Tuesday, October 11, 2016

the trauma of post-grad life

No one tells you that post-grad life is its own trauma. No one tells you that you'll spend nights wondering if the world would be better without you. No one warns about how hard you will be on yourself, the horrific things you will do when you feel bad- for some people, the terrible decisions you will make and awful ways you will treat others when you feel out of control. For me, the excruciating self-talk I engage in (I am meaner to myself than I would EVER be to another human) when I disappoint myself. No one even hints that post-grad life could traumatize you.

People say, "You did well in school, you'll be great," and you feel like a whiny baby when you realize you are not, in fact, great at this. You think you are probably doing the worst job anyone has ever done at this. You feel like you will never have spent enough time doing this to be at the top of your field. And to top it off, your friends don't talk to you anymore. Everyone gets busy, people move, people get married and have babies, and have weird work hours, and stay in school for a higher degree. They make new friends in their new circles, and you feel so replaceable. You feel out of touch. You feel like a bad friend, and like you're not worth keeping in touch with.

Older people rag on us millennials for being entitled and perfectionist. They write articles about how dumb it is that we are displeased with our lives if we don't daily find gratification in our jobs and studies and relationships. And please hear me out here- I see their point.
There is a very valuable trait that many young people my age (and younger) do not have: perseverance. I know the importance of continuing to push forward, even when I am displeased with myself or my job or my relationships with others. I know life won't always be rainbows and butterflies. Surely, plenty of young adults take their perfectionism too far and genuinely are socially hindered because of their entitlement issues. I get that.
But I also think the vast majority of us just want what we've been told we can have: something better than our parents had. If you're like me, you were raised hearing about the trials your parents and grandparents faced. You were probably told, "I work this hard because I want you to have it better than I did." We've been hyped up and encouraged and taught plenty of valuable life lessons and are, upon college graduation, dropped into the world with- best case scenario- a toolbox full of things we aren't entirely sure how to use.

For the first time in our two decades, we are not in school 8+ hours a day, 5 days a week. We suddenly have time to spend thinking about things. Things that aren't papers and reports and projects. All forms of media are telling us all kinds of different statements about ourselves and the people we see and hear about every day. Comparison is a natural thought process. We start worrying about things we had never even thought about before. We realize our world is in an awful state, and it's petrifying. We look around and feel like we had been calmly floating by the sand... but suddenly realize we have drifted so far into the dark beyond that we can no longer see the shore.
The shock of suddenly being alone on a float in the ocean is crippling. There is so much unknown. There are no others around; no one to call on should something happen, no island to paddle to if a danger arises. It's enough to send you into emotional shock.

One of my Psychology professors in college had a theory that every mental disorder was a product of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The more I consider that possibility, the more likely it seems. And when you look at it like that, I think it's impossible to escape 18 years of schooling, 22 years of LIFE, without even a little bit of PTSD. No matter how hard you try, no matter how good a childhood you had. Trauma accumulates, and maybe you don't even realize it until you graduate and have time to think about it.

The 20's are their own time of trauma that no one prepares you for. I wish I had someone in my life who had known to bring a box of tissues to graduation and say, "You'll need these more in two years than you do right now. It goes downhill for a little while here. You might hate it. It might make you stronger or it might make you crazy, who knows."

Some days I think it made me crazy.
I look at myself and wonder how I am such an emotional roller coaster, how I think such odd things, how I can be so dissatisfied with such a good life. I don't know how I am sometimes so lonely. Right now, I am in my 'normal' frame of mind- content, only slightly stressed, overall pleased at the general direction of my life.
But some nights when I lie down, I feel quite alone. I see people, and we have a good time and laugh and do fun and silly things. Then when I curl back up under my sheets, everything feels so heavy. I want someone breathing beside me. I want someone to hold my hand, or even just lay beside me and say, "it's not as bad as it seems."

Maybe all of this is just me. Maybe it's the combination of my artistic heart, my highly sensitive personality, my college experience, my current friendship and relationship status... the sum total of my life so far.
I really hope it isn't.
I hope I am not the only 23-year-old who sometimes listens to her own thoughts and realizes that she has moments she turns back into a 7-year-old. I hope I am not alone in feeling slightly traumatized from my realizations about life these past two years.

I do know one thing- if anyone else out there agrees with any of the above things, then you & I are together in this.
We are not crazy; we are growing.
I'm not always good at believing that, but today I'm trying to be. Today, I'm just reminding myself that my job is to 'keep my eyes on my own paper,' as I so often tell my students. I read this in an article today that greatly helped my mindset about this post-grad life.
It's difficult for me- more so on some days than on others- but that doesn't mean it is my job to judge my work and my progress in it. My job is just to keep going. To try. To show up at work every day and care, and teach, and maybe get a little bit better at it every day.

In this life that some days feels more like a tragedy than a beautiful thing, it is my job to put my thoughts out there when I feel alone- because surely I am not the only one.
It is my job to type out words that convey my thoughts and feelings and experiences- because certainly there is some other traumatized heart out there who can find hope here.

welcome to midnight.

Do you ever feel like your path with God is a big ol' question mark, instead of a straight line like it seems it should be? 2018 has bee...