Post-Grad Madness & Self-Care
So you made it to my website. Welcome. What’s good? Hola or whatever. If you’re reading this, welcome to my first blog post.
This entire blog post will be a quasi-simplistic recap of aforementioned post-grad life.
What is post-grad life? Hm. Heavy unabashed criticism of the economy and my dwindling bank account (yet somehow increasing love for burritos and red velvet cupcakes)? I’m too tired to be this tired? What is job? How application? I need to go to the gym for my mental sanity but I haven’t heard from her in like years because, you know, undergrad lolz. “I need this job” but “I also need that dress that’s the same color as the shirt I got last week”? To live with parents or to not live with parents, that is the question? How in the world are they traveling AGAIN? Staunch advocacy of “I’ll do it later”? The Void??
Graduating from college and moving onto a new space, or an old one, is a process of many, many things — overthinking, not at all excluded. And as much as this is an exciting time for us as we bid our mattress pads, shower caddies, conveniently placed overpriced coffee shops, and 2am c-stores goodbye, it is also stressful as ever. Let’s not lie y’all. I have no idea what I'm doing! But it's all good.
This time period, where we balance in-between the ether of “OHmYGoD” and “yeah, I’m chilling”, is a time period that has not only social effects (because lol my friends live EVERYWHERE ELSE), but financial, physical, mental, occupational, and spiritual as well. In this time of subconsciously comparing ourselves to others on social media and waking up with an impending sense of doom followed by the feeling of success after simply brushing your teeth, we have to remember to be kind to ourselves.
Here are a few things I have accomplished since graduating:
I have slept for 8 consecutive hours (or more)
I'm eating regularly
I actually read a book for pleasure??
I finally worked on the ins and outs of this website after MONTHS
I wrote some stuff on some paper this one time
I’ve gone to the gym
I successfully made red velvet cupcakes :)
I found a new trail to run on
I gave someone helpful advice
None of these things are the expected post-grad accomplishments, but they’re still accomplishments.
It’s been almost two months since graduation and as I’ve scrolled through instagram and loaded snapchat stories, deleted instagram and ignored snapchat stories, I’ve come to the beautiful realization that my truth and my process is not at all like those around me.
I chose to take a year off after undergrad to gain work experience and learn by process of elimination where exactly I want to place myself in the working world (some of us have an idea, but don't know exactly what we want to do). However, while this has been one of the motivations behind my time of “rest”, my main motivation is the other component of this blog post: self-care. SCHOOL IS EXHAUSTING. And that’s not to say that just because it is exhausting means you shouldn’t pursue your education and self-betterment, but there are ways to better yourself that do not involve sitting in a two hour lecture.
It is vital to remember that the path before you and the shoes you walk in are not the same as the ones with the person you sat across from in your required quantitative reasoning course. You have different experiences and different motivations and that is okay. You may not be the person who chose to go straight to grad school after undergrad and you may not have been able to afford it (whether mentally or financially) and that is okay. You probably, like me, held your degree in your hand and felt a sigh of relief but also looked at the fragile piece of paper and wondered “what is life?" and “what did I really just do for the past four years?” and that is okay. You probably didn’t choose to travel and impact a country’s healthcare system or aid the homeless and that is okay. You don’t have a job straight out of college and that is okay. You may not have a car, or a Pinterest-worthy apartment and the things you mostly DIY are not crafty and cute but instead are like, crying, but that is also okay.
Kindness is essential to the growth of any living thing. You are living. Did you forget that? You are still alive. You have made it this far, despite your fears and pain and times spent staying up too late for classes you swore you wouldn't pass, but did.
If you need to cry, please do so. It's not a sign of weakness. Your ability to identify and contend with your emotions makes you stronger and more beautiful.
I remember walking back to my on-campus apartment after I left my last final Film Screening of my undergraduate career. The campus was empty in that comforting way that makes you feel whole and for some reason, while it was chilly, (surprise, surprise, Massachusetts), I felt warm. I made my way past the main entrance, past the gym, and onto the track that I'd run miles on, and out of absolutely nowhere -- I swear all I did was look at a puddle -- I just started crying. Typically this happens for me when a big life change is coming up and it seems to be my way of rendering myself to ashes to rise from or shedding an old skin. This cry was necessary. It was silent and solitary, snotty and muffled by my hand and 100% unpretty but it was necessary.
