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Grieving Graduation: Life After College Part 1

By Katie Costello

· Discouragement
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Life after college can be hard, but also full of meaning and hope. With graduation looming for many of you, what should you know about the world that waits for you on the other side of your diploma? What can you expect? What can you learn from those who have gone before you? In our 6 part series 'Life After College' we hope you find a few significant things to help prepare you for what's ahead.



I’ll be the first to tell you that while college is hard, it also can be so fun and life changing. I had an amazing community of friends at Ohio State that I spent almost all my time with and I had the perfect plan laid out after graduation. While I loved (most of) my four years at OSU, I couldn’t wait to graduate and have that sense of accomplishment. But soon after I was handed that diploma, things got difficult. Really difficult.



The friends that I was surrounded by suddenly weren’t there anymore and the dependable structure of the past four years completely changed. My community was gone and I was left with all of this free time that I thought would be liberating but in fact turned out to be lonely and suffocating. Important, weighty decisions now landed on my shoulders as if everyone expected me to suddenly transform into this fully responsible adult just because I had a piece of paper in my hand that said “Bachelor’s Degree.” Because I always had something to keep me busy in college, difficult things that had happened in my life started coming to the surface now that I had more time to think and reflect. My high hopes of what my life would look like after college drifted away and within a year after graduation I was diagnosed with severe depression.



Was I prepared for any of this? No. I never expected life after college to be so demanding and I never thought that the culmination of 16 years of schooling would cause me anything but joy and a sense of success. My relationship with my friends changed and my relationship with God changed. In those months after graduating, I realized my relationship with God was very dependent on those around me; because the friends I surrounded myself with were serious about their faith, it pushed me to be serious about mine. Now that I didn’t have that accountability and influence, I noticed it becoming harder and harder to deepen (and sometimes even continue) my walk with God. I was desperate, lonely, and hurting - but embarrassed by it because society told me “I had made it” now that I was a college grad. In my dark isolation I found it hard to turn to people and I was ashamed to tell my friends about my recent difficulty in life and with the Lord.



So, how did I get through? Admitting to myself that life was hard was the first step. Second: being okay with the difficulty and seeking help from others. Third? Choosing, and trying my hardest, to find hope in Christ. There were days I felt so lonely I couldn’t get out of bed, but knowing I had a Savior who understands suffering gave me hope. Knowing that so many things around me were changing, but that God never will, gave me hope. I eventually sought out a community that loved the Lord and they entered into my pain with me. Things got better, and my relationship with the Lord strengthened, but I think I could have avoided a lot of the pain if I knew what I know now. I wish someone would have told me trying to act like a 40-year-old when I was just 22 was not helpful. And not knowing what you want to do with your life when you’re 22 is 100% okay.



I wish I understood that graduating college was going to be a huge life change that would bring on a lot of hardships. I wish I would have valued finding a faith-based community over excelling in my career. I actually stayed in Columbus after graduating and wish I would have sought a community outside of my college friends long before finishing school. And I wish I would have remembered that no matter what - no matter the degree of change, depression or confusion, that God is still good, and He will always be good.