The above photo concluded my three years at university; I felt invincible. A suit jacket which replaced my usual UKC hoody, a genuine smile and not an eccentric facial expression taken inside The Venue, finished by proudly holding the scroll which is accustomed with all graduation photos. My parents proudly display this photo in their home and with a Rocky-esque mentality; I was ready to take on all of life’s challenges.
After experiencing prolonged periods sitting in the living room of my parents’ house, I did manage to secure a job within two months of graduating. This in itself was an achievement as many friends were still looking or had accepted a role which was not in their first-choice career path. I could at least take some satisfaction in that I had finally broken into the field of HR, was given the opportunity to complete an MSc part-time and had the [albeit very tight] resources to move out of home again and regain that university independence. Unfortunately, I soon realised that despite still being youthful at 21 and not living at home with my parents and two younger siblings; the era of the university lifestyle was very much over. The below seemed to be a more suitable reflection.
Gone were the days of having Facebook invites for nights out, purely for the excuse of going out. Gone were the days of listening to a song on the radio and it having some memory association with an event or inside joke that you and a select few were privileged to know. And most certainly, due to the working lifestyle and its weekly requirement of 37.5 hours, gone were the days of having a lay in on Monday to Friday – those 09:00 lectures didn’t seem so bad on reflection! The spontaneity of university was something that I continued to long for and the opportunity for constant social interaction all seemed to be a distant memory.
It probably didn’t help that I was facing this along with a full-time job and a part-time MSc. Unlike some friends who stayed on at UKC to complete their post-graduate courses, they were still very much living the university high life. As I was funding my MSc, the deduction which showed on each monthly payslip glaring at me ensured that I didn’t feel the true enjoyment of working and keeping 100% of that hard earned pay cheque.
Around the corner from me, lived a work friend. He was a teacher and would spend evenings marking books; I spent mine completing MSc work and writing essays. It formed the perfect opportunity for two individuals to take late night breaks and walk to the local shop (this is testament as to how wild my life was at the time!). During one conversation, he looked at me and confidently said, ‘Mate, you’ve got university blues, it’s obvious.’ At this point, I had never heard of the expression. Academic studies in law had introduced me to concepts such as legal pluralism and a snail case which led to the tort of negligence but not once had I heard of university blues. Naturally, instead of returning home and continuing with my work, I spent hours procrastinating and researching this.
It became apparent that post-uni blues was very much a real feeling and it was incredibly reassuring that I was not alone. It seemed to encompass a mixture of feelings: sadness, loss and regret. In hindsight, these should not have applied. I had made the most of my university era, was involved in other activities that were non-academic related and made friends for life. The only aspect that I had some degree of control over would be the future, so it was best to start shaping this.
How to beat the blues:
Try to never stay idle, boredom is often the root cause of feeling deflated. I joined a local gym and it meant that I always had something to do. There would always be people to chat to and this offered a different type of social engagement. Having friends notice your gym work paying off is also flattering to the ego!
Deactivate Facebook/activate LinkedIn
Let’s face it, being tagged in various pictures each week is now an unlikely scenario, whereas in university it was the norm. Instead, Facebook was the source of constantly comparing my life to others and feeling like they were having a much better time. It portrays a false impression where people seem to post never-ending positive statuses. In reality, people can’t be on holidays and/or getting new jobs everyday. I deactivated for six months and after that first initial week of missing that habitual scrolling on my newsfeed, I never once missed it.
LinkedIn on the other hand, provided me with a platform to explore the industry that I wanted to progress in and network with those possessing years of experience. Having debates with working professionals and having them open their eyes to your viewpoint provides a greater sense of satisfaction than a ‘Like’ on Facebook.
Make the most of all current opportunities
Despite not landing my preferred post-graduation job, I treated it with the mentality that everything I did would be for the benefit of my CV. I used initiative to make improvements at work and still reference these in interviews four years later. I made great friends with people in my first workplace and will be an Usher when my earlier mentioned friend gets married next year.
I got to a point where I missed seeing old university friends, therefore I made an attempt to see them where I could. I considered spending the majority of my monthly budget having a night out in another city with old friends better than sitting at home searching for a new box set to get into. By arranging something in advance, I always had something to look forward to in my diary.
Note your achievements
In 2013: I obtained my MSc, went abroad for the first time and passed my driving test. I even did all these whilst working a second part-time job – everyday involved working/studying (or usually, both). When I reflected, one of these life events would be an achievement in itself. To achieve three in one year made me realise I had to start focussing on the positives in life.
Surround yourselves with positive influences
Be with those who you trust and make you realise that you may just be in a slight slump but life will get better. As JD describes below, the alone feeling is a horrid one. However, there will always be friends and family who are around and it may just be that you need to open up to them. Likewise reconsider your surroundings. Writing essays at 3am with The Fray’s How to Save a Life playing in the background definitely didn’t help matters in my situation!