(Editor’s note: This is the last in a multi-part series by guest blogger Kim Dreese, a 2013 college grad writing about the joys [read: anxieties] of toting her B.A. degree from the graduation stage on into the “real world”.)
If you pay attention to the news, you might have heard that the state of Oregon recently approved a plan to pay for the tuition of students who will attend community college and public universities, who will later pay back a portion of it with their future paychecks.
As awesome and forward-thinking as this is for Oregon and its aspiring graduates, I was sincerely and selfishly upset when I heard this news. Couldn’t they have come up with this idea before I graduated?
I’m now single-handedly responsible for paying back a massive amount of student loan debt, and kids in Oregon will get a tuition-free college education and just pay out a very small amount from their gross income over the course of twenty years after graduating if they find a job.
My debt is worth more than I’ll make in years and will hike every day with interest rates going berserk.
I’ll be lucky to pay it off before I turn 50.
MY TIME IS NOT MINE
As soon as you finish school, most people regard you as a fully-fledged “real” adult.
You are consequently required to take on every responsibility people throw at you. You are no longer someone’s child. You are not allowed to be dependent on anyone else, and instead, everyone else decides to become dependent on you.
In my case, my boss used hiring me as an excuse to not do work anymore, preferring to shove it all onto me.
Additionally, my landlord expects me to keep my apartment spotless and take care of the old lady with cancer downstairs and do all the yard work in addition to my taking two online classes for my job.
In other words, after you graduate, you are literally. Always. Busy.
I actually had a week’s vacation (unpaid) a short time ago, and when I came back, I felt actual symptoms of depression for the first time in my life. Immediately upon returning, my boss dumped a huge amount of work on me and some other obligations cropped up as well, and I was completely overwhelmed.
I was busy from the moment I got up till the moment I went to bed, and my emotions quickly spiraled into a bottomless vacuum of anger, stress, and anxiety. This was not simply a pouty-pants day. That week, I cried daily, I didn’t want to get out of bed, I started emotionally eating, drinking, and found it nearly impossible to do any necessary tasks.
Although my mood eventually lifted, some days, I feel as though my job is sucking the life out of me. It’s leaving me listless and uninterested in things I used to love, or at least keeping me so busy that I can’t do them.
MY DEGREE THEY CAN’T SEE
Speaking of which, since I’m so busy these days, I don’t actually have time to test the creative writing skills I honed for four years. I haven’t written much since graduation, and I no longer have a drill sergeant (read: professor) ordering me to deliver content-rich and error-free pages.
There’s an entirely separate kind of anxiety that comes with being a writer, particularly when you are separated from your mentor. Some days I worry that I might have forgotten how to write altogether and that even if I do get published someday it’ll be ripped apart by critics.
And then, worst of all, there’s always a blank Word document taking up my laptop screen, blinding white, while the cursor blinks inquisitively.
CHEERS TO A NON-SUCKY FUTURE
Growing up pretty much sucks so far. A dark cloud of anxiety is always looming behind me, occasionally snagging me by the heels and tripping me up. It follows me everywhere—when I wake up, when I drive to work, when I’m being scrutinized by my boss, even when I have to go into a new restaurant for the first time.
I have hope for the future, but it will likely be a very long uphill battle.
As negative as this entire series of posts sounds, I do sincerely believe that things will get better.
Someday, my student loans will be paid off, I might actually have health insurance, and hopefully by the time I’m 65 I’ll be on a beach in Hawaii with an umbrella drink in my hand and a husband reading one of my novels in the hammock next to me.
My advice to future graduates is to move to Oregon for free tuition and then track down your great aunt’s cousin’s nephew who can get you a job doing something that comes with a benefits package.
And, no matter how hard things get, never give up — or give in to the hopelessness of your anxiety.
Photo: Earls37a (Flickr)
Kim Dreese is a recent graduate of Lycoming College, where she foolishly majored in Creative Writing and minored in Psychology and Media Writing. Her newest hobbies include blogging and complaining about being an adult. She works at a small advertising firm in Wilkes-Barre, PA. You can follow her daily rants on Twitter at @lyco13.