When I first graduated Cornell, I was feeling pretty down on myself and didn’t envision graduation to be like this.
I always felt like it would feel like a grand achievement, that I had accomplished a feat never before done. And I can rest on my laurels, reveling in the achievement that is attaining a Bachelor of Science.
However, as with many ideal moments, it did not turn out the way I had envisioned. I struggled in college with my grades, and was nowhere near the top of the pack academically. So, there was a feeling of uncertainty on what will happen next. And a feeling for unclarity that bugged me out.
I did have a job, but it was at a place that I wasn’t really sure I wanted to be a part of for the long-term. And my salary was below what I had envisioned it to be.
The crowning achievement of college graduation was not necessarily the means of excitement or euphoria. For me, it was just another check off the box. And that was that.
What made things worse was scrolling on Facebook and seeing all the happy pictures of fulfillment from my friends and connections. Happy faces at parties, and hanging out. All smiles and grins that could light up a virtual room.
But for me unfortunately, most of times I just did not feel like that. I didn’t feel like I lived up to those lofty standards of happiness and excitement often posted onto Facebook.
In my first job out of college, I often felt lost and confused. Not really sure what I wanted to do with my life. And I often found myself asking: Why Me?
Why do I have this feeling of anxiety, when all my peers are seemingly having a grand old time on Facebook? Why was I feeling insufficient? Why was I feeling socially anxious so frequently?
I couldn’t grasp why I felt that way. After all, in my 20+ years of existence up to that point, I’ve never felt out of place, anxious, nor feeling insufficient.
But alas, that’s how I felt in most cases after college. And it was a humbling feeling. I didn’t know how to move forward with this feeling, and often the feeling of unclarity made me unfocused at work.
Perhaps I was doing a function that didn’t suit me for the long-term. Perhaps I felt unconfident that my peers seemed to be making more money than I was.
I’m sure I wasn’t alone. Many people who graduate college often get “hit in the face” by entering the “real world.” After all, the real world is never what it seems.
Real is completely different from ideal. My ideal after graduating Cornell was supposed to be one of adulation and adoration. Rather, it felt like another task that was completely as it was supposed to be.
My first job out of college was similarly supposed to come with a sense of pride and achievement. But instead, it came with anxiety and confusion.
Even trolling around on Facebook was supposed to help me feel connected and embraced. Yet, I felt more separated and insufficient comparing myself to other people’s lives on social media.
Why did I have these feelings? Why Me? Why did I struggle so much? This was not how I envisioned my life to play out in my head.
Those first-hand experiences upon graduation and after graduation shed some new light on how life was supposed to be.
Often times, before these experiences, I would try to act cool and calm because I thought that would make me look better in the eyes of others.
But now after graduation, I felt so anxious and awkward and insufficient. Didn’t know why this feeling was happening to me.
Thinking back to those days, I should’ve known that these times will pass. The good times and the bad times will all pass on through.
The good times will give way to the bad, and then the bad to the good. Like an endless wave of ups and downs.
Instead of asking “why me?”, I should’ve asked myself what I can learn from this situation? What type of nuggets of wisdom could I garner from these periods of struggle and anxiety? How can I truly appreciate the storms of life that everyone inevitably goes through?
“Why Me” is a useless question that encourages pity and self-indulgence. Looking back, I should’ve just seen those troubled times as a period of learning.
To understand what life is all about. That it has its ups and downs, and that we shouldn’t get too attached nor identified with each moment. Regardless of when we feel good or bad, it’s just a moment.
It too will pass. And we’ll be back on the roller coaster of life. Nowadays, I can gratefully say that my social anxiety has improved compared to those days after graduation.
I learned that accomplishing an ideal goal may not necessarily be how you envisioned it. And I learned that everyone goes through ups and downs - regardless of what their Facebook feeds look like.
Embrace the adventure that is your life. Embrace the journey. And next time, when something non-ideal happens, ask yourself what this situation is teaching you in the moment?
Don’t fall into the trap of self-pity that I got into, when I asked myself the question: “Why Me?”