September is a pretty hectic month for most people. It seems to be the "new year" for many of us, regardless if we are still in school or not. Parents are busy getting their kids ready to start a new grade, students are busy figuring out what friends they will meet or see again in their new classes, and teachers are planning for the year ahead. Even retail and malls begin to get ready for the busy season ahead -- yes this means Christmas planning in September. The thing about September is that it also brings a grim reminder to all of those recent graduates from high school, university or college: they may not have their lives together. I like to call this experience the September Blues.
Sometimes when I stop to look around and analyze my life, I notice that I'm not the only twenty-something year old who doesn't have their life figured out. Since when did we have to start figuring our life goals out at the ripe age of 15? I remember being in grade 10 and having to select my courses for grade 11, which meant prerequisites for grade 12, which were (you guessed it) prerequisites for college and university. At 15 I was still figuring out what music I liked, what shoes I would buy next, and whether or not I should stay up past midnight. These were my big life choices, but somehow I also had to decide my fate before it was too late.
Most of my friends, including myself, went straight from high school into university or college. We were all pretty smart, passionate, and independent young women who decided to pick a new passion and focus on it for the next 4 years. Many went into specific sciences, some went into psychology, and others chose to figure it out while they were studying a variety of courses. I can truly only say that out of my group of seven close friends, one girl and myself knew exactly what it was we wanted to do. I wanted to be a social worker, or at least become one and then take over the world, and my other friend would become a successful pastry chef. Throughout the four years of our various university/college programs we stayed friends and yet grew into these independent young adults with different life experiences.
Back to the whole September Blues theory, the first September that came around after graduating from university, I felt excited to not have to go back to school for the first time in 17 years. And then it all came crashing down. I started to feel upset, frustrated and angry by the middle of the month. I had a degree and diploma in social services, I had graduated with honours, and I had spent my entire life up until that point desperately wanting to make a difference in the life of others. I passed my exams, had several different placements in the field, life experiences and a list of references ready to vow for my amazing skills. So where the heck was that phone call that offered me my dream job? I started to doubt myself, my abilities, and life in general. We were told our entire lives that if we went to school, studied hard and got the good grades, we would be successful. And to be ultimately "successful" after graduating, meant getting a job in your field.
After spending months upon months applying for job after job, I hit my breaking point. What was wrong with me? Why didn't anyone want me? I was young, motivated, and enthusiastic to bring my skills to the real working world, yet everyone was slamming doors in my face. I fell into a deep dark hole of self-loathing, hatred, and pity. I had been lied to for years! Why didn't someone tell me sooner that life wasn't going to plan out the way it had been painted for me so many times before? A few of my friends got jobs right away after graduating which made it even more difficult for me to process what the heck was going on with me. It seemed to come so easy for some people, yet many of us were stuck heading back into our crummy part time jobs that paid minimum wage.
After two years of the September Blues, I can safely say I am still standing to tell the tale. Although I haven't exactly found my dream job, I created one. I was so sick of feeling helpless and stuck that I decided to create my own destiny. After hundreds of job applications, and countless interviews and second interviews, I decided I was applying for cookie-cutter jobs that were not for me. I literally stopped my job search and decided to focus on me. I stopped feeling sorry for myself, took the sweatpants off, and decided to make some real changes. I started by looking for help to deal with my medical condition, trichotillomania, and the rest is history. I emailed an agency in the states who were the only people in the world who offered support for this condition, and I explained to them what my educational background was and if I could somehow help in Canada. They offered me the chance to volunteer and promote their agency at a conference regarding OCD and related anxiety disorders. I jumped on the chance. It was literally that email that changed my life. I have now founded the second non-profit agency in the entire world to help others with BFRBs. Although I am currently not getting paid to do all the work, I have never been happier.
The only advice I can offer for recent graduates and other young people who feel like they are lost and don't know what to do with their lives is don't worry, none of us know what we're doing either. Seriously. All I can say is take risks, jump at opportunities like I did, and you never know what will happen. Life can change in an instant, so don't fret the little things, enjoy your time off, and take the time to learn who you are and what you want out of life. They say comparison steals your joy, so don't compare; just focus on you and things will fall into place.
This post is dedicated to all of those recent graduates who are still figuring out what their purpose is, especially my friend Suzette. Your time will come!
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