Education

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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