Your university years can be a paradigm shift. You start on a path to self-discovery, becoming more aware of your likes and dislikes. Despite the deadline rush and the crippling anxiety many feel, the four years of undergraduate studies provide a structure for your life – wake up, attend classes, hang out with friends, come home, study, and repeat. But this predictable cycle of university life eventually comes to an end. You might think, what a relief!
Now you can finally get all the rest you missed when pulling all-nighters. No more insomnia. You can sleep in late without worrying about missing class or assignments. No more stress about doing all the work in group projects. No more overwhelming worries about grades. No need to be punctual either. You can go live your best life, and the world is your oyster.
But, after a while, the dread starts to sink in. What now?
During our undergraduate years, we daydream about luxurious days of laziness when we can binge-watch our favourite shows for hours. That dream will come true without you even trying. For a month or two, you'll stay home or party, spend hours in coffee shops, go on trips, or re-watch all of Friends. But, at some point, your actual friends, who have floated about just like you have, will start to find jobs or go abroad to continue their studies. But you're still stuck in your room most of the day, spending time doing nothing.
A little sad isn't it? By now, you're probably running out of money too. Your savings are depleted, and it feels embarrassing to borrow more from your parents. And then you start spiralling as your motivation drifts away too.
Many of us have never prepared for this phase of life. Honestly, how would you have known? For all the things you learn at university, it doesn't teach you what to do after you graduate, when to do it, or how. You can feel overwhelmed with purposelessness and a sense of existential horror.
I should know. I've felt it.
These feelings are not unusual, nor are they invalid. Unfortunately, you'll have to find some way to go from doing nothing 24/7 to moving on with your life.
Life after graduation can be daunting if you have yet to nail an internship, get a job, make significant connections, or get work in the family business. All the roads are open to you, but which is the right path?
Many people will tell you to take it easy and that you'll figure it out as you go. That good things will come. That is true, but here is the crux – you must figure it out yourself. You need to be the person who takes responsibility and makes good things happen.
If you or your family have no urgent needs, there is no definite time limit for pursuing your options. But you must decide when you are tired of living off an allowance or with a curfew.
It'll happen. You'll get tired of not working towards something. The glory of laziness won't fulfil you anymore. You'll wake up one day and realise that the 'later' you've been putting off is here. And so begins a time I like to call 'procrastination before productivity.'
In this phase, you'll spend all your time worrying and complaining that you aren't doing anything with your life but taking no actual action to improve the situation. Then, someone will inevitably say: "Why don't you go abroad?"
You start thinking through how you could go about it. Do you work for a year for the experience and then apply for a Master's programme? Do you decide to keep studying for the rest of your life and never actually work? Will you do a PhD after your Master's? Does that mean you have to teach or go into research? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Or you may want to scale the corporate ladder. But are you really built to be an entrepreneur? Does Bangladesh have a foundation in the field you wish to pursue, or will you have to go elsewhere? How do you find out where you can go, and how can you tell if you'll fit in?
Or do you want to settle down and get married?
These questions can be petrifying. I remember late-night anxiety attacks as I overthought every single possible decision, wishing my only worry was dealing with that one professor who seemed hell-bent on failing me.
So, as someone who has gone through all this, what advice do I have for the newly graduated? I wish I could say, 'don't worry, it'll work itself out'. But you do have to worry a little. Still, it would help if you didn't get too worked up about it, either. The truth is, you have no choice but to actually figure it out. Whether through clear thought, circumstance, external pressure, or blind luck, you'll find yourself making a choice. Just ensure that the final decision is yours and hasn't been forced on you by the weight of others' expectations.
There are no correct answers. But my advice is to understand your situation clearly, do your research, make your decisions and stick by them. Start to make things happen. It's okay to float around a bit, but you must also build something to prepare for the rest of your life.
Once you've done that, you've made it.
This article is part of Stripe, bdnews24.com's special publication focusing on culture and society from a youth perspective.