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Combatting post-uni panic

It’s that time of year again; deadlines aplenty thrust at students with seemingly reckless abandon, grad job application deadlines rearing their ugly heads, and graduation looming just around the corner for those in their final year. Ah, graduation: that ominous threshold that marks the boundary between youthful irresponsibility and facing that dreaded question: “Have you got a job yet?

Whilst the immeasurable pressure we feel is likely hardened by a cocktail of external worries, we are often our own harshest critics.

Contrary to what your LinkedIn feed might suggest, you’re not the only one without a definitive, infallible post- university plan. In fact, if you’re feeling overcome with dread about the prospect of sitting through your last lecture or handing in your final assignment, you’re in good company: the City Mental Health Alliance reported last year that 49 per cent of graduates experienced a decline in their mental health following the end of university.

These ‘graduate blues’ should not be suffered in silence. To feel sad at the thought of coming to the end of your education – which, for many of us, has been a constant preoccupation since infancy – is not only understandable, but totally expected. The memories made, friends gained and lessons learned, both inside and outside of the lecture hall, are precious fragments of youth that seem to be in danger of slipping away.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that life after university is not a race. The interlude between being a student and a full-time adult is a time to travel, save up money, or to embark on further study. After the world was shaken to its core by last year’s rapid proliferation of coronavirus cases and the ensuing global lockdowns, there should be even less pressure on young people leaving university to jump straight into something else or have a concrete plan about their future. If we’ve learnt anything from the pandemic, it’s that even the best-laid plans are not guaranteed to come into fruition; just ask the head organiser of Wimbledon.

Last year, I set my designs on commencing full-time employment straight after graduation, an ambition that has slowly been drained of its zeal by my final year ruminations on what I’m really passionate about (at the moment, studying English Literature). If I had not given myself the time to reflect on my true aspirations, I may be following a well-worn track purely because it is well worn, unable to see the scenery around me for my engrossment in reaching my destination.

Like Ayodeji Awosika, who promotes the conscious reinvention of the self every five years, I want to live unconstrained by rigid expectations. This is your sign that you should too.

Image: Baim Hanif via Unsplash