It happens to the best of us. One minute, you're frolicking happily in the green, green pastures of First Year, occasionally aware of the word "formative" being mentioned in emails and knowing with absolute certainty that you and your flatmates from Floor 3 Block H will be friends for all of eternity.
Then Third Year hits and everything is on fire and you can't even remember the name of your housemates from last year, let alone anyone you met in Freshers Week.
I'm being a bit melodramatic since I actually loved my third year at university and most of the best things that happened to me at university happened during that year. But one of the biggest challenges that I faced was that dreaded question that gets asked on average three times a week:
"So what are you doing next year?"
This blog is aimed at anyone who is facing a time of uncertainty after University. For most people, this hits in third year but for those with longer degrees, those who are ending Masters or other further study degrees or even those who are not sure what the future holds for them in the next few months and years, I hope that this will offer some comfort and guidance. There will be people who are sorted, who know what they want to do and are pursuing it actively. To those people, I wish you good luck and I pray that God walks with you wherever you choose to go. (You were also the people that annoyed me the most last year, but let's be honest, I was really just jealous). For those who are nervous, uncertain or even plain scared by what comes after University, I hope that this offers some measure of comfort.
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?
First things first, a few verses which offer advice on making difficult decisions. The Bible is the best possible tool we have for guidance and advice and these verses barely scratch the surface of the topic so please feel free to look further into it for more help.
Jeremiah 29 verse 11-13:
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."
First things first - know and trust that God has his hand on you. He has wonderful plans that are not in any way affected by your ceasing to be a student! He loves you and cares for you through all of the stages of life. It's easy to know that in your head and so much harder to know that in your heart, but the most important thing you can do is act like you believe this verse. Trust that God has good plans for you, and the fears you have over next year will seem a lot smaller.
Proverbs 3 verse 5-6:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
Proverbs is a really handy little book of practical wisdom and I would recommend it to anyone looking to become wiser in their day-to-day decisions. This verse is pretty pertinent as God should be at the heart of all of your decisions, particularly the big ones. You'll have an awful lot of advice from sources of varying intelligence (for me, it was the friend insisting that being a Pointless contestant was a legitimate career) but fixing your eyes on God when making important decisions is the best thing you can do. Take time to listen to what He is saying to you and be obedient to any guidance you are given.
Philippians 4 verse 13:
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
We worship a God for whom nothing is impossible. Don't be afraid to ask Him for things - He is a good father and He will provide for you. If you feel led to do something but are afraid that it's too difficult, pray! Through God we can achieve infinitely more than we can on our own, and this is true in all areas of our lives, including careers.
Joshua 1 verse 9
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
The phrase "Do not be afraid" appears 365 times in the Bible. I don't think it's a coincidence that it was a theme across the thousands of years that the Bible was written, and I also don't think it's ceased to be relevant today. Be courageous wherever you end up and be bold in your faith because God isn't going to leave you high and dry. He walks with us wherever we go.
SO WHAT NOW?
Bearing those promises in mind, a few more practical bits of advice for you.
MY OWN STORY
This struggle was a very personal one for me last year. I am a planner, a worrier and someone who likes to know exactly what is happening when. Which meant that graduation looked like the edge of a big cliff, after which there was nothing but chaos and uncertainty. "What are you doing next year?" was the worst thing anyone could say to me. I put a lot of pressure on myself to achieve and live up to my full potential, but had no idea what that looked like.
So instead of entrusting it to God, giving it some careful thought and asking older Christians for advice, I spent a lot of time on Buzzfeed reading about exactly how bad life is as a graduate. And panicking. And generally refusing to acknowledge the problem.
One of the seminars offered at the 2016 Weekend Away was on the topic of "Finding God in the Mess", and I finally faced up to the problem and went along, admitted that I was really struggling with this issue, promptly burst into tears and wound up in a small, snotty heap on the floor of the Wydale Chapel. This was, in fact, the moment that things began to turn around for me. By finally taking my problem to God, I allowed Him to lift the worries, and replace them with His love and guidance. Having finally admitted that I couldn't fix it on my own, I now had the Lord of the entire universe taking a personal interest in my problems.
I wish that I could then say that as I left the seminar, I got an email offering me the dream job with the perfect salary in my favourite city. I didn't. But as I entrusted God with it, more and more opportunities came up and they weren't the ones I had been pursuing before. I discovered that I loved offering pastoral care and teaching. The same advice was passed on by several people in totally unrelated ways. I prayed and asked God for discernment. I asked my parents to explain what on earth tax codes were. A plan slowly formed, over the course of several months and many discussions, and I now work two part time jobs that I never saw myself doing but that challenge me, stretch me and grow me in a thousand different ways. Basically, life after graduation is OK.
If God can sort me out, He can definitely do the same for you. So trust Him, follow Him and be bold.
Student Worker, Tea Lover and Child of God.
Sorry. One indulgent kitten picture per blog post. (Not sorry)