Last night after I got in from work I made my dinner, spoke to my flatmates, watched a BBC iPlayer and went to bed. Tonight I'll get in from work, make my dinner, speak to my flatmates, watch BBC iPlayer and go to bed. Tomorrow I'll more than likely get in from work, make my dinner, speak to my flatmates, watch BBC iPlayer, and then (shock horror) go to bed.
This rigorous and straining (mundane and repetitive) routine is my routine, 5 evenings a week. 20 evenings a month. 240 evenings a year.
Sometimes I like to mix it up, I'll watch 4OD instead of iPlayer, maybe even read my book if I'm feeling really wild. Obviously, I am slightly over exaggerating about how monotonous my weekly routine is for the purpose of this article, I do make it out from time to time. However it highlights how much of contrast this new life I have found myself in is compared to my one at university. It sometimes causes me to compile a small list of aspects of my old uni lifestyle that no longer feature in it during the present day:
• Waking up at 11 am, on a Tuesday.
• Being in the library until 10 pm, then hearing the distant low beat from the Students Union, throwing caution to the wind, and heading out to join everyone else in tipping snake bite all over ourselves.
• Covering a pizza at 3 am in garlic mayo. When the hell else is it acceptable to do that?
• When you wake up to discover the souvenirs you've collected from your previous night out. A tie, a hat, a pair of sunglasses. You've no idea how you acquired them or why you thought 'my god, I NEED that green visor that fresher is wearing more than anything in the world right now'.... but it makes a great addition to your ever growing fancy dress collection.
• Going to the library for a social occasion only.
• The bagel man. Only fellow Reading students will I understand that one.
• Bank holidays being a bane rather than a blessing.
• The weekend being like any other day of the week.
• My NUS card. A lonely tear runs down my face whenever the cashier at Topshop asks if I have one.
Sure, there are certain things I don't miss. To quote a friend "waking up after a night out and thinking the whole world was against you". That hangover feeling of just wanting to shed a new skin. Not wanting to leave the house because you have no idea what you did last night, but you know if your mother knew she'd probably ostracize you. Hiding at the back at lectures whilst swearing to new religions and praying to new gods so that the lecturer doesn't pick on you as you haven't done the reading. However, it was all part and parcel of the university way and I wouldn't have changed any of it.
For 3 - 4 years of their lives a huge chunk of the population are thrown into a new exciting bubble, where we are expected to try new things, grow as people, and balls up from time to time, it can be the best time of your life. However, graduation date eventually comes round in the calendar, and before you know it you're throwing your graduation cap up in the air. You look up at it gleefully, surrounded by your course mates, thinking like Pinocchio 'I'm a real boy now!' What then comes crashing back down for some of us is not the cap, but the distressing realisation that you are now a cog in a corporate system. One that expects us to set down our snake bites and pick up a pension scheme, and some of us just aren't ready to let that potent purple nectar go.
This realisation can hit you through a number of different mediums; numerous family members, friends and tutors asking you 'so what next?' and you in turn screaming back in your head "I DON'T KNOW!!!!!!" whilst mentally pummeling them with your degree certificate. You are also reminded about the fact that you are now NO longer at university and have wasted A LOT of the governments money on fancy dress, cheesy chips and library fines, by being sent a little letter just telling you exactly how much. It's not a demand for payment; it's just to let you know. The only point I can see to receiving this letter is because student loans is full of evil, twisted people who sit in big black leather chairs whilst stroking white cats. It's the equivalent of someone going round a primary school with the statement 'the stalk didn't bring you...' stuck to their back. So thank you, student loans, for the cardiac arrest you almost induced in me one fine summer morning.
However it's made me think, does all this uncertainty and yearning just equate in simple post education nostalgia, or can it potentially develop into something serious? It's a huge change of lifestyle for many, going from being constantly surrounded by a support system of friends, tutors and old haunts and launched into the bid bad world, it's a massive culture shock. Now I love stats and research, so let's throw some in; Well, I would.... accept there are no official figures representing anything for mental health post graduation period. They have them for during university (which dumbfounds me), but not for after. With this period being one of the most unstable and uncertain in a young adult's lives, why is this?
One reason could be simply because it doesn't exist. However, the Guardian asked 40 students if they believed post graduation depression was a viable concern, and 95% believed so. A further 87% believed that there should be some exposure on it, bringing more awareness to the mental difficulties some young adults face in their new life. There are arguments against this; it has been deemed that it isn't awareness that needs to be built on but the attitude of graduates instead. Are we just feeling sorry for ourselves, having been spoiled by our previous free spirited and cosy university bubble?
I would like to argue for both sides, although it is largely the gratuitous lifestyle I miss rather than the essays, exams and grades; I was genuinely extremely under prepared from what to expect from life after university.
Career services constantly inundate students with leaflets, advice, talks and fairs promoting career development and support post study. However there is no real guidance for what else you should expect. A minor example; council tax, what? I'm sorry? Where the hell did that come from? Completely forgot it even existed thanks to my secure student capsule. Another thing, 6AM; the very few times I saw this ungodly hour at university were few and far between. I wasn't aware radio 1 even had a presenter named 'Dev' and now I find he's my encouraging companion every morning. So I'd just like to say that Dev, I couldn't do it without you mate. I really couldn't.
Universities could perhaps benefit from giving advice to their students concerning the aspects of reality they are likely to come across once leaving. It may seem patronizing for a group of people who have technically lived away from home for a few years now; however support could span from coping with moving back home, to the list of taxes you are about to start paying, the mental strain that full time employment can take on you or even support for those who haven't worked out exactly what to do next, instead of overwhelming them with careers they feel they SHOULD enter into. Just so it's not all a complete hammer to the face once you get there.
There appears to be a rather unsympathetic attitude towards those who are struggling with life after university. Graduates aren't just throwing their dummies out of the pram because they have had their student cards taken away from them; it's a tremendous adjustment and polar correlation to the life previously lived. However, university was the time to explore, and now that's been and gone a lot of us feel that this indicates we should stop exploring and MUST settle. If you are surrounded by friends entering graduate programs, their desired career, or even (and this is the one that makes me want to run, tape myself up into a cardboard box and courier myself to New Guinea) moving in with their partner, then panic not. Just like university, this is another new chapter that requires exploration, and we should try and view it as a shiny new opportunity to continue doing so.... it'll just be minus a few VKs and Jager-bombs.