When I finished university, I didn't know what to do or where to even start. It was frustrating, because I had spent my last four years thinking I had it all figured out. A year later, I'm happy to say that I've finally found my footing, more or less, and I'm eager to share what I’ve learned with others. So whether you've just graduated or you still have a few years to go, I invite you into some of my own experiences. I hope these four tips are useful to you at these pivotal, coming-of-age years in our lives.
#1: Give yourself time to figure it out
Knowing exactly what you want to do and the paths to get there takes time -- and it takes age, experience, insight, soul-searching, and so much more. It's not easy! And putting the pressure on ourselves to figure it all out immediately after finishing school just makes the process more stressful.
What I've found to work well is a combination of a few things -- and luckily, a lot of it has to do with mindset. First, being open to new experiences and ideas; understanding that you have everything to gain from the world and nothing to lose is a huge benefit of being at this age, and it's worth taking advantage of. Second, being patient and gentle with yourself; no one has it all figured out (which is cliche, but it's so true) and so it would be unrealistic to expect yourself to do so. Learning to forgive myself when I try something that doesn't work, to be resilient and try again, and to enjoy the other slices of life -- friendships, recreation and leisure, my relationship, family, and so on -- has helped me enjoy a more full life that isn't as dependent on me "figuring it all out." As a result, you feel more comfortable going at your own pace and taking it one day at a time.
#2: Keep in touch with old friends, and connect with new people
One of the hardest things about finishing college is how you're suddenly separated from your close friends. Distance, work, and other life priorities become obstacles to keeping in touch. Even though a few of my friends reside in the same area of California as me, it's still been difficult to correlate schedules. What I've found works best for myself is having a medley of approaches to keeping in touch.
I try to stay active on social media because it helps me stay updated with others' lives, and it's also an easy way to send a thoughtful message or note. I also love sending handwritten cards for events like birthdays, graduations or life milestones, and the holiday season. It helps those who are important to me know that I'm thinking of them, even if we haven't talked in a while. Snail mail, in my opinion, is definitely underrated and it's a great gesture to show someone you still care. The bottom line is to figure out what works best for you and your own network, and to set up strong habits that will serve you for years to come.
#3: Enjoy your hobbies - or try out new ones
Doing my hobbies is one of my favorite forms of self-care and keeping sane during this adjustment period in life. It can be tricky when your hobby is also your job (i.e. something creative) so what I've found works best is a hobby where my brain can completely switch gears. Some things I enjoy are cooking and vintage clothes shopping. My favorite finds include this recipe book from the pre-war era (with all types of strange, interesting recipes!) and bowling shirts from the 70s. Ultimately, I love hobbies that help me connect with the bigger picture -- either a different time period, or nature itself -- because it helps me to be more mindful of my environment and grateful for my life as it is.
#4: Make time for what's important to you
It's a journey to figure out what you love and what you want to do in life - which is why I'd recommend just focusing on what's important to you. It doesn't have to be a life-long calling or career, but by sticking with what you enjoy and find important, it'll put you onto a path to discover what else you can do with that.
For myself, I always loved art and found it important; but it wasn't until recent years where I was able to actually see myself doing it for a living. There were times where I had to work a full-time job in a different field and practice design afterwards each day, and there were times where I had to teach myself what I needed to know because I didn't take formal classes on the subject. Patience, self-discipline, and hope is what helped me through those times and led me to what I'm able to do now. So if your interests lie outside of your normal job or even outside of formal education, don't be discouraged! - because there's always a way to follow your hopes, and it's worth figuring out.
I'm an independent graphic designer, illustrator, and recent graduate from UC Davis. I'm passionate about social justice, with an emphasis on environmental justice, which I love to explore through my art and work. In addition to my personal work and client work, I also run an Etsy shop where I sell original prints and greeting cards.
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