It was all of the Black Girl Joy, financial frustration, predominantly white institution anger, Refined F*ckboy™ nonsense (they're different than regular F*ckboys, they're like...better - or so they think), post-final anxiety, pre-final stress, and that cavernous feeling deep in your throat when you have to cut someone off. When it was over and I had let myself feel it fully, I picked myself up and walked to my room to pack my things and head onto a new part of my life.
We must be kind to ourselves. You must be kind to yourself. You have to be kind to your skin and your hair and your entire body — it is the thing that houses your soul and keeps you alive. Thank your heart for the work it does. Thank your lungs. Your legs. Your hands. Put good energy into your body and do not harbor hatred, you’ll only see it later in wrinkles and stress marks, in gray hair and exhaustion.
Four Key Things For Now:
Save Your Money:
Save as much as possible:
10%, 20%, even $5 — every little bit counts. Stop eating burritos, Ashley, you don’t need them. The money will pay off down the line. Literally.
Save Your Time:
Invest your time wisely into everything, especially people. This one kind of deserves a blog post on its own (coming soon, maybe?) Do not waste your time on things you do not enjoy. It’s literally not worth it. Sure, try new things, but if you hate it, knock it to the side and keep it moving.
Save Your Energy:
Work on actively placing good energy into yourself, into your space, and into the world. Feeding on or fending for negativity will only return this negativity back to you. Some ways to do this:
Light some candles, take a shower, and don’t forget to moisturize after. (This is not exclusive to people who identify as women. Nobody likes feeling crusty).
Meditate before bed — So many people say meditate but actually what is meditation? Basically it’s focusing on your breathing or repeating a mantra with the intent to engage your spiritual self. I slip into a meditative state through deep breathing and relaxing my muscles right before I’m out for the night.
Think before you speak: This one’s important just in general, but especially when constantly being combatted by people who have ignorant, oppressive, disgusting, and/or disrespectful, aggressive points-of-view. Honestly ask yourself if that person is worth the energy. People only understand life from their level of perception. Everything is rooted in subjectivity. Odds are if someone is not open to hearing your perspective, no amount of yelling or swearing can make them change their mind.
While I said what I said above, I will also say that sometimes protecting your energy and saving it comes in the form of the action you deem necessary for that particular moment. Can I end racism by calling someone out on their racist agenda? No. Will I eliminate feelings of frustration in myself if I speak up on an injustice? Yes. Will they stop being racist? Probs not. But, life goes on. [For anyone wondering why I chose this as an example, I'm a Black woman on planet Earth (racism isn't exclusive to America! More on this later!), so unfortunately racism is a part of my reality. Problems with it? You're on the wrong website. Be a part of the solution and don't have a problem with it.]
Save Your Mind:
Your mental health is crucial to your physical well-being. If you neglect the time necessary to take care of your psyche you will find that it takes its toll on your physical self. For me, this happens in headaches and weight gain, breakouts, and salty food. I work constantly to combat this by working out daily, even if that means a 15 minute walk with my puppy (his name’s Roman, guys, he’s adorable and hardheaded), making sure my skin is clean (WITCH. HAZEL.), less salty food or none at all, and drinking tons of water.
Everything will be okay. Honestly. No one truly knows exactly what they are doing right now, even if they seem like they do. No, they don’t have it all figured out just because they have an apartment or can afford to have their hair always done and clothes always neat and fresh.
One thing we all forget is that we don’t have to have it all figured out right now. We feel like we do, but we really don’t. Start asking older adults what they were doing when they were your age, you'll realize they were not that far removed from where you are now. We don't hear often enough the truth that in life we will have many careers, not just one you pick fresh out of undergrad. You can literally be so many things and live so many lives in this lifetime. Why restrict yourself?
Cry. Be confused. It’s okay. Everything will be fine.
And as I said to a friend recently, whose smile I mostly see on social media but always makes me smile, “A caterpillar doesn't think of the cocoon as death, it’s just a part of their process”.
Click here to check out my post: "5 Tips For Practicing Black Self-Care" with The Odyssey Online.
Click here for my downloadable Self-Care Goals Prompt!