The Life Of An Anxious Mature Graduate

group of fresh graduates students throwing their academic hat in the air
Photo by Vasily Koloda on Unsplash

Done. Finished. That is how I anticipated my feeling would be after graduation. In the final months of University, I just wanted it to end. I was exhausted with assignments and the pressure of achieving good grades. that would speak to my ego, sense of achievement and expectations that have long taken a place on my emotional, cultural and mental baggage.

As a mature student, I was anxious from the get-go. I felt an added pressure to succeed and demonstrate causality between life experience and high grades. Obviously, I didn’t have an A on every single assignment, but every time I didn’t, I felt like I wasn’t good enough, that somehow I could have done better and I was failing.

To begin with, I had never heard about essays or Harvard referencing. I now fondly remember my first essay for a module that really enjoyed and what a disaster it was. The second one was better and I improved over time which was surprising to my anxious self.

One of the mistakes I fell early into was the comparison paradox. I had made up my mind about who were the smart students, despite never knowing their grades. They became these competitors that represented the real competition, which was the one I had going between myself and who I thought I should be.

In the second year, my grades improved and I had gotten the hang of essay writing and referencing. I was able to face the word count with confidence and some of the pressure was wearing off. Then Covid happened and my child was born.

Life changed very quickly and I found myself having to adapt to new schedules, new routines and the unpredictability of a newborn with all her needs. My anxiety really kicked in when I was facing deadlines with bigger and harder assignments. Somehow I managed and my grades were good enough to both calm my anxieties and ego.

The final academic year began and I had assimilated my routines and found a way to manage my schedules between studying, parenting and developing a path to become a journalist. I made the right choices for my third-year modules, which made a difference when it came to assignments. I prepared well in advance and even though the final year is more demanding, I wasn’t as scared as the previous years where half of the time it felt like I didn’t know what I was doing.

Despite preparation, I did feel an immense pressure to finish and in the days leading up to getting my grades and the final award, I was anxious, easily irritated, my sleeping patterns were erratic and no amount of preparation was enough to avoid the finish line nervousness. It was exhausting, to say the least.

I graduated with First Class Honours and I am proud of myself. I achieved what I set out to do three years ago and with all the highs and lows that came along, I challenged my insecurities got out of many comfort zones and came out on the other side.

There are a few regrets and things I would have done differently but all in all, I had a great time, got a massive load of knowledge and found a voice as a writer. Yay me.

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