Dealing with graduation anxiety

Header image for the article Dealing with graduation anxiety Credit: ISTOCK (NIRAT)
Opinion: Graduating is a significant milestone you should be proud of, so take the time to breathe before worrying about your next steps.

“So what are your plans after graduation?”

These words have been repeated since the beginning of my program, but not until this recent term began has it made me really question the question. This turn of phrase has the capacity to render its recipient frozen in panic about the life-altering decisions that await them to be made. As the end of the semester draws closer, the weight of the question gets heavier by the day.

The beginning of my present educational journey does not feel like it was that long ago, and essentially it wasn’t. However, when reminiscing about the energy and ambition that I brought into the beginning of my program and compare it with the anxiety and uncertainty of where life will take me after graduation, it is difficult not to take stock of how differently I feel.

The uncertainty is definitely clouding the silver lining about completing my studies and entering the work force for which I have so diligently worked towards during my two years here. The worry is less a present or future worry, but rather a past worry that my decision to leave a well-paying, well-positioned job, to essentially chase after a long-held dream, was a bad decision. If I am unable to secure my desired job in my desired field, then have the sacrifices that have been made to manifest the beginnings of a dream been foolhardy?

At first, I thought maybe it was just me, being a mature student with mature student concerns, who was experiencing this kind of anxiety. In my head I believed that because I was nearing the eve of my 40s that the pressure to immediately succeed was a sentiment that could only be shared by other mature students in similar situations. As the weeks have passed since school returned in January, I have come to the realization that the pressure associated with post-graduation activity is not one of exclusivity.

My classmates, whom are nearly two decades younger than me, are also experiencing this pre-graduation madness regarding post-graduation decisions. With so many options, deciding about where to begin your postgraduate career can be stressful not to mention overwhelming.

Graduation is meant to be a time of celebration though. It is a moment when we can exhale and look upon our work, sacrifices and successes with an air of pride. We have survived the gauntlet that was laid before us, separating us from our aspirations towards bigger goals.

All that we’ve done has brought us to this point, so it should be a time where we are carefree and optimistic. Being proactive and prepared are characteristics of the efficient and surely a great idea, but the undue pressure that we put on ourselves to hit the ground running and set our desired industry on fire with our ingenuity, work ethic and passion, can also be achieved with a slow smouldering fire than a raging one accelerated with gasoline.

It is not mandatory that we are immediately employed in our ideal job and for more of us than not, that may likely be the case. But with time nearly all is possible and once we’ve reached the summits that we’ve chosen to climb after graduation, we’ll look back at the uneasiness that we invited into our lives at this moment and realize how unfounded our fears actually were.

One step at a time. Enjoy this moment that you’re in, as I am trying to as well, because we can never relive these times again. The classmates we’ve met — some of whom will become lifelong friends, others whom we may find ourselves working with in the future — obstacles we’ve overcome, accolades and words of encouragement we’ve received, all of it. Those moments are the ones worth celebrating. ‘Real-life’ pressures aren’t unlike scholastic pressures, though they bear different faces.

So instead of working ourselves up over a future we’ve yet to create, let’s take a breath and let the accomplishment of graduating cascade down on us.

Editorial opinions or comments expressed in this online edition of Interrobang newspaper reflect the views of the writer and are not those of the Interrobang or the Fanshawe Student Union. The Interrobang is published weekly by the Fanshawe Student Union at 1001 Fanshawe College Blvd., P.O. Box 7005, London, Ontario, N5Y 5R6 and distributed through the Fanshawe College community. Letters to the editor are welcome. All letters are subject to editing and should be emailed. All letters must be accompanied by contact information. Letters can also be submitted online by clicking here.