Coping with Post-Traumatic Post-Grad Disorder

Time to Dream Yourself A Better Reality…

Life as a post-graduate has no simple recipe, but most will include the following ingredients: more job applications than one can count, nervousness, nostalgia, and perhaps mostly, Uncertainty. For the majority of our lives, we have been students. We have attended two or more years of preschool, seven years of primary education, six years of secondary education, and four years of higher education. All of these years have been carefully planned, and each year comes with the promise of a new desk, a new list of classes and required reading.

At the end of this arduous journey, we are handed a pretty diploma to hang on the freshly painted walls of our luxuriousy decorated corner office, which has an expensive, ergonomic black leather swivel chair and no less than two ceiling-high windows. Those windows most likely will overlook a vast, important scene in the center of a sprawling metropolis, which has money trees conveniently planted at each street corner.

We soon discover, however, that reality does not quite match the grandeur of our expectations. And that’s okay.

Just because our dreams are not immediately fulfilled following graduation does not mean that one day they won’t be. We must have the courage to keep dreaming and keep working toward making those dreams a reality. We just might have to sacrifice along the way to that corner office on Success Street.

Come to terms with these realities as you brood, furrow your brow, hyper-venthilate, and/or re-evaluate your life to date (or if you’re a lucky one, continue your education at grad school). But first, consider a piece of advice: Stop what you are doing. It’s going to be okay. Now, continue to read on, move on, and live on…

Lessons on Life

1. Accept a job if it is related to your major and holds relevant experience: It takes climbing one rung at a time to get to the top of your dream-job ladder.

Graduating as a Secondary English Education major, I shot for a job as an English teacher in the #1 highest-paying school districts in the nation: in Fairfax, VA. While I didn’t yet obtain my dream job, I’ve found two jobs, which challenge me to do what I do best every day: work with children. In the mornings, I teach three-year-olds at a preschool, and in the afternoons, I nanny for a family with two hyperactive boys, ages five and seven. I may not be teaching these kids about Shakespeare and literary devices, but I teach them (and learn) something new Monday through Friday.

A Whole New World with Three-Year-Olds

2. Learn from each experience life gives you. Rather than be upset with your present circumstances, focus on how your current opportunities enriches your life.

With my Penn State degree and teaching certification in tow, I was beyond frustrated that the only jobs I could reel in were in the preschool and babysitting realms. What I didn’t know was that these jobs would force me to stretch my abilities as a teacher and teach me to consider new perspectives on education and life. I used to think teaching majorly involved coming up with an engaging lesson plan for each day; now I know the meaning of teaching has many faces.
Teaching means rolling with the punches, literally. It means picking up the child who’s just thrown a punch, sitting him down in Time Out, and explaining why hurting is bad, bad, very bad. Teaching is imparting wisdom, morals, a spoon for lunchtime. Teaching means taking toddlers to the bathroom NOW because they have to go potty and changing an occasional diaper or two. Teaching means teaching two brothers to play nice together, and to separate them to calm down and think when they can’t seem to find any nice words to say to each other. Teaching means compromising, innovating, calming down, hugging, planning, accepting the unplanned. Teaching requires not just an ability, but a willingness, to accept learning something new every day from the incredible little beings in our lives.

2. When you accept your present, you can begin to better your future: Constantly seek out new experiences to lead a fulfilling life. Having the motivation to create life after graduation gives you the momentum you need to move forward and upward.

My mind the summer after graduation was largely consumed by anxious, negative thoughts. I worried more than I worked toward any goal. Once I shed my worries and focused on the Forward progression of life, my mind and schedule were more open to an endless array of possibilities. I challenge myself each week, if not each day, to do something new. I feel the burn of a new workout, I bake a deliciously messy recipe I discovered online, I reflect upon the lessons learned from children that day. Every day has something to offer. I’ve learned the important thing is to keep moving forward and upward to tomorrow.

A New Recipe: S’mores Brownie Cookies

3. Be one step ahead of yourself. Prepare to give yourself a better tomorrow.

The corner office with the dreamy scene out the windows doesn’t just fall into your lap. You have to work–and research, fight, and feel-for it. While I am making the best of my present situation, I am not forgetting my true dream: to teach in a secondary-level classroom. I still change diapers, teach students the color red, and play Legos with two young brothers, but I remember to spend my nights and weekends moving toward my best future. I am reading novels I never had time to, searching for articles and Webinars to professionally develop myself on my own time, and I have applied for next year’s Teach For America teaching corps. While I cannot guarantee that these actions will be used directly in my future employment (or guarantee my next future employment), I am doing everything within my power to better myself and all my tomorrows. The bottom line is that I have a passion and a dream of teaching children the beauty and power of words, and I will not stop until I’ve impacted the world.

The world: It’s a big place with a lot of people. Let that be known as an understatement. I said that I dream of changing the world. Let it be known that this is no exaggeration. It is a Dream, My Dream, which I have dreamt up out of the depth and persistence of my passions. That being said, it is no less important, and no less possible just because it is a dream.

Take Charge, Dream Hard

My last piece of advice for post-grads is this: Dream the fullest, most impossible dream you can dream, so that when you rename it Reality, it will be impossibly, possibly sweet.

To cure anxiety and doubt, I give you my dream:

I do not just want to change a life subtly with a few lessons on grammar or a helpful piece of advice on punctuation. I want to rock the world with inspiration. I want to give the world the motivation to rise beyond expectations, to cross the uncrossable line, which makes Impossible–Possible. I want the world to desire change and happiness and peace with a fierce passion. Because of me, the world will realize its true power: that each individual holds the power to change not just their own destiny, but the destiny of others. Because of me, the world will not soon forget that with the power, the passion, and the courage to dream comes the ability to make dreams become Reality.

If you are as yet nervous or uncertain in any sense, be still. But not for long. You have dreams to dream, and lives to change. First, change your own. Fight for your life, the one you’ll want to write about in a book someday. Live a life that others can dream of and aspire to. If you’ve discovered your passion, do not let it go. And if someone tells you your dream can’t come true, prove them wrong. You’ll get that dream job. Maybe not today, but maybe tomorrow, or the tomorrow after that. Stand on your past, live in the present, and fight for your future, the one that sets the unsavory ingredients of nervousness, anxiety and uncertainty behind you. You have the power to live out your passions and to realize your dreams. Why? Because no one will give you a chance until you first give yourself a chance.

Believe in your future so much that, little by little, your office starts taking shape. Your desk prominently writes itself into the center of the room. Next sketched in atop your desk is a mug filled with smooth-writing pens and an out-tray of work that is taller than the in-tray. As you work today and tomorrow, and begin to believe the dream, your ceiling-high windows will etch themselves into the wall on your left. And if you dream just hard enough, you’ll see the skyscrapers stretching up into the horizon, weaving themselves across, up and down, up and down. And if you can see the sun just about to set over the highest building, you can smile and see that maybe you’ve dreamed just big enough.

Maybe you’ll dream yourself into reality.


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