It’s been one year since I moved home after graduating university. One year of not being a student. One year of living with my parents. One year of being in the same city I grew up in. One year of being apart from a lot of the most important people in my life. And I’m still not okay with it. I’ve been struggling with what to say for a couple of weeks and I’ve still come up short. I want to be able to write about how this past year has enlightened me and I’ve grown into a happy, go-getting graduate but in reality, when I looked back at what I wrote six months ago, it still felt pretty accurate. On paper, my life still sounds great. Actually, even better than it did six months ago but I’m still not satisfied and I’ve spent a lot of time being very frustrated by this and trying, desperately, to figure out why. And then when all of this year’s grads were posting their pictures I saw one with a quote that really resonated with me. It said:

“You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place. Like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place because you’ll never be this way ever again.”

And then I understood, at least in part, why I’ve been longing so desperately to go back to the school days since the second I left. There are many reasons but that quote explains something I was never able to put my finger on until I read it. While the student version of myself was deeply flawed and probably not the “best” one, there are many things I liked about that person that stayed there and didn’t come home with me. Student-me was carefree (my friends would scoff at this but I’m talking in relative terms here!), adventurous, an occasional party animal completely ready to let loose and willing to bend the rules sometimes. She always had time for friends and never turned down a beer and a chat at the local bar. She occasionally turned down work in favour of sleep or a fun time with fun people but still worked when it was necessary and remained a reliable, go-to employee. Student-me was passionate and driven and creating constantly. She was fit. She had goals and aspirations and real plans to get there.

Post-grad me isn’t any of those things and when I take the time to look at myself instead of at my circumstance I’m even more unhappy with who I’ve become. I never see my friends because I’m always working. I miss things that are important to me because I put work above all else. I’m not creating, I’m not excited about my current or upcoming projects because I don’t have any. I never turn down work so I’m always short on sleep and lacking fun. I’ve completely thrown health and fitness out the window and try as I might to get back on track, I never try hard enough. My goals and post-grad plans have fallen by the wayside in favour of “surviving” right now. I’m always stressed; about work, about money; about completely fictional scenarios I create in my head and believe to be real. This is not the person I want to be but I feel stuck in this panicky rut of having to work all the time because I don’t make enough to work normal hours and still get by. (Completely and utterly false because living with one’s parents is very cheap.) I don’t know how to get out of this rut but at least now, I know that I’m in it.

Don’t get me wrong, the year hasn’t been all bad. Despite the overwhelming feelings of being trapped and standing still I have enjoyed parts of it and I have certainly learned some things. Here are a couple of them, lest it seem as though I’ve been completely useless for an entire 12 months:

  • Sometimes you have to put yourself in highly uncomfortable situations for a short time to reap the rewards in the long term. I was really good at this in the first couple of months and it led to some wonderful experiences and opportunities but in recent months I’ve fallen back into complacency and become the excuse maker I once was but it remains a very true lesson.
  • Work is not everything. Saying no is okay. No matter how much you love your job it is not worth sacrificing other things that are important to you or that excite you. Don’t take on so many shifts don’t stay late out of obligation, stand up for your time because it is just as valuable as anyone else’s. That’s not to say never take on extra work or never stay late when they need it but just remember that doing those things is a choice not a job requirement and you are allowed to say no. (A lesson I am aware of but do not heed often and must continue to remind myself of in Year 2.

I’m trying very hard to be positive because that is something that My First Year lacked a great deal. I’ve spent a lot of time living in the past, wishing things were the way they were before and being overwhelmed by my nostalgic emotions. I hope that I can find it in myself to take back the parts of the person I was at school that I liked and discover parts of this self that I like as well. I hope that I can work less and play more and I hope that I can start to strengthen the friendships I have here in town rather than longing for the ones that are out of reach for now. I hope I can spend time learning new things and going after the things I want out of life rather than sitting complacently by. Here’s to creating, here’s to growing and here’s to the start of Year 2!