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The Post-Graduate Blues

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 By Dan Bound-Black

peter pan.jpg

In college, I had such clarity about what I wanted out of life--to get the hell out of school, move to the city, and be an actor. I spent my four years of college making the most of what I had so I was working all of the time. I loved being busy and taking every opportunity I could get my hands on. I never said no, and I often found myself getting into trouble for having too much on my plate. But it was always worth it. After a particularly difficult semester, one professor gave me a hug and said, "You performed miracles this semester. I don't know how you did it." I was on top of the world, and knew I could do anything. I had every opportunity I had ever wanted at school, and if I didn't, something better always came along. As I walked off the stage at graduation, the president of the university's last words to me were, "I'm really going to miss you. I don't know how we're going to run this place without you." I was ready. School was finally behind me, I had an apartment in the city, auditions lined up, and dreams ready to be fulfilled at any moment.

Now, I ask myself: What went wrong?

I got to the city with so much confidence, excitement, and joy. Two months later, I felt nothing but fear and a desire never to grow up. When did I go from being Hercules to being a reclusive and boring Peter Pan who does not go on adventures, but instead played a huge role in Netflix streaming a billion hours last month? How could two months out of school break me so quickly?

I guess it all started when I made two new friends: fear and self-doubt. I had many contacts who were helping me out when I got to the city.  I thought I would have no problem getting a job and making new connections in pursuit of my dreams. In my mind, who wouldn't want to hire me?

Since then I have applied for at least a hundred jobs in two months, and have only received one offer, which turned out to be a scam. At first, I didn't let it get to me, thinking there was some big plan that had yet to come to fruition, but as my days of unemployment grew longer and the money in my bank account got smaller, I started to doubt myself. Maybe I don't have anything to offer? Maybe my success in school was just a fluke and I'm not good for anything other than sophomoric responsibilities at a tiny university? Maybe I'm not qualified to be a barista at Starbucks or work the cash register at a local bakery? Maybe the courses I took in Microsoft office weren't enough to make me an administrative assistant or a temp or even to score an interview? My faith in my abilities was gone. All I had left was self-doubt. At that point, if I got a job, would I even be able to do it or would I embarrass myself so badly with my incompetence that they would tell everyone they knew I was an idiot so I would never get hired again. Clearly, hysteria was kicking in, and I finally got so tired of spending my days stuck in my apartment that I went home to visit my family and friends.

It felt good being home, where I knew everything and everyone. It was like going back in time and staying young and in college where everything was safe and I had a grasp on what I was doing again. I went out for drinks with my friends and was amazed to find out that they were having just as much difficulty finding work as I was. They were just as afraid, just as confused. Part of me felt ashamed that I was not a huge success right out of college that I isolated myself from friends. Now that I have been honest with myself and with them, I realize that I am not alone. There are plenty of people with the post-graduate blues trying to find their way in the world.

I now know that this is real life and we are not going to have everything offered to us on a platter. It is going to be tough, but we need to be there for each other to get through this awkward transition into adulthood. I might screw up and fall on my face a few times, but at least I'll be learning and finding my place in the world. I can be Hercules and Peter Pan. The cool Peter that goes on adventures and whips out his knife to tell Hook to take his friends, Fear and Self-doubt, and get the hell out of Neverland.

 

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