I am a Graduate!!!! What next?

Students hold 'silent graduation' to help classmate with autism ...

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I am done! I made it! All the years of sleepless nights ( which I like to refer to as study nights, lol), social isolation (Yes, this is legit a thing that happens to University students, we are not all the happy go lucky, social butterflies, go-to-the-beach-while-on-lockdown people the media likes to paint us as), all these years finally paid off!

Or so I like to think.

I graduated in August last year, after a grueling 4 years, 3 of which I spent in a fast track nursing program (1st paragraph making more sense now? lol). I was ecstatic. I had lived these past 4 years, thousands of miles away from home, waiting for the moment I would finally be free from the bondage of school.

Graduating from school meant a whole lot for me. I studied as an international student so graduating meant being free from so many of the restrictions the student visa gave me. It also meant being free from hopping from one odd job to another trying to save money for tuition and other basic expenses. It meant financial freedom. It meant getting another level of independence from my Nigerian parents. lol. I used to joke that once I got home after finishing school, my diploma would be my weapon against any movement restrictions, or disciplinary measures my parents attempt to impose. I was ready and equipped to start making the big bucks as a Registered Nurse.

First on my list was quitting my 3 jobs. That was the first thing I did immediately I got confirmation of my first job as a nurse. I didn’t bat an eyelid when I did this. I was ready to stick to just one job and have all the free time in the world without the guilt of studying or assignments.

Next, Travel! I went on what I like to call a ‘PostNursingSchool’ vacation.

Then I moved into a new apartment

Check üCheck ü and I was all ready to live the graduate life.

That was when reality hit.

The first thing I know I struggled with was all the free time I got. Yes, I struggled with free time. It certainly did not help that I was working casual hours and even with full time hours, I still had 3-4 days off in a week. It just felt strange. Sitting in front of the TV binge watching TV series was a guilty pleasure that made me feel all too guilty. I felt like I was wasting my life. I was not used to being so free without an assignment or exam or something, anything to do.

And of course, that led to my next dilemma, WHAT NEXT? What do I do after graduating? I had absolutely no idea. All my life, my main goal was finishing school and finishing well.  That was what I knew how to do. That was the goal. Of course, there was always the vague idea of being rich, being successful, making impact…but all these were broad and nonspecific at best. I had no idea what to do next. I HAVE no idea what to do next. I was depressed. Here I was, done school, with a well-paying job and yet, I had no idea what to do next. I remember calling my one of my friends that had graduated earlier and asking “Is this life?”, “Is this IT?”, Am I meant to just wake up, go to work, come back home and then REPEAT. It all felt….Empty. I wanted to do more. I need to do more. Am I even doing what I am supposed to do? Am I on the right path? How come nobody ever told me about this?

Post Graduation depression is a thing guys. YES…I said it. Someone has to say it. And it doesn’t just happen if you don’t get a job, or cause you’re missing your college friends, or any of the many reasons you have in mind. Sometimes it just happens. And it happened to me. I started to lose motivation. I didn’t have the zeal to do anything more. Wake up- work- sleep-repeat. and that became my routine. All these dreams about finishing school and being successful felt like a distant thing. Something that happened in another life. I didn’t know how to live without having a goal (graduation) to look forward to.  A lot of us don’t.

I must have gotten over it right? I wish. Everyday I still struggle with the WHAT NEXT question. I don’t want to go back to further my education until I have a more specific idea of what next. I am learning many things through this process though. I am learning that I am still a work in progress. I am learning to be patient with the process. I am learning that answers don’t always come immediately, and sometimes you only solve one part of the puzzle at a time. I am learning to go easy on myself.

Some days are better than others. On the bad days (which are starting to get fewer, thank goodness), I draw my inspiration from stories of very successful people. I listen to Michelle Obama say she is trying to figure out what to do next, and even though she seems to have it all together, I am reminded that if she’s struggling, then my struggles are valid too. I mean, some person somewhere in the world might also think I have it all figured out.

Well, spoiler alert, I DON’T.

And a lot of us should say that more often.

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