By ena ganguly
Graduation season is upon us, so congratulations if you are reading this! You deserved that degree. Every ounce of work that you put into your education these past four, seven or 12 years is finally culminating to the moment you receive your degree—ready to be framed and proudly hung up on a wall.
Graduation day is always bittersweet. You get closure from one phase of your life to move on to another chapter. It’s both exciting and nerve wracking, trust me, I know.
I graduated from college around this time last year with an honors degree and a swathe of medals and cords. Graduation day should have been a day of joy for me. A day full of gratitude, relief and celebration. In some ways, it was. In other ways, it felt like all my uncertainties were looking at me right in the face, on stage, as I received my diploma and waved at the bright lights. I heard so much applause as I crossed that stage, and my family and I went out and enjoyed a delicious meal. Still, all my anxiety for the unknown future kept me up that night.
There were so many things I learned, and am still learning, about the transition from academia into, what many term it as, ‘The Real World’. I want to share some tips with you, in case you need it:
1. Prepare to feel lonely
You won’t be alone after you graduate, but you may feel a bit of emptiness because the routine of going to class, your part time job, extracurricular, etc, has ended. I’m here to tell you that it’s okay to feel a bit empty, even after several months of not being in college.
Look at this as an opportunity to explore things you want to do like swim every week, read a new book, listen to podcasts, meditate, join a running group, watch new and old shows, paint…think about all the things you were not able to delve into while in college. Establishing a routine that incorporates self improvement, socializing, cooking, and self-care throughout the week can stabilize some of the emotions you may feel after you graduate.
2. Look for advice and compassion
Feeling lonely doesn’t mean you are alone, right?
After graduating, my partner was a dependable source for comfort and advice. She gave me insight and perspective so I could realize the potential of this new chapter. Her support and encouraging words gave me courage and made my process not so estranged from others.
My friends, who either graduated a year before me or in the same year as me, also validated my feelings and concerns. They too struggled or were struggling after graduating, in their own ways. Talking to them, even over the phone, connected my struggle to something bigger. I felt like others were on the path with me, figuring things out as well, and that we could even figure it out together.
3. Continue to keep in touch with faculty and staff
Stay in the loop with what is going on in your alma mater. If you received newsletters of any kind from your institution, consider staying subscribed. Many of those emails include job openings, calls to journals, and free events open to the public. If you are planning on going to graduate or law school, getting fellowships, or need references for career opportunities, it helps to keep in contact with your favorite professors and advisors, especially if they are QTPOC. Connect with them on social media and keep up with their professional accomplishments. Send them emails, updating them on your career, personal goals (if that’s something that strengthened your relationship), and congratulate them when they do well in their field.
This way, you still feel a sense of community from those you used to meet with so often for class or those registration sessions. You don’t have to forget those relationships when you enter into “The Real World.” If anything, oftentimes those relationships can be foundational for you after you graduate.
4. Be patient.
You just graduated. You are entering a completely new era in your life where the routine of school, classes, homework, and exams don’t exist. Celebrate! Exhale! Recuperate! I know my body felt very sick and tired after I graduated. Stay in bed, watch TV, take long walks. Be gentle with yourself and this process of starting, beginning, anew.
I know being patient is hard; I still struggle with this every day. What’s important to remember is that you have time. You are exactly where you need to be. While you wait, look around you. Look at all the things you have accomplished. Experience how far you have come! Be proud of yourself, and take the time to take care of you, because no one can do it better than you.