All My Friends Are Graduating (and I’m not)

and it’s okay that I’m not.

I took an unplanned year out and now all of my best friends are graduating while I still have another full year left at university. This was not my original plan at all. I was originally going to start university at the same time as all of them. I was devasted then and now while I’m ending my second year and they are all graduating, the same feelings from three years ago have begun to overwhelm me. A week after I started writing this, The UK went on lockdown. I was going to continue writing and pretend that I had written before the pandemic but it feels important that I mention this is happening and the result of this on my friends as they are finishing university.

Results day 2017 was the worst day of my life. I was the only one of all my friends who didn’t get into their first choice university. Although I got similar grades to my friends, they weren’t high enough for the university I had applied for at the time. I remember my mum pushing me to go through clearing. I had spent months researching and touring universities and at that point I had less than a week to apply, view and choose a university. In the end the best option for me was to take a year out, work as much as possible and re-take some of my A-Level exams.

I couldn’t help but feel inadequate in comparison to all of them.

However, my friends it was time to plan their move away. The first step when getting into university is to post it online. Every time I went online there would be a new Facebook status change. A new Instagram post. A new story of people celebrating. I had never felt like more of an outsider. Don’t get me wrong, I was incredibly proud and excited for every single one of my friends. I couldn’t help but feel inadequate in comparison to all of them. A few weeks before everyone was moving, a few of my friends went on a shopping trip. To buy homeware bits for their uni accommodations. They told me beforehand that they were going to go shopping and I was more than welcome to come. I didn’t. I wasn’t keen on the idea of having to watch them shop for their future while mine was foggier than ever.

For the first few months, after they moved away I remember feeling so lost. I had been used to being surrounded by my friends. I saw them all at college nearly every day for two years. Then all of a sudden they had moved on and I was left alone. I started working full-time and was constantly trying to convince myself and others that I was happy this was the way things turned out.  The best times I had in my gap year were visiting my friends. I drove 1096 miles. Spent hundreds of pounds on fuel and train tickets. Sat for 26.5 hours on lonely journeys. Each time I saw my friends it was like things were back to normal. But the normal I was used to was gone. Everyone had a new normal.

I, unlike my other friends, went through the UCAS process twice. I re-applied for university, retook my exams and was (finally) on my way to university. A full year after my friends. As I was getting ready to move into my accommodation. Some of my friends were giving me advice. Which, although it had been in their best intentions, felt belittling to me. The advice just highlighted that they were at a different stage of their life than I was. They were already past this stage in their lives and I was only just beginning it. I got to university and began feeling complete and less of an outsider, I was in the same position as my friends. Then they all went into third year.

There is even more uncertainty of the year ahead than there usually is for anyone graduating.

Suddenly, I was on the outside of the discussions again. I was not applying for graduate schemes or masters. I was not writing my dissertation. I was not planning what I’d wear to graduation. These discussions echoed the talk of freshers and moving into accommodation that I couldn’t participate in. Once again, I felt I was behind my friends in the race of life. When I bring up writing my dissertation I am receiving the same unintentional patronising advice. However, the circumstances have changed. My friends are stuck writing their dissertations inside their houses, instead of at their university surrounded by resources and tutors. Their graduation ceremonies have either been postponed or cancelled. With what’s going on in the world right now, With what’s going on in the world right now, there is even more uncertainty of the year ahead than there usually is for anyone graduating. Is it worth paying thousands of pounds for a master’s degree if it’s all online? Are businesses wanting to hire graduates and if so will they pay them what they deserve? Graduates’ initial plans for the next year are either cancelled or unclear. All the changes are completely out of their control.

Results Day 2017 is still the worst day of my life. I have come to terms with it now but the feelings I felt on and due to that day still happened. I had felt inadequate in comparison to those who were moving on with their lives. By taking the time out I needed I was able to collect my thoughts and start university with a clear headspace. Now that all of my friends are graduating, although I’m left behind again, it’s different this time. It’s different because I know and understand that everyone goes through life at different speeds, down different paths.

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