University was the best experience of my life. Now it's over, and the post-college depression is hitting me hard. How do I navigate the murky depths of the early 20s-crisis?
posted by pikeandshield to Work & Money (15 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
I graduated this summer with a bachelors and masters, and moved back to my parental home. A month ago I started as an (unpaid) intern at a very high-profile public organisation (e.g. government, NGO, thinktank etc) while also applying for med school for 2013. I get on very well with my parents, who are letting me live rent-free, and have agreed to partially (or fully) finance med school if I get in; if I don't, I also have leads for a potentially good career related to my current internship. Overall, I know I have a lot to be thankful for, and that I have no right to feel unfulfilled or even remotely discontent.
But I feel myself increasingly asking, 'is this it? Is this going to be the baseline for the rest of my life?'. For me, university was life-changing. I had no real friends all through school, partly from being a foreigner in a predominantly white tiny town, and I just thought the superficiality was just what (non-family) human interactions were like. Then, I went to university, and met people I connected at a level I never knew were possible; they really shaped the way I saw myself and about others. I experienced things I never thought I would, made mistakes, and opened my eyes to how diverse life can be. Before graduation, I felt that the world was open to me - that it was full of possibilities, inspiration, and hope for the unknown.
Now… it's as though the last 4 years never happened, and I've woken up back to the mundane world I inhabited until I was 18. I spend 8 hours staring at a computer, making small talk with colleagues (but who are never going to be your friends). The 2.5 hours spent on a dirty metro every day really drains me, and when I come home I have no energy to do anything fun or productive. I can see myself being in the same place, doing the same thing a few months, a few years, down the line. I feel closed in with predictability and repetition, and I feel that even if I find new jobs in the future, it will just be a new cycle of predictability that will continue until I retire. It saddens me that I will never regain the same spontaneity, immediacy, vitality and carefree life I had at university. I know I'll get used to it after a while, and eventually find a kind of security and confidence in the repetition (and money!) that would help me become a more adjusted adult, etc. But that is probably what scares me the most: that the person I was, or was becoming, will eventually fade and I'll just settle into this new responsible, comfortable adult, not even realising what it is that I had lost.
I guess I'm also feeling the brunt of diminishing friendships. The closest friends I had have all moved abroad semi-permanently this or last year. We skype about once a month, but it's starting to feel like a fragile maintenance rather than advancement of a relationship; it's becoming more and more obvious that we (or at least they) are starting to build new lives that I'm not part of, and eventually our friendship will dwindle into a nice memory. Even for other friends that are in the same country, the difference in dynamic - from living together and staying up all night talking, to seeing each other once a fortnight for a few hours - is really making me lonely. I wonder whether life is really just a series of situational and replaceable friendships. I've been taking two evening classes in an effort to make new friends, but the wall of 'friendly acquaintance' feels higher than expected - it feels almost intrusive, when everyone seems to have such busy and established lives with SOs/longstanding friends etc already.
Living with parents is pleasant, but I really miss having the independence and full control over every aspect of my life - at home, I can't tread on my mother's rules, I can't cook my own meals, and I feel like a dependent again. Then I feel pathetic, because I am a dependent as I'm not earning yet, and will likely stay their dependent if I get into med school. I am grateful for their generosity, and I know that by applying to grad school I had made that choice myself - but the lack of disposable income, the feeling of obligation I have to my parents and the distance of my house from the centre makes me feel guilty for even trying to pursue a social/life at all. Recently, my quota of meaningful human connections have diminished into my parents, and I feel that I am regressing in my development as a human being.
I'm sorry. I realise I'm being melodramatic, whiny, and immature; I understand it's a textbook situation of the post-college/early 20s crisis, and I should just shut up and get on with it. I don't want to be one of those people who say that university was the best time of their life and constantly bemoan about work; I want to be the person who always maintain energy, optimism, and freshness about life. What can I do to change my mindset? Secondly, is there anything I can do on a practical level to better my situation (considering my lack of money/independence/friends)? I have always wanted to travel - but it's looking pretty unlikely, with my (current and foreseeable) lack of money. It also feels difficult to get a paid job and move out at this stage, considering my lack of certainty over what I'm going to be doing next year.