This is the twenty-fifth year of my life; I am half way to fifty and I am amidst the supposed best time of my life; young adulthood. Young adulthood is defined as the period of our lives between the ages of 18 and 29. This period of our lives is one of immense change, and therefore a period associated with greater risks of mental health problems and higher levels of social stress. I found it interesting to discover however, that this period is one of the most understudied.
The term “graduate blues” was one that I had heard thrown about in conversation previously, but it was only recently that the term started to resonate with me on a personal level. I began to realise that this was a genuine feeling, or series of feelings, that I could relate much of my own experiences and mind sets to.
Finishing university, finally leaving education, is considered a celebration; supposedly a joyful time. So why was it that I was finding it so hard to feel this joy and optimism towards my future? There is a shame attached to the idea of admitting that this time of celebration, at finishing your 20 years of education and finally going out into the world, is not such a wonderful time after all.
There is a shame in admitting that you are failing, especially for those of us born in the age of the millennial. We have grown up surrounded by social media. These platforms give us an out of proportion sense that everyone else has it figured out. It presents to us that everyone else has left education, scored their dream job, have settled down, and are excitingly pursuing their futures. It’s the unrealistic idea that everyone has their “shit together” … apart from you. These pressures can cause us to retreat and isolate ourselves from those we feel have got it figured out; friends, family and colleagues.
After 20-something years of being told what to do, where to go, and having a structure to follow, how do we know what to do next? We are faced with feelings of “what do I do now?”, how do we deal with this huge life changing transition of moving on from the structure and purposes our lives once had. Maybe, even more importantly, how do we cope with the emptiness that fills us from this lack of direction?
British philosopher Alan Watts once said that life is not a journey, that we should think of life as more like a dance, or a piece of music. Life is to be enjoyed at every step, rather than to see it as a series of stepping stones. The mistake with life is to think that we should always be rushing to the next destination, before you know it, it’ll be over, but did you enjoy it?
I have come to see life, like Watts, as a dance, but rather perhaps, a series of dances is a more appropriate metaphor. The end of education marks for me the end of a period of my life, the end of my first dance. I don’t believe that I can start my next one until I have truly ended my last. How could a dancer possibly dance their next dance at their best if they are consumed by anxiety from the last time they took to the stage.
This project is therapy. It is about digging up and turning over every part of the last twenty-five years, no matter how difficult it is to face it all. It is about reflecting on who I used to be, what life used to be, where I thought I would be by now, and facing these feelings so that I can close that part of my life and move forwards to the next. I am preparing to dance my final steps and let the curtain close, so that I am ready to begin my next performance.
This is closure.