WORDS BY Niamh McDonnell
ARTWORK BY Kaitlyn Sather
It’s 3 in the afternoon and I’m currently sprawled out on my bed with Netflix paused, a half-eaten bowl of cereal next to me, and a pile of clothes sitting on my floor that need to be put away. I just spent a solid 10 minutes crying for reasons that weren’t entirely clear to me. I haven’t written anything personal in months. I haven’t read any of the books that are sitting in my room waiting to be opened; the ones I was so eager to read once the craziness of senior year had left my life. Now, that craziness that had stressed me out for months on end is long gone. I ended my college experience with the best set of grades I have ever gotten, and I’m finally free to give my time to all the things I had been looking forward to. One thing that I’ve always thought would be really beneficial to me in life is my love for learning. I’m always excited to pick something up and find out something new; gaining knowledge is one of the most empowering feelings. Since school has ended though, I’ve found myself unable to pick up any of those books. I’m nowhere near as engaged in the world of politics that had once captivated my interest so much that it made me want to devote my life to it. And now, ironically, at one of the most pivotal moments in the history of our country, I’m laying in bed watching Netflix.
When you’re in college, you’re actively working towards career-oriented goals that your professors tell you will be beneficial. When you’re in college, you’ve got the ‘hey, I’m in college’ excuse to be conveniently used for doing somewhat reckless things that you hope you’ll oneday look back on nostalgically. When you’re in college, you know you’re living the best years of your life.
And then you graduate. And I know this is certainly not the case for some people, or even most people, because there’s those folks out there who have had a plan since they were five, or ten, or even just figured out exactly what they want to do by the time they picked their major. The people who know their next step: no more school, graduate school, law school, medical school, etc. But then there’s the people out there like me, who chose to earn the kind of degree that left one’s options somewhat open for whatever they’d decide to do. Seemed like a solid plan in my freshman year of college, but I didn’t anticipate the fact that I wouldn’t necessarily have anything decided by the time graduation came.
The point of me writing this is in no way to drum up some kind of pity party. The point is that post-college depression is a thing, and I think it’s something that not a lot of people want to talk about or acknowledge. Everyone seems to think that graduating college is an achievement to be really proud of; it’s a milestone that starts the next chapter in your life. And while that’s most certainly true, it’s always put in such simplistic terms. What about when the next chapter in your life is totally unclear? Do you go back to school or work towards building a career first? You’ve spent your entire life being a student and now there’s this pressure to join a workforce that, for some reason, seems to think that you, as a millennial, are to blame for society’s problems. Hell, maybe society won’t even exist by the time you’ve figured yourself out because there’s two powerful man-babies who possess the power to blow up the world to smithereens.
Every young person is trying to figure out their identity. In America especially, our career path and eventual vocation tend to be an even more integral part of our identities than anywhere else. The rest of the world works to live; we live to work. People ask ‘what are you?’ when they really mean ‘what do you do for a living?’ That kind of pressure gets to us, especially when a 2010 study found that only about 27% of us will actually end up in a job that was related to our majors. And even still, a lot of us end up working jobs to get by that don’t even require a degree. It’s a really, really, scary time to be entering the real world and I think that the struggle a lot of college graduates are going through, myself included, should be acknowledged and discussed.