What I Wish I Knew Before Moving Home

This article looks at helping graduating students who might be struggling with the uncertainty of not knowing what happens next after university

The author, John Lim, a previous international student gives his account from his Blog into how he faced this period of transition

Introduction

I’m seated at the dining table. I tear open a packet of biscuits. Put it in my mouth. Chew it.

Put the wrapper in the bin.

I ignore the feeling of fullness in my stomach. I reach for another Swiss roll on the shelf. Peel it open. Then stuff it in my mouth.

I walk to the fridge. Open it, and the gust of cold air hits me.

I see chocolates lying on the side. I break off the entire bar of KitKat and munch it furiously.

I’m in another binge. I’m seated at home, wondering what I should do. The rest of my family is out working.

I’m not working… and that hurts. That emptiness eats me up, and I stuff it with food, and more food. I’m not sure what else I can do. It’s painful. Really painful.

If you told me weeks before finishing university that I would be binge eating, using anti-depressants and seeing a psychiatrist, I would have laughed at the incredulousness of it all. I was a Board Director of the Students’ Union, a first-class honours graduate, and shortlisted for the Global Graduate Prize. Me?! Reduced to such a state? You must be joking.

As a Singaporean, I moved to study a Bachelor’s in Social Work at the University of Nottingham, under a fully funded scholarship. Getting a job, shouldn’t have been that hard. After all, I was a scholar! And an overseas one too! Or so I thought.

I don’t say this to boast. But I share this because I want you to know that this sense of desperation, hopelessness and loss can happen to anyone.

Yet there are anchors that can bring hope.

It’s okay not to be in control

The day my psychiatrist suggested anti-depressants, I looked at him and said, ‘Ah no thank you, I think I’ll try on my own for now.’

I didn’t want to depend on a pill for my happiness. In my mind, there was another self-help book, technique or therapist I could go for. It was not until I went back day after day to food, ballooning eight kilograms in one month, that I realised I couldn’t do this anymore. I would eat myself to death.

Giving up control of your situation is scary. But it’s by first accepting that you can’t help yourself that you begin to find help.

Amidst the isolating time of the pandemic, there is help. You only need to reach out for it.

You don’t have to fight this alone. Admitting that you need help isn’t admitting that you’re weak. Rather, it’s a sign of strength. It’s only when you admit that you’re weak, that you begin to find strength.

To the men reading this – there’s no need to hide behind the veneer of strength and masculinity. Don’t keep your prim and proper strong guy image at the risk of serious harm to yourself. Pretending you’re okay, when you’re not, is putting your head in the sand, and hoping the storm blows over.

In Alcoholics Anonymous, there’s a saying – if nothing changes, nothing changes. If you want something to change in your situation, accepting that you’re not in control is the first step.

Compare yourself to yourself of yesterday

Scroll through Instagram, and you’ll find yourself face to face with the most beautiful images on Earth.

You know that’s fake, right? It’s specially curated to show the best of people’s lives. It’s not real. Comparing your life to them will only put you on the back foot, wondering why your life isn’t like them. As Lily Tomlin once said, ‘The problem with the rat race is… even if you win, you’re still a rat.’

Comparing yourself with no job to the friends who are proudly showing off their first days at work on Instagram won’t make you feel better. It’s only going to make you feel worse. Why are you doing this to yourself? It may be out of habit.

You wake up in the morning, reach for the phone beside you, and immediately tumble down the Facebook rabbit hole. Change that. Delete your social media apps off your phone.

Put your phone out of your bedroom. And if you’re telling me that your phone is an alarm, get an alarm clock.

I’m serious. Falling down the social media rabbit hole during this period of your life whilst you’re searching for a job can leave you feeling less motivated, more inclined to lie in bed scrolling, and less inclined to take positive action towards your goals.

If you’re keen on building a better morning routine, compare yourself to yourself of yesterday instead.

Every morning, write down what you are proud of yourself for doing. Then write one thing you can improve. This keeps you focused on progress, rather than perfection. It keeps you comparing less to others, and keeps you focused on your own race.

Be patient with the process

Being a job hunter… is a job.

You didn’t read that wrong. You’re not out of a job.

You’re a job hunter! Waiting by your phone, sending out CVs, and writing cover letters might not have been your idea of the meaningful job you hold straight out of university…but it’s important work. You’re learning to sell yourself. To persuade others of your value. To communicate yourself clearly in speaking and writing.

Stepping back and seeing the good that can be gained from this period is something that can bring grater happiness with the process. A few months ago, as I exercised, I found myself deeply frustrated with this job hunt.

I was hearing nothing from employers. It felt like my applications were sent into an internet blackhole, where the internet chewed it up.

But for the first time, amidst the perspiration, I smiled. However hard this process was, I was growing. You’ve raced for three years in university. If nothing, take this time to rest, recharge and restore yourself.

Breathe, and remember that it will be okay.

Find anchors

Amidst these distressing times, church and my small group became an anchor. It didn’t matter whether I had or didn’t have a job. They accepted me for who I was. We still shared life with each other. We were able to grow with each other. I could be open and honest, without needing to hide anything.

As Hebrews 6: 18 to 19 reminds us; “Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.”

I pray you continue to hold onto this hope that God goes before you. That He is with you. And that He will never forsake you.

Conclusion

I sit at the table. There are more people around now.

The curry steams from the centre of the table. Bowls are passed around the table.

We are waiting for mum to arrive before we eat.

Looking down at my empty bowl, it reminds me of the emptiness that lies in my own life too.

I don’t have any clue where I’m going in my next job.

But it’s okay.

Yes, life is lived for those big, victorious moments where you score an interview, get a job and your first pay check.

But there’s beauty in these small, everyday moments too.

And in these moments, life is lived.

The Author

John is excited about helping young people to do work they love in their first career. He writes about how you can find your purpose and passion and unleash your fullest potential at liveyoungandwell.com

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