Post-College Depression is Debilitating but Should Be Normalized
Post-college depression in young adults often occurs right after they complete university coursework, due to pressure to get a job right away or sadness leaving their college peers and life behind, according to Addictive Behaviors Reports medical journal. As someone who attended college for six years straight, I felt the wave of depression upon leaving my peers and the structure of college-life to a new beginning as an adult. Factors such as coming to the realization that I owe 60K in student loans and moving to a new state alone made me realize that the careless days of college was in fact over. The unexplainable feeling upon receiving my first email about student loan repayment after graduating was a very humbling experience. Thus, as I am going through my journey of post-college life, I formulated some pointers from my experience to share and possibly help others who are in the same predicament.
Realization of Adulthood
For the traditional student, post-graduation can be depressing based on the fact that you don’t have school as a crutch anymore. What you have coined as your normal life as a college student has completely changed and now you have to learn how to adapt to a new environment. One component of post-college depression stems from having to start a new life in a new area or even away from home. Not having an immediate support system on standby whether it's friends or family, makes you feel isolated and alone. Combining that with starting a new job, you sometimes feel like the only life you have is work and that transition can produce depression.
No one told me how hard it was to find friends as a working adult, especially if you moved to a new city/state/country. In college, you have the luxury of finding friends like your roommates, the random girl in your study group, sorority/fraternity members, etc. You realize that proximity was the cause of your ever-growing list of friends. But it's a whole different ballgame when you become an adult, and especially if you move to another location from your college town. I have moments where I ask my older co-workers how to make friends as adults and they’re just as lost as I am.
Financial and Self Burdens
Facing the financial mistakes made during college like student loans, credit cards, and sometimes bill collections makes you regret many decisions you’ve made in your youth. You realize the importance of credit when you can't get approved for a car or have high payments on bills. Also, with figuring out “adult things” after college like the process of buying a home, APR's, loans, etc. that you really don't take into consideration while you're in school. Student loans are another demon many college students may face, again I have 60K in student loans and if I could go back in time… let’s just say I would ensure I wouldn’t procure that amount.
In reference to overall self-burdens procuring to post-college depression; occurrences like unemployment after graduating or starting a career you’re unhappy in can lead to producing loss of self-worth and even imposture syndrome. Impostor syndrome—the idea that you’ve only succeeded due to luck, and not because of your talent or qualifications—was first identified in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes. Also, people expect college graduates to automatically obtain a job upon graduating, and sometimes that’s not the case. Moving back home or starting a “low-end job” to get by is a humiliating feeling combined with societal pressures judging what they believe is not an accomplishment. Going into a career you’re not passionate about just to have financial stability can equally create a loss of self-worth. Coming out of the matrix that our worth in society is determined by our degrees and career path overall aids in revitalizing our purpose in this world.
Wondering What’s Next?
One thing I found myself asking upon graduating was “What's Next? What’s the new goal for myself?” Many individual's main goals in college were to graduate and get a job. The question many face after achieving those goals is now what? After I graduated and started my career, I felt like I lost a piece of my personal identity. As a self-proclaimed busy-body, I enjoyed keeping myself busy by joining several organizations and of course, being consumed by schoolwork. I felt idle working 8 hours a day and having nothing else to do after however, I also felt like my job was taking over my life (and still do). I went to school for 6 years straight and got accustomed to pulling all-nighters. Honestly, I enjoyed relaxing and enjoying freedom the first months of post-college but also felt like a void was missing in my life. This is what led me to find hobbies for myself. I picked up guitar lessons and started a podcast – A Shot of Facts, which blossomed into many opportunities I have never imagined. I feel a sense of fulfillment working on my own craft, on my own time, and rules.
Overall, every new transition in life takes time to adjust. You had to adjust to being a college student and you have to adjust to post-graduate life. Life is not a race, take time out to transition the best way possible for you. With entering adulthood: embrace change, and don't beat yourself up if you are not where you want to be yet in life.