Graduation was more of a beginning for me than an end. As an individual with a creative drive and a dream to be a writer, there was no corporate ladder or a step-by-step list awaiting me when I finished studying. Having just completed a structured and consuming bachelor’s degree, it was overwhelming to realise there was no next step laid out for me like there had been my entire life.
For the first time, I was in the driver’s seat no longer on autopilot and yet I had never felt more out of control.
We are often defined by what we do rather than who we are. Our jobs and our level of education are often a topic of interest and one others can use to place us in a box with a label they can easily understand. When we meet a new person for the first time a common conversation starter is “what do you do?” and even when catching up with family and acquaintances, we are often asked the same sort of questions.
As a writer who didn’t have any work published straight out of university, it was always hard to find a succinct answers when these questions were thrown my way. This made it easy for self-doubt to creep in and I began to feel insecure about the path I was on and the creative dream I felt I needed to pursue.
A little shaken and with some concerns about my path, I found that comparison became the next biggest culprit of unnecessary pressure that I felt the need to place on myself. My peers and I were no longer all at the same stages in our lives. Many of us had just graduated, but some were still studying or planning to move on to post-graduate study, while others were walking straight into graduate roles or full-time jobs. A level of comfort is taken from being at the same stage as someone else, from being able to relate and communicate about the same things and share struggles. I felt to a certain degree, this dissolved after graduation because we were all leading such different lives. In hindsight, this is amazing because it means that we all made the most of our education and the opportunity to chase our dreams, but in the moment it felt like I was being left behind.
Anthropologist Arnold van Gennep learned through his research that there are three distinct phases within a rite of passage – separation, liminality and incorporation. In the first phase, the individual is segregated and taken away from their previous lifestyle. The second phase, liminality, is the space where change occurs. When the person leaves what they were so that they can move forward into who they will be. The third and final phase is when the person is reintroduced to society with a new social status and new lifestyle. Van Gennep found that no matter the geography or the culture in question, everyone celebrated rites of passages when it came to birth, puberty, marriage and death.
We are expected to move from one phase of our life to the next without a second thought. We move from high school to university, from university to a full-time job, from a full time job into retirement. But how often does it actually work like that? How often does the transition period stretch out long and painful? It’s probably because we don’t allow ourselves, or each other, to feel the moment; to be in-between.
1. Take Your Time
2. Meet like-minded people & put yourself out there
3. Follow what you love
4. Lose the “I’ll be happy when…” mentality and find things that make you happy now
Gabrielle Downes is a recent Arts graduate from the University of Melbourne. She is an avid reader and writer and is currently working on starting her own personal lifestyle blog. Gabrielle is passionate about history and travel and hopes to continue seeing different parts of the world.