June 17, 2014

I Just Graduated—So Now What?


I graduated this weekend, and like many post-secondary graduates I am thinking, now what?

I’ve been working in the ‘real world’ for the past two years—as a waitress and a yoga teacher—while finishing off my degree.

This ‘real world’ experience has been a struggle: the longer I spend out here the more I have depreciated the value of my arts degree, not only to myself but to others as well.

As I looked around at all the 20-somethings beaming with pride and excitement, I couldn’t help but feel slightly bitter towards their blissful ignorance. They all have arts degrees like me—and I am not sure if they really realize what the world has in store for them.

Most will likely struggle and live paycheque to paycheque for at least a while. Getting ‘on top’ of things will seem daunting and unattainable. So, all while sitting in the beautifully dressed up gymnasium, watching all the professors in their creative regalia march around, I felt like I was walking down a double-edged sword of feelings.

I am proud of my accomplishment, because it is just that: an accomplishment. I worked my ass off to get it, and along the way I learned so much about myself, life, and what I do not want.

Simultaneously, I felt the lack of opportunity afforded to those who chose the ‘lesser’ degrees—ones might I add, that were of the highest reverence once, is unfair and very disheartening. The ironic thing was the president of our University’s speech consisted of a sort of ‘pep-talk’ attempting to convince us (read: our parents) that the decision we made to spend upwards of $20,000 on an Arts degree was worth it.

The experience was invaluable, but now I’m $30,000 dollars in debt and waitressing for a living. Honestly, knowing what I know now, I would have done things differently.

I would have saved up, cared more, and not relied so much on student loans. However, I wouldn’t trade my experience, friendships, and personal growth for anything.

I have this consistent inner battle: at times I am very angry with myself for the massive amounts of debt I have accrued at the ripe age of 24. Other times, while thinking back fondly on all the memories I made, I try to accept my journey as one full of lessons and appreciate all that I have gained from the experience. Beyond that, I am tired of people looking down their noses at me because I have a Bachelor of Arts and not a Business Degree/Masters/PhD.

I am tired of making little jokes when people ask me what I studied in school to shift the attention away from their condescending looks.

Being a server, I get the opportunity to meet a lot of diverse people, some great, some less so. The thing that bothers me the most is people’s negative reactions to my choice in education. Yes, that’s right, I made the choice to be educated, I sacrificed time, energy, often my sanity, and the majority of my resources for the next 15 years, all to get an education at one of the best Universities in Canada—and arguably the world.

I have enough self-judgement and problems coming to terms with my bad choices, I definitely do not need theirs added to the mix. I am more then my degree, or my job, in fact I have a lot more to offer then what I can put on my resume.

Graduating is scary because we pull off the safety blanket that is student life: a place where everyone pretty much gives you a free pass to be super poor, party super hard, and hold little reverence for social responsibility beyond your studies.

Being incorporated into adult life is hard and is accompanied by a very steep learning curve. When finding a job that offers medical benefits is the proverbial jackpot and worrying about paying back your student loans in a job market that is more aggressive then ever are two very real struggles, we tend to feel a little (read: extremely) overwhelmed.

I want my future to be as bright and shiny as the next person, and I want the same opportunities to succeed as kids with rich parents. Sadly, those things might never happen for me.

I jumped through the biggest socially fabricated hoop in life, University, and it just occurred to me to focus on my happiness. So here’s my advice to anyone and everyone who is facing a giant ascension to the life they want; above all invest in your happiness.

At the end of the day, I may be poor, scared, and have mixed feelings about every choice I’ve made in the last seven years—but I am happy, so I know I will be okay.


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Editor: Renée Picard

Image: elephant archives

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