One year ago, I graduated from university.
One year ago, I felt like the world was ending.
I remember the day with great clarity – I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I had a great sense of unease. Whilst everyone else was celebrating a well-earned achievement and laughing with their many close friends and family, I could do neither. Sure, I put on a face and laughed when I should, and smiled when appropriate, but underneath I felt like I was on the edge of a cliff, swaying, trying to stop the momentum that would plunge me into the rocks and water below.
The month after was one of the hardest and most fucking miserable of my life. With no direction, a placement in a University masters degree that I had no desire nor energy to do, stuck in a relationship which had died months before, and the inability to follow my passions over my last “summer break,” I sweltered in the heat and fell into the worst depression I’ve ever had.
I still have that depression one year later. It’s not budged at all, and sometimes it’s nearly impossible to keep it down and just remain functioning. Some days I lie in bed doing nothing. But unlike that month after graduation, I am functioning. I am still functioning one year later.
Granted, the year has taken it’s toll. A break-up that destroyed me as much as it hurt the other, a string of very unhealthy and toxic relationships, a deep-set depression, a lack of interest and desire to do any of the work for a degree that I frankly saw as pointless, and the kind of heartbreak that only someone at 21 years of age can feel, when you’re on that blade’s edge between the structured path of childhood and the utter abyss that is adulthood, with no plans and no safety net either to boot.
But I can also say something else about today.
A year ago, I could feel the ground slipping beneath my feet, but today I sit at a desk in the postgraduate research centre at York university. I’m writing a dissertation about a comic-book that means so much to me, and has genuinely changed the direction of my artistic desires. I’m calm. I’m not happy, perhaps not content, but I’m stable. I can look out the window without worrying about the future, because I’ve finally accepted that I don’t have any control over what comes next and whether I will fail or succeed at my dreams of becoming a professional comic-book artist.
This year has been hard. But it’s also been great. I’ve made an international group of friends, with people hailing from Germany, Italy, Bombay, and who would’ve known, fucking Bolton too. And what’s more, I know all these people are gonna stick by me, just like I’m gonna stick by them. And that is something to be cherished.
A year ago, I felt utterly alone and out of control. Today, I feel none of those things. I’m doing something I genuinely enjoy and have a great circle of friends, many of them for life. Little did I know one of them was standing less than three meters away from myself in my graduation photo that very day. I’m no longer trying to fit in, feeling displaced at all turns. Because now that I’ve accepted who I am, warts and all, I’ve accepted that others can, and do, want to know who I am. I’m more content with myself than I ever have been before.
So to those who may feel at the end of their ropes, and ready to give up on everything – don’t. You can’t know what’s coming in just one year’s time. Sure, that’s part of the anxiety. I can’t promise that everything will get better, because it won’t. But a year ago today I felt like I had nothing. Today, I count the things I do have, one day at a time.
Sure there are still bad days. But the good ones outnumber those.
So hang on. You never know what is just around the corner.