I recently made a status about post-graduate depression and its severity. I don’t think we talk about it enough.
College graduation day! The happiest time in a young adult’s life. You are celebrating the culmination of 17+ years of school, studying, test and quizzes, and just all around agonizing stress. You are finally done with school (unless you’re pursuing a graduate, law or medical degree)! You post your pictures on social media and are flooded with well wishes and congratulatory messages. Everyone is so proud of you and you’re on top of the world.
Then it’s the next day and you have to figure out what you are going to do with the rest of your life.
For some, the answer is easy. Some people have great jobs in their field and they start the day after graduation. Or they have been accepted into their dream school to further their education on full ride scholarships and they’ll just live it up for the summer. Then there’s people like me.
I got my degree in my dream field, broadcast journalism. I got four years worth of classroom and job experience. I went straight through school (Fall, Winter and Summer courses) only taking a break the summer before senior year. I held an internship at some of Detroit’s most prestigious media outlets EVERY SEMESTER of my college career. On top of that, trying to maintain a social life and relationship, leading a student organization, winning homecoming queen, band practice, and football and basketball games with the band. Somehow, some way, I graduated as a member of the WSU Journalism Institute for Media Diversity and the Lambda Eta Pi Communications Honor Society with a GPA over 3.0. Not to brag but I DID THAT HONEY!
I did everything right. I had a stellar college career, hella recommendations from professors and professionals but it still wasn’t enough to land me a job right after graduation.
I began applying for jobs in February, about 3 months before I finished. About a month in and probably 150 applications later, this had become my life.
The clock was ticking and I hadn’t secured the bag. I was going to graduate without any job offers. May came and went. I graduated. I got the piece of paper everyone dreams of and it was probably the most unfulfilling experience in my life (not to mention, my credits got screwed up and I had to take a summer course to complete my degree).
I was in the sunken place.
People would ask me what I was doing next. Where was I working? My great aunt was convinced I’d be the next Carmen Harlan. My mother urged the thought of going back to school.
I had what my Dad calls “the perfect college career” and nothing to show for it. That summer I returned to my beloved Math Corps. It’s a summer program I had been a part of for the last 10 years. I told everyone the previous year that it would be my last because I was graduating. Alas, in the sunken place, I returned. It was what I needed. I was working at a place I loved, getting money for dumb post-graduate needs, and I had time to be a contributor at Naturalicious.com. But Math Corps only lasts six weeks so I still had to fill out applications until my fingers bled.
My entire four years of college, I was told to prepare to leave the state to find my first job. I wasn’t listening but July came along and I had to get right. I decided to use all of the money I received from my graduation party to attend the National Association of Black Journalists conference in Minnesota.
It was a breath of fresh air. I was rubbing elbows with the best Black journalists in the nation. I wasn’t intimidated; I was confident in my skills and my experience. That is, until I attended the NBCUniversal job fair. I woke up that morning ready to slay. As I got closer to the job fair, I noticed two things:
- Yassssss Black Girl Magic. A lot of the younger black women were wearing their natural hair.
- Every Black girl in here wanted the same thing.
I was shooketh but I powered through. I showed my resume to some top execs at NBC. One person in particular warned me that every Black girl in here wants to be on TV and that the stakes were higher (thanks for confirming my doubts). She also said that there weren’t a lot of Black female producers in the industry and that I should lead with that. She loved my production work.
With my doubts confirmed and dreams of being on camera thrashed, I continued to the larger job fair.
I showed my resume and demo reel to news directors across the country, big and small markets. I had someone tell me that I should wear my hair straight in my reel because it was more appealing (I’m not even going to get into that heartbreak right now, I’m still recovering). I got a few business cards and followed up immediately. From that fair, I was able to secure two interviews for producer positions. One in Saginaw, MI and another in Columbus, OH. I was successful. I had accomplished what I set out to do.
