When I started my last few courses I had an image in mind of what life would be like after graduation. There was an image of writing all day, completing my manuscript, and finding time to garden, kayak, and hike. Images of relaxation with no deadlines, no looming assignments, and no longer counting credits and trying to see how many I can cram into a short amount of time in order to reach convocation. I wrote articles with the intention of talking myself down from striving for graduating in 2016 because of the intense pressure I was putting on myself to get there.
The articles didn’t work. The pressure won out. But I did achieve my goal. Degree in hand, I prepared myself to spend my days writing, researching the business, and having some well earned downtime. These things did, and are, happening. However, I found myself experiencing many emotions and reactions I did not expect with graduation: uncertainty, fear, and doubt.
While I worked towards the completion of my degree I was focused, I had an idea of what I wanted at the end, but I did not plan beyond the degree itself. After I completed it, my options were open and that was exactly the way I wanted it, or so I thought. Doing it this way also meant that the first couple months after completing my degree I was left flailing. I had a direction, and a finish line, but I was left looking at three pathways and trying to decide which path would be the best for me to get there. I found anxiety where I thought I was going to feel excitement. Oddly enough, participating in convocation only made this feeling more pronounced. I was throwing ideas and options at myself that I had never before considered, ideas that did not fit into my “end game”. I think this came from the overall excitement created around convocation, the feeling of accomplishment, and the pride that seeped through my bones. I didn’t want it to end.
Part of what complicates this transitioning period for me is that what I want to pursue is not considered realistic by many standards. Success within it comes with time, patience, persistence, and thick skin. I have a new appreciation for the days it took to get assignments back, because there was (comparatively) instant feedback. Now, I have learned that with writing, feedback (if there is any) takes months. And the feedback will generally consist of a simple yes or no. Occasionally writers get more beyond that but this seems to be the exception to the rule, more often there is none at all.
This transition was something I didn’t expect, but it has been a learning experience. I have learned to be patient with myself, to give myself the time I need to make a decision, and to allow myself to obsess over the choice for awhile. In allowing myself this time to breathe, to work on my garden, to write, to research, I trust I will make the right-for-me choice. I do not believe there is a “wrong” choice, per-se, which makes it that much harder. In this struggle I reached out to a tutor for advice, and within a thorough and thoughtful email she quoted Joseph Campbell, and said to follow your bliss. This has perhaps been the best advice. And it is something which echoes through my mind with each path I consider. I ask myself, is this choice the best path to lead me to my bliss? To the thing I want most? If the answer is no, I put a ribbon across that trail and consider it closed. Being able to ribbon paths off is a privilege which comes with this education, though it is one which I still need to get comfortable with.
Deanna Roney is an AU student who loves adventure in life and literature