Graduation. That big day we all work so hard towards, the cap and gown, staged photographs, and hoping you don’t trip across the stage. Or in a year of a pandemic, watching your name scroll past on a screen and celebrating in lockdown. It’s what we work so hard for, years of being a student and getting to experience all those highs and lows and sticking with it regardless. I know I barely focused on much else when doing my thesis and don’t get me started on exam weeks. All this hard work we do and for what in the end? A piece of paper and a day out. A student loan that I can’t start paying off any time soon. And a degree that I have no idea how to make appealing in the current job market.

On the positive side, they say graduation signifies a lot more than just these worries, it’s the end of one chapter and the beginning of another, an opportunity to decide exactly what you want to do. But usually this next chapter is completely unwritten and, ironically, for someone who wrote countless papers for the past 4 years, this next bit is much harder to write. It’s one thing I think (and hope) everyone feels after graduation, the what now? What will I do when I don’t have 9am lectures to skip and assignments to get done at 2am? Travel. Work. A masters. Move home. A PhD. Marriage. Just some of the hundreds of ideas that hurtle through my brain as I contemplate life as an alumna. The worries can’t help but be amplified by the realisation that a lot of these options have become much trickier to do during a global pandemic.

When I start to overthink all of this I start to worry and I have to remind myself that it’s okay to feel this way. I’m sure everyone else does as well. This is when I take the chance to turn to others and talk it out, I find that talking to friends and family who have been through it can be so helpful to get some advice on where to go. Others times I ask my best friend who is in the same boat to just listen as I vent. Sometimes all it takes is for one person to hear me and not want to correct me or guide me. She’s just there to say ‘yeah I know it sucks’ and I’m so glad I have that. And it’s nice to know the majority of people experience this weird stage of life and they come out the other side unscathed. I can see people in my life who felt just like I do and are now happier than they imagined with their life, whether they ended up using their degree or not. They also all seem to say that the things that help them in life are not so much related to the actual degree, but things they picked up along the way to getting said degree. Be that the best friend they made on the first day of class, the society they were involved in, the skills they developed juggling all their coursework (or even just discovering what their favourite hangover food is). All these things shape us into the person we become in one way or another.

Graduation is a moment to be immensely proud of…but it’s okay if you feel completely lost after it, chances are everyone around you is feeling the exact same way (or at the very least I am). We are now in a position to figure out what our story will be which is admittedly a very scary thought but also so exciting! I don’t know about everyone else but I’m planning on taking it all one day at a time, slowing down to discover what I really want, and hoping I enjoy the journey along the way to figuring that all out. To quote Rory Gilmore “there are a lot of things in my life that are undecided and that used to scare me but now I kind of like the idea that it’s all wide open”.