So, I recently finished university. For the second time. After taking some time out to travel and then returning to study another artsy, won’t-really-enhance-my-career-options postgrad course. And this time around, in the murky abyss that is post uni life, I’m determined to do things differently.
See, the last time I graduated? It wasn’t really smooth sailing – mental health wise.
FINDING WISDOM IN WORDS
There isn’t exactly a specific moment that stands out from that period, only that it was marked by a prolonged sensation of paralysing fear and hopelessness. Everywhere I turned, someone had an opinion on what I should do next; career advisors, tutors who suddenly remembered that there was a life outside of academia and above all my parents.
South American's believe in having a say over every single decision their children make. In response, I shut down entirely. I didn’t go out, my physical health went out the window and everything felt pointless.
In that hour of seemingly drowning, I stumbled into Sylvia Plath’s 'Fig tree' analogy. Yeah, I know, of course that’s where a despairing Literature student would find solace: in the comfort of a book.
So…back to the excerpt. It’s the one where The Bell Jar’s protagonist sees all of her potential life choices laid out in front of her in the shape of figs. She can’t decide which one to pick and eventually they begin to decay. Immediately, I thought, "oh gosh, that’s me".
Everyone around me made it feel like any choice was final, and I was nowhere near ready to make that kind of commitment. There was nowhere to turn and no point to any of it. Weirdly, Sylvia Plath, with all the notoriety around her struggles, made me feel less alone. I wasn’t the only one confused about the next step in life, and that sensation of paralysis and futility that I’d been struggling with? Well, it didn’t make me any less of a person. Even fictional characters were on my side.
In the end, I guess I chose to shut all those voices out, to take a moment to breathe and remember that there is no rush. And then I chose to move and teach English abroad, but that’s a story for another day… Like last time around, I don’t know what the next 'right move' is. Yet, this time I’m choosing to learn to be okay with that.
WHAT I LEARNT FROM THIS PARTICULAR EXPERIENCE:
It’s perfectly valid to not know how you feel sometimes, and waiting and making no decision can be better than making the wrong one. Above all, learn to listen to yourself and not the feelings of anxiety and hopelessness.
I can’t control everything all the time and I need to find ways to manage this.
Eventually, with the right help, these tough periods do pass and it’s important to be gentle with ourselves and others when we’re in them.
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