Early Post Graduation: How I’m practicing self preservation

Tanashya Batra holding a graduation cap

By Tanashya Batra, Contributor

Graduation is a loaded word. Graduation marks so many endings: school, college, late nights, too much caffeine. And yet, it also marks the beginning of a different journey: marching straight into adulthood. Recently, I graduated from Brandeis University with a double major in International & Global Studies and Business. It feels surreal to be graduating in itself, and add a pandemic on top of that, the last 15 months have felt like a lifetime and only a day long at the same time. 

How do I put into words the monotony of Zoom university and the excitement of graduation into a simple “the meeting has been ended by the host”? 

It’s been a tough year for people around the world, and as we are finally entering a new era of this pandemic, at least in the U.S., I can’t help but think about the purpose of graduation. It’s a rite of passage to walk across that stage and turn your tassel. Most college students didn’t get to do that this year and last year. Virtual graduation or walking across a fake stage in my case doesn’t cut it. 

My parents weren’t able to fly to be with me during graduation due to the new restrictions on travelers from India. Vaccine and pandemic inequities continue to plague the world.

How do I celebrate finishing a degree while a large part of the world struggles with COVID-19? 

How do I reconcile being safe, vaccinated, and employed while my parents are in lockdown scared to step outside of their home? 

The dichotomy of being an immigrant is clearer to me than ever. My privilege allows me to remain here in the states for the foreseeable future, but I’m still separated from my family, even as millions of people here are reuniting with theirs. On the other hand, many people around the world continue to grapple with the pandemic and challenges in accessing vaccines. As I grapple with these challenges and emotions, 

I’ve been reflecting on taking care of myself despite all the changes I’ve faced in the last few months and weeks. Graduation is such a transition that comes upon us suddenly, and most students struggle with their paths and identities after such a big event. So, how do you take care of yourself at a time that is confusing for all adults. while also dealing with the mental health challenges of COVID-19, inequities, and being separated from loved ones?

Here are ways I have been trying to reconcile with my privilege and take action, while also being easy on myself and practicing self-preservation:

1. Plug off from the news.

It’s not always easy, and doom-scrolling seems to be the activity of choice for everyone these days, but it's so important to try and take one a week to unplug. Last weekend was the first weekend since the pandemic started that I did not touch my laptop from Friday morning to Sunday evening —and it was glorious to say the least. I haven’t checked the news in over a week. While I acknowledge my privilege of being able to unplug when a lot of people can’t, 

I encourage everyone to at least try and unplug for an hour a day, if not more. 

2. Take one tangible action a week.

Post-grad slump is real, especially if you’re not immediately starting a job or graduate school and don’t really have your plans figured out. I didn’t start officially working till a month after graduation and felt like I was going to lose my mind every day. I broke down my days by allotting time to cook, workout, and catch up with friends. I made sure to be easy on myself to take some rest before beginning work, but it’s not always easy to just do nothing. So, when all else failed, I decided I would focus on doing something tangible once a week. 

Taking time off is also productive, but the capitalist society we live in makes it hard to believe that! 

So, I focus on reading a book from prologue to acknowledgements, learning a new yoga pose, or maybe just writing an article a week to feel like I’m being productive.

3. Practice one act of self-preservation daily.

Speaking of rest and self-preservation, I once read a quote by Audre Lorde that said self-preservation is an act of political warfare, especially for people with marginalized identities. As the world has felt more and more terrifying in the last year and a half, I implore everyone to  practice one act of self-preservation a day, be it turning off your phone, reading, working out or doing nothing and napping. 

As I continue to focus on figuring out my post-college plans and explore different options, I want to leave you with something profound I read years ago on Instagram. There was a quote Kunal Nayyar (known for his role as Raj on The Big Bang Theory) posted on his Instagram, saying that he used to think that the opposite of fear was courage, but he slowly realised that the opposite of fear is love, because when we focus on being our most loving selves, fear can no longer exist. As we continue to live in a world being ruled by fear, I hope this message brings some peace!

 

About — Tanashya Batra is a recent graduate of  Brandeis University, in Global Studies and Business. Originally from India, she has lived in a bunch of places, currently in Boston. She is a Junior Account Manager at Aam Creative. She loves writing about all things media, representation, and skincare! 

Cover photo credit: Tanashya Batra, @tanashybatra

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