I’ll spare you the details of both interviews and fast forward to the important part. I didn’t get an offer from the Columbus station but I did get an offer to join the Saginaw station. It was a one year program that would help train me as a producer and then transfer me to another station, anywhere in the US, when I completed the training. I was so ready to jump on the opportunity because I felt the need to have this job. I would be using my degree and be in my field right after graduation but I knew in my heart that it wasn’t the opportunity for me.
- It only paid $20k.
- There was no relocation fees included.
- I’d be away from my family and then-boyfriend for a year and possibly relocated soon after.
I didn’t take the job. It wasn’t good enough for me and I wasn’t going to settle.
It’s now the end of August and I’ve lost all hope. I get a call from a radio news station in Detroit. They want to bring me in for an interview. Could this be my big break? Would I be a news producer in a top 20 news market? Short answer, yes! I was offered a part-time, weekend position. That same day of the call, I got another buzz from the Dean of Students at my alma mater. He wanted to offer me a temporary position in his office doing Student Activities. Of course I took it.
So now I’m two job shawty. I’m doing what I went to school for and getting experience in another exciting career field. I was getting enough money to lease my very own car and pay the ridiculous Michigan car insurance on it. I was living it up!
Boy was I wrong. On top of working 40 hours at WSU, I had no time for fun because I was at the station on the weekends.
As my time at WSU came to an end (remember it was temporary) I found myself back in that sunken place. Do I apply for this open position in the Dean of Students Office and go back to school for Student Activities (which was needed to continue in that field) or do I keep pressing on in the field of media? I stood at this agonizing crossroads for about 2-3 months. In the end, I chose PR.
I know. Not what you expected right. But in the end, I’m much happier in my field. I love the work that I do. I have some unpredictable days but I’m in most of the time 9-5, Monday through Friday and I still work with the media.
But don’t think for a second that the post-grad struggle bus stops here.
I’m still broke, in a constant state of worry about money, at home with my parents, sister and nephew but I have found peace in my work life. Finding a job was just one part of the post-grad struggle. Now that it’s out of the way, a whole new wave of worry has hit.
I say all of this just to reassure my fellow recent grads that you are not alone. Yes, some of your classmates are traveling the world and working their dream jobs but we’ll all get to that point eventually. Enjoy this wild ride of uncertainty and when you hit it big, look back on this time and see how it changed and molded you. See how being uncomfortable helped you grow as a person. I experienced a shit ton of anxiety in this period (May 2015 until present). Lost a few people along the way but I know I will be okay.
The post-graduate sunken place is real. Depression is real. Anxiety is real. A little worry here and there is normal but if you feel yourself falling into nothingness and pulling away from people you love. Get help. I did and it was the best decision I’ve made in all of my 23 years. I found myself becoming reclusive, not enjoying the beautiful life I was blessed with. You have to be aware of the warning signs and be in tune with yourself enough to know when it’s time to talk it out.
You don’t have to be perfect; life never is! Stop trying to plan out every second because you’ll miss some great moments trying to prepare for the future. Oh and give yourself credit for being a boss ass person.
I didn’t realize how much I had overcome until I had said it aloud in counseling. My therapist’s eyes got really big and she cut me off like: “Do you know you’ve made it through a work load that would have crushed lots of people?” I was like:
That’s the reason I have the West African Wawa Aba symbol tattooed on my left wrist.
I was so busy living for the future that I forgot to live in the moment. I was so worried about what I hadn’t accomplished that I didn’t give myself credit for all the amazing things I HAD accomplished. I FREAKING COVERED BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA’S SECOND INAUGURATION, FROM THE PRESS BOX AT THE COUNTRY’S CAPITOL, AT 19 YEARS OLD!
I realized I needed help and got it, made some major changes in my life and now I’m so happy. I’m happier than I’ve ever been before.
The point of all of this is: That sadness or uncertainty you feel right now, will go away once you get the help you need. Diamonds are just rocks that were put under a lot of pressure. Weather the storm sis or bro! Your rainbows are on the horizon!
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