Graduating from college creates a whirlwind of emotions, most of them positive: accomplishment, gratitude, joy, excitement, anticipation, inspiration. But underneath all of that, there’s also that underlying river of fear running through your brain, your heart, and even your stomach. That fear that says, “But what do I do now?” “How did those four years go by so fast?” “Can I do this?”
I’ve been there! I am all too well-acquainted with those strings of self-doubt, the pit of fear that seems to have taken up residence in your stomach. Graduation is the end and a beginning. It’s bittersweet. Even though I’ve “only” been out of college for two years, I learned a lot in that time, and there are ways to deal with that fear and anxiety, so that you can actually ENJOY being out in “the real world.”
Here’s some distilled advice with some concrete resources to make these achievable!
Stay informed! Whatever you’re doing (acting, directing, teaching, interning, designing, auditioning your butt off) I really believe that learning informs teaching and vice versa. Ask co-workers and bosses for resources, read plays, ask questions. Another way I stay informed is by reading blogs. Here are some of my favorite online resources for staying informed:
- ARTSEDGE at The Kennedy Center
- Subscribe to the Arts Education Partnership‘s e-newsletter
- Explore the NEA’s website
- Follow arts organizations on twitter
Learn to budget! I can’t say this enough: the most important life lesson I gleaned from the past two years of living on stipends from internships and fellowships is BUDGETING. My favorite budgeting tool is Mint.com. Awareness is key to managing money.
Attend a conference! As scary as it was to strike out on my own, I had a phenomenal time at my first conference last year (TYA/USA’s One Theatre World in Seattle). It was so energizing to be surrounded by professional artists who shared my interests, values and passion. Some upcoming conferences:
- AATE’s Annual Conference in Lexington, KY (August 2012)
- International Performing Arts for Youth Conference in Philadelphia (January 2013)
- TYA/USA’s One Theatre World in Cleveland (May 2013)
Set goals, get organized, and know yourself. I believe this is important no matter what you’re doing with your life. One of the most helpful resources I’ve found for personal growth is Jenny Blake’s book, Life After College. It has a TON of exercises, and her advice is meaningful, resonant and concise. It’s an ideal resource, and I can’t recommend it enough. Still not convinced? Head on over to her blog of the same name, and you’ll see what I mean. =)
Get a library card! Specifically, the children’s department. Sometimes I go there just to think, to brainstorm. Pull some books off the shelves and let your mind wander and see what creative drama activities or connections you can make. Whether or not you are planning for a specific residency, it’s a great creative outlet. (Plus it’s free.)
Take time for YOU. After I graduated, I applied the “eat/sleep/breathe theatre” approach that I lived by in college to my first year’s internships. It worked for a while. But then I was just exhausted. This year, I made it a priority to devote time to something I love that has nothing to do with theatre. For me, it was yoga, spinning and fitball classes. I am at the studio for at least an hour almost every day, and the community I found has been really important to me this year. Being a student again has informed my teaching enormously, even though it wasn’t related to theatre. Try a bunch of different things, and find something that’s just for you.
My last piece of advice to all the grads out there is to CELEBRATE all you’ve accomplished! Yes, graduating is a freaky thing. But you got this far. You got this.
Photo credit: Shilad Sen via Flickr Creative Commons