So this is how it goes.
You spend fourteen years or so in school. These are mostly miserable years. Still, you persevere. You work your socks off. You spend years studying for exams and working hard. You probably manage a part-time job of sorts, and if you're really keen you do some sort of valuable volunteering type of thing.
Then you apply to university, and glory of glories, you get into your first-choice university. After a few more months of studying and sweating and peering out of the window to the glorious sunshine that inevitably accompanies final exams. Results day comes around, and the results are what you want. Your normally reserved father buys champagne, and sends you off to the other end of the country where he quietly hopes you'll survive the first week.
A few years pass. You make new friends, lose some of them, probably sleep with some unwise people, eat some very unwise food combinations, but generally cope. Your liver may or may not recover. All things considered though, you worked hard, and now you're at the other end. Officially speaking, you are A Success.
And then real life socks you over the head.
The Disorientated Graduate recognises herself in the potted history above. Hi. I graduated from the University of St Andrews in June 2009 and have been trying to forge myself a life ever since. All things considered, I am technically a success. I'm typing this in my sunny front room in my rented flat in a converted Victorian mansion by the sea, on my weekend away from my 9-5 office job. I share this flat with my fiance, and we're desperately saving for a wedding next year. We have a group of disparate and interesting friends, and we drink a lot of red wine.
As I said, technically speaking, I am a success at graduate life. So why do I feel so lost?
Like many graduates, the path for my life was set out in front of me. School, sixth-form college, university and then some sort of mysterious but awesome future. University will sort out everything they assured us at careers talk. My parents, neither of whom attended university, see my graduate life with an equal sense of bewilderment. There's a sense that I should perhaps be wearing a power-suit and earning awe-inspiring amounts of money, or at least be serene and creative. Instead, I have a perfectly good life, but the markers I had previously – exam results, a sense of something to work towards – were taken away the day I graduated, and no careers service in the world can tell you how to make sense of that.
Plus, there's a whacking great problem with the economy.
So graduates like me continue in our little hamster wheels. But not any more!
The Disorientated Graduate is here to take you by the hand and reassure you that yes, graduate life is a horrible, awful shock. Not 'The Real World'; let's face it, most of us have worked throughout university, we didn't really expect to get a job straight away and we can just about throw together a meal by now. It's more the crushing moment of “... is this it? Really?” Whether it's the mundane frustrations of the daily grind, or the distressing moment when you realise you really can't drink the way you used to, this will at least tell you that it isn't just you.
(Unless you've graduated and immediately bought a house, paid off your debts, and found the ideal job that gives you a deep sense of satisfaction. That really is just you.)