Live in the present: Don’t stress about post-graduation life

By Maya Butler | Reporter

College years are often defined as the time for self-discovery. And in many ways, it’s true. It means being on your own, exploring clubs and organizations you never knew existed, creating new friendships and preparing for what lies ahead after graduation. But in labeling college that essential phase of self-discovery, a lot of pressure can build up from all the expectation.

I remember right before the start of my senior year, I started feeling very anxious about school and post-grad life. Because I no longer felt so sure of what I wanted, I started doubting myself and the career path I had road-mapped for the last three years of college. I guess you could say I had an identity crisis — at the pivotal age of 21.

Restless thoughts of the unknown future kept invading my every waking moment. My anxiety reached new heights in which I would wake up hours before my first class (and believe me, I love sleeping in) and have trouble eating anything substantial. For the very first time in my life, I started drinking tea before bed to calm myself down.

I noticed when I walked around campus, the anxiety would loosen somewhat. There were times when I would just walk aimlessly — anything for a brief reprieve from the overwhelming pressure I knew would eventually make its return. Something clearly had to change. I wouldn’t survive the school year — not even the first semester — if I didn’t get my fear under control.

One day, I decided to join my roommate at her church, which provided the type of service I always compared to as a Christian concert — I was more old school and used to the quieter and more traditional church services.

When the service started, I noticed the large screen at the front of the room read “Control Freaks.” It turns out that this was the second part of a sermon series about faith over fear. The pastor began talking about how we feel the need to control every aspect of our lives, and when something gets out of hand, we get stressed. He then defined stress as fear of the unknown, and how stress was an optional part of life. He described how God didn’t create exceptions to his command, “Do not be anxious” — like being a senior and not knowing what you want to do in life.

There I sat, dumbstruck. Never before have I felt so called out in my life in a room full of people. I felt as if his sermon was directed right at me. I’m not the most devout, but I believe I was meant to be there that day to hear those words spoken in the sermon. They stayed with me and still do. Having said that, my anxiety didn’t magically disappear after I left the church. It was still there, but I felt reassured and less alone.

I wouldn’t credit the sermon as the single factor that helped me in my path to recovery, but it did change my perspective at a time when I really needed it the most. With help from others, I slowly managed to enjoy college again. I got better at accepting the fact that I couldn’t control everything, let alone my future. I’d always heard people say, “live in the moment,” but I had never truly understood those words until now. If you set your eyes on the future too much, stress will inevitably worm its way inside you, because guess what? No one, not even the people that seem as if they have it all figured out, knows what the future holds.

In the fast-paced and competitive world we live in, it feels as if we constantly need to be doing something, whether that be internships, summer classes, applying for jobs, etc. If you’re in college and about to graduate soon, don’t worry if you’re not exactly sure where you want to live and which company you want to work for. I know plenty of people who graduated with a specific major and ended up doing something entirely different with their career. So don’t stress about the unknown. Definitely plan little by little toward the future you want but, whatever you decide, just remember to live for the present.