Confessions of a Recent Graduate: The Boomerang Blues

Published by Kiandra Brady on

Confessions of a Recent Graduate: The Boomerang Blues

School lasts forever. 

At least, that’s how it felt when I was stuck in the middle of it. Until one day (16 years later), it was over. With a degree in hand and a wealth of knowledge on MLA format, it was time for me to step into the “real world” and figure out who I would be for the rest of my life. 

I felt terrified, unprepared and scared shitless. I didn’t know who I was supposed to be for the rest of my life. Time slowly dragged on after graduation, and each passing day reminded me that I was no closer to finding the answers. That expensive ass piece of paper didn’t make me feel any less depressed when I couldn’t find a full-time job or get out of my parent’s house. 

And even though it really felt like it, I wasn’t alone. We reached out to other recent graduates to understand their feelings after finally walking across that stage.

So whether you’ve just graduated, you’re about to graduate or graduation feels a lifetime away, take a look at their stories and know you’re not alone.

Courtesy of Sarah.

Meet Sarah Dempster.

School: University of Georgia, about an hour from home

Major: Economics and International Affairs with a focus on Political Economy

Talk about your time in school.

“I didn’t have a plan going into college because I’d been a theatre kid all through high school, but I didn’t want to try to pursue a career in performance because it’s not a field with a lot of security.” Sarah shares that “a student organization I’d been in during college showed me I had an interest in social media. It involved a lot of analytics which I was familiar with from economics. I soon realized I liked the analytics of politics more than the actual policy. Maybe I would work in D.C. doing something, but I was just making it up as I went along.”

How’d you feel after graduating?

“There was anxiety of the unknown. I didn’t know where I was gonna be after graduating high school, but I knew I would be somewhere that fall. It was an unknown, but it wasn’t a scary unknown. With [college graduation], I had no idea what the next step was.” 

Moving home “I felt like there was a bit of a regression. I felt like I lost some of my independence. It’s not that my parents were strict, but sometimes I just wanted to go grocery shopping at 10 p.m. without judgment.”

How was the job search?

 “For three years, I was in various marketing, advertising and public relations positions. I worked at a big name agency and a boutique PR firm, but I just wasn’t able to make it work full-time anywhere. I found myself adrift wondering if I’d wasted the first half of my twenties.”

Sarah adds that she “went to networking events and career fairs trying to get internships and connections and finally got a ‘big girl job’ at an office.”

“I went through a lot of anxiety and heartbreak, and the joke’s on past Sarah because even though I avoided theatre and chorus in college because it seemed unstable, I ended up in music education now, and that’s something I really love.”

What’s something you’d say to a young person graduating soon? 

“Take a deep breath, and don’t railroad yourself. Be open to new opportunities and new experiences. If there’s something you’re passionate about, but you don’t think it’s the ‘right career’ because it’s not business or whatever, figure out how to make it work. We all get there eventually.”

Courtesy of Jah-Mai.

Meet Jah-Mai Davidson.

School: Georgia State and Clark Atlanta, “which is about 38 minutes from home the way that I drive.”

Major: Psychology and Sociology

Talk to us about your time in school. 

While in school, Jah-Mai stayed in the city on-campus for both his undergraduate and grad school years but came home often. 

“I always want to be close to my family. They’re a huge support system. Plus I have a lot of friends in Gwinnett County I want to be close to, but forget traffic!” 

“I had a full ride to play football at Georgia State, and I graduated early. School hasn’t ever really been hard for me. If I needed to study for a test, I would study for a test. School for me has been ‘show up, sit in the front, and apply and learn psychology,’ so that’s what I did.”

How’d you feel after graduating? 

“My immediate feelings were ‘yay I graduated; I don’t have to go back to Georgia State,’ and it was mostly blissful ignorance. Really what was on my mind was ‘now I get to rest.’ I didn’t have to be an athlete for some point in time in my life.” He pauses. 

“That was cool for a bit, but the lifestyle of an athlete was someone kicking me in the butt saying ‘Okay, now let’s do this, now here’s your schedule, and you can eat this.’ Then real life set in, and it was uncomfortable.” 

Even his life returning home was uncomfortable. “When I wasn’t there, it was really easy for my mom to feed everybody, and I came back and thought ,‘Wow. I am literally putting a hindrance on my family by being here’ and that sucked.” 

How was the job search?

“Right after graduating, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I guess I thought I was just going to get a job somewhere. Sitting at Dillon’s, a local sports bar in Gwinnett, I ran into Coach Lee who trained me in high school, and he gave me my first job. Then I worked at a blanket store.” 

Realizing he still wasn’t doing what he wanted to do, Jah-Mai thought about his skills. “I’m really good at football; I have a degree in psychology, so I could be a dope barista, but I… don’t want to be a barista.” He turned to his religion and asked God what should happen next. That’s how he ended up at Clark Atlanta for graduate school. 

Jah-Mai says he’s just getting started though. “My end goal is to be a psychiatrist, but if God changes it, that’s fine. I’m going to celebrate each victory, but there’s still more to go.” 

What’s something you’d say to a young person graduating soon? 

