Life after Graduation
Please note this is a piece of fiction that is based on true experiences.
There’s a lot of things people don’t tell you about graduating from university. They don’t tell you how you won’t really remember your graduation day, or how you have to pay over fifty quid to sweat in a graduation robe for a couple of hours before you have to return it. You’ll put a lot of pressure on The Day because “the last three years have all led up to this.” But it doesn’t even feel that special, not really because it’s over so quickly. They don’t tell you about the sinking feeling you get in your stomach when you’re driving home, or about that question that will haunt you for the next few months: “what now?” They laugh because it’s meant to be a joke about how you’re a ‘proper adult’ now. But every time you hear those words you feel like you’re plummeting towards the ground at a hundred miles an hour because you don’t know. You don’t know what happens now.
They don’t mention how the summer after you graduate will be the most miserable summer of your life. You move back home to ‘save money’ even though your parents have turned your old bedroom into a gym and you feel like a failure because you return to the old job you had at the cafe when you were sixteen whilst your mates are out there getting proper office jobs in the field they studied for. But it’s okay, you tell yourself, it’s just until you find a ‘proper job’. It’s just to get me out of my overdraft. It’s not permanent. Nothing in your life right now is permanent. Is that okay?
You lost contact with your old school friends when you moved away, and your new university friends are scattered all around the country and none of your schedules line up. You spend that summer in the beer garden of nightclubs you went to when you were eighteen. You feel old. You wonder how long you can get away with saying “I’ve just graduated university” when people ask you what you do. You feel old. You’ll go on a string of bad dates to try and not feel lonely, to fill this void that you have in your chest that you’re not sure how to fill. You’ll probably text your ex from sixth form a couple of times. You will regret it. It’ll feel like time had stood still in your hometown, that you grew up but everything and everyone else stayed exactly the same. You feel like you don’t belong. Where do you belong?
One by one, you will lose contact with the friends you made at university that you promised would be bridesmaids at your wedding over midnight coffees as you collectively finalise your assignments last minute. It’s nobody’s fault, we’ve just been so busy lately and you’re all trying to get jobs to figure it all out. They’ll still like your Instagram posts, though. You’ll notice that people will gradually start adding their new jobs to their Facebook profile and you’re absolutely convinced that they’re just doing this to show off more than anything. Yours remains update-less. You’re still looking for that ‘big girl job’. You see a lot of your school friends are getting engaged or having babies and you wonder how they could feel old enough to do that. You wonder if you want that life for yourself or whether you’re just craving someone, anyone to talk to. You delete the app off your phone but you keep your account active.
Your grandparents will ask you what you’re doing now. A lot. And you’ll have to repeat through gritted teeth the story of how you’re working a dead-end job whilst you’re looking for something better over and over again. They nod and say that it’s a good idea, but you know they’re thinking why haven’t you got a real job yet. You can sense their disappointment and wonder why you got yourself into so much debt to get a degree but not do anything with it. You begin to wonder the same.
It’s September. You would be moving back to university right now. Your family asks you if it feels weird not going back. You shrug it off and say “yeah, a bit.” But really you’re thinking about your freedom, about your friends you won’t be seeing until Christmas, about how all of your stuff is now crammed into a room that’s too small for you and you’re thinking: how did getting a degree all come to this?