Post-Graduate Survival

A Message To All The Graduates Feeling Lost And Confused

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I’m Feeling Lost

Like you, and many others, i’ve found myself confronted with the stark reality of adulthood.

No longer is my day structured around lectures, tutorials and studying. Instead, my options are limitless, presenting a paralysing number of routes i could go down.

This expansion of opportunities has came as a startling and sweeping change. Before the path was clear. Now the paths are muddled, intertwined and i can’t read the fucking roadsigns.

This stage of life is comparatively more confusing than your naive introduction to university/college.

When you start your journey in higher education as a fresh-faced 18-year old, you can be assured of 4–5 years of security. You’ll be in the same place, with the same people, studying the same thing. Through education you have structure.

This structure buries the question of “What am i going to do with my life?” for the foreseeable future.

With your immediate future determined, you’ll undoubtedly engage in the usual college activities — sex, drugs, drinking and partying.

Your minds at rest, and you’re having an absolute blast.

Unfortunately, these years, supposedly the best of your life, are over in the blink of an eye. As the age old saying goes:

“Time flies when you’re having fun”

What Now?

As you grudgingly graduate, you’re welcomed to the ‘real world’ by your fellow adults who’ve become accustom to adulting.

Around this time, your peers have already begun posting their phony gratitude to employers via LinkedIn. They’ll tell of their immense satisfaction with their new position — expressly describing the unique compatibility of their skills, hobbies and loves with the responsibilities of their new job. A match made in heaven.

Scrolling endless LinkedIn ‘status’ updates you start to question yourself:

“How the fuck do they know what they want to do already?”

“How do i get a grad job i love?”

“What do i love?”

The confusion, worry and anxiety surrounding these questions is almost debilitating. You feel as if you can’t move or breathe. You struggle to comprehend the world around you, and more importantly — yourself. All this stemming from the multiplicity of choice:

  1. You could jump balls deep in to a graduate scheme and work your way up the corporate ladder.
  2. You could put inordinate amounts of effort into a passion project.
  3. You could do anything.

That’s the problem — It’s the Paradox Of Choice:

“When the number of choices increases, so does the difficulty of knowing what is best” — Barry Schwartz

This is basic marketing 101. When customers have more options they become more anxious and less likely to make a purchase decision. The same occurs with you and your occupational choices.

My Authentic Experience

I’ve always considered myself a rational and reasonable human being. I’m an advocate of stoicism, logical decision making and using facts over feelings. I’d also consider myself mentally strong and capable of tackling tough situations.

Even with my mental fortitude i’d be lying if i said i wasn’t struggling with this. It’s been playing on my mind for the best part of 3 months now. Not in some dark alley in the back passages of my subconscious but in the forefront, mantlepiece at all times.

It’s ever-presence is anxiety inducing and undoubtedly detriments my quality of mental health.

If i’m honest, i’m not writing this is as sound advice to give to other students in similar situations. It’s half self-therapy and half here to resonate with others, like you.

This isn’t an article about solving issues, it’s about letting you know you’re not alone.

Possible Solutions

After extensive self-reflection i concluded that it’d be best to speak with someone older and wiser than myself.

So i phoned my brother.

My brother, Andrew, graduated 3 years ago. He went travelling across the globe, got a grad job, hated it and quit, started a vegan protein company from the ground up, closed it down, got another job, got promoted to being a manager, made a shit-tonne off the crypto bull-market and has now invested in property and multiple businesses.

If there’s a man to speak to about the struggle of ‘finding yourself’ then it’s him.

I was hesitant about calling at first as we don’t regularly speak about personal issues such as this but he’s my brother and i knew he’d understand — so i picked up the phone.

After voicing my concerns, he explained something that immediately put me more at ease:

“I know exactly how you’re feeling. Trust me, i’ve been thinking the same thing for the past 3 years and it’s still not gone away, i’ve just found better ways to deal with it”

Fuck, that hit me like a tonne of bricks.

Simply knowing that i’m not alone in these thoughts is enough to stop my mind racing. It’s weight off my shoulders, pressure relieved from my chest.

Me and my brother, being cut from the same cloth, bonded over what we believe to be the source of our issues — An immediate, incessant and unwavering need for success.

All my life i’ve imagined that my adulthood would be hallmarked with success, happiness and money. Now that i’ve reached 22 years of age, where your comparison is the internet and it’s many hyper successful athletes, models, musicians, artists, i’ve begun to feel like a failure in comparison.

It’s a trap so many of us fall in to — judging ourselves against the accomplishments of others.

In your irrationality you compare yourself to richer, smarter, more talented, more beautiful people. All while completely disregarding their potential upbringing, how they got ahead, the effects of filters and how social media only ever shows the good parts.

You can compare all you’d like but the truth is, you should only ever judge yourself by your own standards. Those set by others are simply inapplicable to you.

As Andrew said:

“If each day, you can wake up and make a step in the right direction, then you can be proud of your progression”

Furthermore, he used an anecdote taken from the US military:

“If you’re trying to train for a marathon then you wouldn’t get up on day 1 and just run it. The first day simply put your running shoes on, then take them off. On the second day, put them on, lace them up and step out the door. On the third run to the end of street and back. Each day you build on the day before and make progress. Before you know it you’ll be running ultra-marathons without a second thought. Love the process.”

Advice From Professionals

Andrew brought my attention to two pieces of advice from industry professionals that he introduced in his life to deal with this feeling of aimlessness:

  1. Try Everything (Gary Vee) — Gary makes the point that your 20s should be about trying everything. Your 20s are the time for taking risks, doing wild shit and broadening your horizons. How will you know what you love if you’ve not tried everything? His response to 20–25 year olds who say they don’t know what to do with their life is “Cool, so taste. If you don’t know what your favourite food is, then taste shit. Eat salmon, eat broccoli, eat sea urchins, eat burgers”. The point he’s making here is not to throw yourself into something with a 10-year mindset. Instead, go out and try all the occupations, hobbies and jobs and find what resonates with you.
  2. Express Gratitude Daily (James Clear) — This simple piece of advice isn’t so much about finding yourself. It’s about realising you could be worse off and finding happiness in the little things. James describes his daily habit as saying one thing he’s grateful for every single day when he sits down to eat dinner. He expresses how this forces him in to a ‘positive frame of mind which opens your eyes to more opportunities’. Additionally, he describes how after a month or two of practicing this habit, you start to see that almost everyday is a good day.

Closing Thoughts

I don’t really know what i’m doing.

I’m recently graduated, a little bit clueless and a large bit curious.

I don’t know what i’m going to do for the rest of my life — but i’d be damned if i didn’t at least try to find something i’m passionate about.

To all those out there feeling the same way — you’re not alone.

You’re not the first and you certainly won’t be the last to experience post-grad confusion.

I think the best way to handle the situation is to seek advice from those who’ve come before us. Those wiser than ourselves who’s life experience we can learn from.

Taken from my conversation with Andrew, the top 3 pieces of advice are:

  1. Make Small Wins Happen Every Day (US Army)
  2. Try Everything (Gary Vee)
  3. Practice Gratitude (James Clear)

I can’t say for definite that these expressions will change your life. What i can say though, is that i’m instantly more at ease and prepared for the challenges that life has to offer after listening to these tried, trained and respected individuals.

Have you been through the same predicament? Are you currently experiencing the same thing? How do you cope? What’s your advice?

Let’s figure it out together.

As Always,

Yours Honestly,

Commodore Pipas.

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Writing to better understand my own thoughts.

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Liam Lawson

Liam Lawson

Writing to better understand my own thoughts.

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