Jah-Mai has two suggestions. 

  1. “Don’t be upset if your job isn’t in your field. Don’t be upset if you’re not making as much money as you want in the short term, but don’t settle for something that’s not what you want. When I tell people I’m going to be a doctor, they say it’s great, but it’s a lot more school. What is 12 or 15 years of my life compared to the rest of my life? What is that [compared] to being able to do my calling? Life’s gonna be what you make it.”
  2. “My first college coach, Bill Curry, told me this: ‘Get 1 percent better at something every day; it doesn’t have to be in every single area, but just get 1 percent better. Whether it’s spiritually, physically, emotionally, mentally, socially, do it.’ Building like that on yourself compounds tremendously over the days, over the years, over your lifetime.”
Courtesy of Makayla.

Meet Makayla Miller.

School: Georgia Southern University, about three hours from home

Major: Multimedia Communications with a Concentration in Journalism

Talk to us about your time in school. 

In Statesboro, everything or everyone is “five minutes away from you,” so it’s easy to be surrounded by people all the time. “Everyone’s environment depends on the kind of people you surround yourself with… my environment was straight.” While it was easier for her and her friends to see each other in school, they “still make time to see each other” even with a longer commute in Atlanta. 

Like one-third of other college students, Makayla shared that she struggled with her mental health while in school. Part of that struggle came from poor time management skills, but recognizing it allowed her to step back and reprioritize. Like Jah-Mai, she sometimes turned to religion. 

“I went to church every Sunday and came home to focus on myself.” She adds, “junior and senior year I cut down on my social life… to focus on grades; I knew why I was [at school] and that helped my grades.” She put “more time into Makayla and less into what other people wanted to do.”

How’d you feel after graduating? 

Makayla mentions that she chose to go home during long breaks at school. Living at home after graduating “felt different.” She adds, “when you’re in college, you don’t have to answer to anyone.” Because of the freedom and independence she’d developed in college, living under someone else’s roof “can make you feel like you’re in high school again.” She stressed that it was nice to be around family again, and that she’s “also grateful” for the ability to live at home and save money because everyone doesn’t have that same option. 

How’s the job search?

Makayla is figuring it out. Through some family connections, she gets closer to finding a job in her industry every day. While her students loans were definitely “not worth it,” Makayla believes that her degree was worth it because of “the people I met, the visions I had and the experiences I had.”

What’s something you’d say to a young person graduating soon? 

“My field is very out there. If you’re not consistent or persistent, you’re gonna fall by the wayside.” She adds, “If you know your work ethic, you know the work you put in and the work you can produce, you’ve gotta keep at it.”

Courtesy of Austin.

Meet Austin Madison.

School: Longwood University, about three hours from home.

Major: Communications

Talk to us about your time in school.

“My school was weird, but…” he hesitates, “it was the good kind of weird.” 

He had an eclectic group of friends who watched YouTube videos and hung out in dorm rooms. “I changed my major a handful of times until it was almost time to graduate, and I sort of landed on communications.”

How’d you feel after graduating? 

Austin admits that he “was fine” after graduating. Although he didn’t have a job lined up, he had part-time work and was able to live with his parents. His parents gently nudging him to start paying rent at home was a part of his motivation for leaving the house.

How was the job search?

“I had some concern about my degree being useless since I was only finding opportunities to do direct marketing or B2B sales. You know who does direct marketing?” He asks as he takes a turn interviewing me, “the guys outside of Sam’s Club asking you if you want to sign up for cable subscriptions.” 

While he was interviewing for “what turned out to be another scammy direct sales position, [he] dropped off [his] resume at a production company [he] wanted to work for in person.” 

That company hired him and gave him the chance to move to New York. 

What’s something you’d say to a young person graduating soon? 

“Learn a skill. Make yourself invaluable. Pick up something you can do anywhere like waiting tables or slinging coffee. Don’t let time pass without doing something.”

According to the CDC, more than four million kids are diagnosed with anxiety. With numbers like that only growing, we need to stop having conversations about what life is “supposed to” look like after graduating and have more about what it actually looks like.

It’s about time we stopped punishing young people for not being on the same timeline our parents were on. We are by no means our parents, and there are things our parents loved we’ve kicked to the curb.

In a 2019 study, TD’s Ameritrade found that nearly half of millennial and Gen Z students end up moving back home after college and many are staying closer to home during school.

One of the most ironic things witnessed after graduation is applying for jobs in your field, only for them to tell you they require 10 years of experience. How are we, as college graduates, to gain experience if we cannot get our foot in the doors?

It can be so discouraging at times to know you are qualified, have a degree, fill out hundreds of job applications only to receive rejection letters.

Reading stories like Sarah’s, Jah-Mai’s, Makayla’s and Austin’s could relieve some frustrations about not figuring it out.

The best kept secret is that no one has it all figured out.

Live your life anyway.

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Kiandra Brady

Kiandra Brady obsesses over behavior. Understanding every reason why people think, say and do what they do is her life’s mission. She studied psychology at the University of Georgia, where her appreciation for craft beer was second only to her love of people-watching.


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