We like to close chapters in our lives with a celebration and other meaningful activity. However, many of you did not get that cloursure after grad school. You didn’t get a graduation ceremony. While I was fortunate to do so a year ago, there’s another closure we don’t talk about. The emotional closure. And you were cheated on both.
You didn’t get the walk across the stage hearing your name called out while you shook the university president’s hand. You didn’t get that awkward photo taken in front of a green screen wondering what backgrounds the school will choose. You didn’t get to search for your parents in a sea of black mortar boards and brightly colored hoods and stoles. You didn’t have the dinner with everyone you love who saw you grow up or listened to you complain about a class. And you didn’t get that first Monday of no more grad school.
Instead, you got a bunch of emails from panicked university administration congratulating you without any idea of how to do so. Some of you may have been involved in some awkward Zoom graduation ceremony sitting on your couch as your parents watched you watch the video. Some of you may have to graduate in the fall with hundreds of more students who have no clue what bullshit you went through. I’m sorry to say, that nothing can replace a true graduation ceremony.
You didn’t just get cheated on the ceremony, the physical closing of that chapter of your life. You were also cheated on the emotional chapter closing. This type of closure is more subtle than the ceremony. It usually happens sometime after you walk across the stage. This weird little wave creeps up and you feel that weight lifted off your shoulders. That is the emotional closure. And I’m sorry that you didn’t get it, not yet.
Don’t worry, you can still have that emotional closure over time. I rushed through my last semester, moved to a different city, then rushed into part time jobs. And that emotional closure of graduating was still lacking. Nothing felt real and my degrees felt like pieces of paper (it didn’t help that they still weren’t framed).
When I was offered my current position, of course I was excited and proud. But then the coronavirus landed in New York. And that emotional closure was halted once again. My degrees are still stacked unframed and gathering dust while I work from home stuck in the limbo of post-grad.
You are not alone in your lack of closure. One way you can get closer to closing this chapter in your life is getting those degrees framed (if you are able to). I know it is expensive but hell you’ve earned that by now!
Keep in touch with your cohort or friends from grad school. They are going through the exact same thing you are and it will be easy to talk about it. Reminisce together, you’ve got plenty of time!
If you have some more time to relax, then do it. Read a book for fun, cook or bake something, or watch tv. If you don’t have the time (or don’t feel like you do), then make the time. Taking time for yourself is the absolute most important thing you can do for yourself right now.
It’s okay to be upset and you have every right to express that. Don’t let someone else bring sunshine to your pity party. Surprisingly, grieving is a process of graduating. You have to grieve and let go of that chapter in your life before you can move on.
You’ll get that closure, over time. It comes in waves, the doubt as you apply for jobs or begin a new position and the pride as you accomplish a project or lead a project. And you may not notice the closure. It’s there, don’t worry. You’ll move on so smoothly that you’ll forget the feelings of being cheated.