So, it has been 2 years since I graduated from University, and life is not at all what I expected it to be.
Growing up, university seems to be the end goal. You go to school every day from the age of 4, you learn how to read and write. You learn social skills, make friends and hopefully the difference between right and wrong. Throughout your whole education, you are faced with daunting task of picking your future career.
You are faced with quizzes to determine what career suits you best, you meet with your guidance teachers and are tasked with picking your subjects at the early age of 13. By the time you become a teenager you are faced with the decisions about your future.
I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up, and to be honest, I still don’t really know.
The task was far too daunting to me at 17 so I took a year out to try and figure it out. After trawling through the websites for every university in Scotland I decided on Edinburgh Napier University. I applied for a few courses, but the winner was Festival & Event Management.
So, in September 2012 I moved my life to Edinburgh to start university. It was the most challenging but ultimately rewarding 4 years of my life. I found new friends, new adventures and a new outlook on life.
Throughout the 4 years I had this idea of what life would be like after graduation. I pictured getting the perfect job where I got to fill my wardrobe with office wear and complain about having so many emails to reply to. Graduation and life after it was so hyped up, so much so that I was wishing away my time at uni.
Really, the reality was so very different.
After struggling my way through 4th year, I had the added pressure of job hunting, graduation and some really tough mental health issues to deal with. I had no money so graduation was more of a stress than the exciting day that i had always dreamed it to be, and I knew I still had no job to go into.
That being said, graduation may have been the best week of my life. After all the challenges, I got to put on my robe and walk across that stage and be proud of myself. And of course, we can’t forget grad ball!! Well, some of it is still a little hazy…
To give myself some more time, I went back to my summer job – working a bar during the Fringe Festival. Giving myself one last summer to just have fun before the hard work really started.
During that summer I started looking at jobs in London. I had interviews lined up for the start of September so off I went to spend 10 days running around the city trying to get a job.
I was doing really well, but it just didn’t feel right. London is so money motivated and that is just not me. I also couldn’t imagine myself living in London, so I gave up that idea and came back to Edinburgh. After a lot of searching, I ended up working in a coffee shop to keep me going for the time being.
I really thought after graduation working in hospitality was over for me, but here I was waking up at 5am every day to go make coffee for people in suits off to their “grown up” jobs. I hit a bit of a slump and thought there was no way out of it.
The following October, that is over a year since graduation, I ended up getting some freelance event work. It was only 2 days a week, but it was a start. It started to build up my confidence again after feeling like a total failure.
A few months later, I was getting more freelance work, so made the brave decision to quit working at the coffee shop.
I had spent almost a year as a barista, and has much as I enjoyed it, my mental health took a real hit. I was so convinced I wasn’t good enough, and my degree wasn’t worth the hassle. I started to put on weight and just generally let my health decline. I was at an all time low while working in that coffee shop.
After quitting, I focused all my energy into working freelance. I was finally working in a field that I was passionate about. I worked from home the majority of the time so had a great time exploring all the coffee shops I could find in Edinburgh.
It also gave me the freedom to head back home and help my mum open up her restaurant, and in April I packed up my Edinburgh flat and moved to Glasgow.
It was starting to look like I was finally getting my shit together, until mid-May. I headed into Glasgow for a meeting with my boss, which I thought was just going to be a catch up, but it turned into me losing my job.
I was totally crushed, I thought I was doing so well.
Thankfully, I could start working at my mums restaurant until I sorted myself out. I though it would just be a couple of weeks until I found myself something else, but it is now 5 months later and I am now the FOH manager.
I managed to take all that energy and put into all aspects of the restaurant, from the social media to doing the accounting.
If you had told me 6 years ago this is where I would be after graduating I would have probably laughed in your face. I had such a vision for myself that now looking back was just setting me up for disappointment.
If I could go back to 2012, I would tell myself to just calm down and stop worrying about the future. I would just enjoy my time at university and not be so focused on what happens when it ends.
University is a place to learn about yourself. You have to give yourself the space to just be yourself. I spent so much of my time worrying about life after graduation that I missed just being there.
I wish there was this conversation at school or even at uni. We never talk about what happens when it is all over. There is no conversations about looking for jobs, how to figure out a career or what happens if you don’t get a job straight after graduation.
But most importantly, we need to talk about how much a struggle life is the first year after graduation.
Nobody tells you how difficult it is to go from a lifetime in education to not being there at all. In life after graduation there are no exams, there are no more endless nights of studying. It may sound like bliss, and eventually it will be, but it is hard to transition from always working towards something to just living life.
It is now over 2 years since I graduated and I am feeling the “back to uni” blues as I see the shops filled with stationary and people around me getting ready to go back to uni.
I think eventually this feeling will disappear, but for just now I will just need to pretend by stocking up on cute notebooks from Paperchase!