk show and began working for a radio station. So, yes, it does get better.
Now here I am, a year later, still figuring life out, but understanding that the journey is full of processes, and that we must trust them all. For anyone reading this article who may be going through something similar, I pray for your peace. I understand you. What you’re feeling is legitimate and it’s okay to be scared of what’s to come. Transitions in general are scary, but the beauty in life is that we have no idea what tomorrow holds. And if this piece does not resonate with you or your experience, that’s okay, too. Everyone’s experience is different, so please don’t take my words as fact. Regardless, you will be okay.