As we pass the halfway mark of our fall semester, many fourth-year students are beginning to look ahead to one of the biggest days of their lives—graduation day; a day filled with joy, celebration and, for some, relief that they made it through four difficult years of higher education.
However, once this day is over reality will set in and life as a “true adult” begins. That is a terrifying thought for many graduates, as many are 22 but feel like they have to navigate the world with the wisdom of a boomer. There is so much societal pressure to immediately jump into the workforce right after graduation or go straight to graduate school that many graduates don’t stop to take some time for themselves.
Over the last few decades, the idea of taking a gap year has risen in popularity and is now seen as an opportunity to explore and find yourself after graduating. This time in your life challenges the previous notion that time not working is a waste of time. As Generation Z gets older, combined with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, gap years have become more popular and more necessary.
A gap year can be utilized in a number of different ways. Post-graduates can take this time to travel and explore the world, learning about themselves as they go. They can use this time to live at home and spend time with family while also saving money for their future endeavors. They can even just take some time to figure out what it is they are truly passionate about.
This idea of constantly working and always having to have things figured out is just simply not realistic and is certainly not sustainable. Many people just jump into a job or go straight to graduate school despite not feeling ready. This can lead to a variety of other issues including financial instability, mental health struggles and burn out.
The last 19 months of the pandemic have been brutal for students to navigate. A break following graduation is one of the best things we can do for ourselves. With so many things going on in the world, it’s important to live our lives and do the things that we want to do. Work and graduate school will always be there, but taking care of yourself comes first.
Now is the time to make mistakes, explore, find yourself, learn, travel and simply do the things you want and need to do to make yourself happy. Now is the time to take a break from the societal norms of higher education and the workaholic mindset.
A break is not a bad thing, but in our society it has been deemed so. It’s seen as lazy rather than something that can re-energize someone or reignite their passion for something they used to love. If we as a society continue to push our younger generations to continually work themselves without proper rest, there will be a generation-wide burn out.
If you know someone who is about to graduate, send some encouraging words their way as they rapidly approach the end of their college experience. Tell them it’s okay to take a break and find themselves before they commit to a job or career. It’s okay to go against what society expects of them. If you are about to graduate from college, know that it’s okay to take time for yourself. This transition period is scary, but it can teach you a lot about yourself.