Last night I talked a little bit about the sense of loss I feel now that I’ve finished my degree, and how that has me feeling like I don’t know quite who I am anymore (here’s the link to that). The post was awfully short (by my standards), and I didn’t feel like I’d explored what I wanted to say to my own satisfaction. I also have a few informal guidelines for the little essays I share on this site, and that post missed the mark on a couple of counts (more details about that are here).
The biggest piece that I missed is that I like for whatever the current issue is to lead into a discussion of a more general nature – I want to move from the specific into the general and look at the big picture. Last night’s post didn’t do that, mainly because I’d been awake for over 24 hours, and my brain was mush.
So last night I talked about my realization that my professional identity was completely made up of my status as a student, and now that I’m graduating, I’m not sure quite who I am anymore. Today I want to look at the bigger picture, about identity in general. This post is a direct continuation of yesterday’s; they are intended to be read one after the other, starting with yesterday’s, as one coherent essay.
I wonder if the sense of loss I’m feeling is similar to the way retirees feel? Retirement is similar to graduation in many ways – in both cases, the person in question is experiencing a major life change, and the types of things he or she typically does are changing drastically (usually resulting in that person enjoying more free time). Being a student is a full-time job in and of itself, after all, and it’s been easy to explain why I’m working in an industry that is totally unrelated to my education by saying, “Well, I’m also a full-time student,” in the same way that a retiree might explain his or her part-time job as a barista by saying that he or she is also retired. Now that I’ve graduated, it feels like I need to come up with justification as to why I am underemployed (and somehow it’s worse to be underemployed with a Master’s than it was to be underemployed with just a Bachelor’s). Continue reading