Life Beyond the Grad: Giving up on your dreams

Two university graduates reflect on their lives since crossing the stage


Sara Brinkac (She/They) // Columns Editor
Chelle Lussi (any) // Illustrator


“It’s nice not to have constant guilt,” Golrokh Nouri reflects as she cooks herself dinner. She cracks pepper into the pan and remarks on “that horrible state of when you are studying and miserable.” Nouri remembers a classic student paradox, “when you’re not studying you’re miserable because you feel guilty about not studying.” 

It has been almost a year since Nouri graduated from Simon Fraser University (SFU) with a bachelors in Mathematics. While she attended school she competed on the varsity women’s wrestling team. To say her chosen path through university was stressful and time consuming would be an understatement, but her journey of painful devotion, intense studying and hard work has led her to where she is now—unsure and confused, pursuing a career in… agriculture…maybe. 

Nouri thinks back on being 18 with resentment. The norm of young people being pressured into making a huge decision on what they’ll do with the rest of their life, complete with limited understanding and a contract worth thousands of dollars in tuition, started to seem fundamentally flawed as she got older. “Who the fuck came up with that system?” She adds.

For Nouri, pursuing math when she was 18 meant “working super-duper hard for an insane euphoric feeling.” For a while she romanticised the pleasure of solving equations without considering the practical reality that goes into it. However, after about three years into her degree she decided, “you know what, math doesn’t add up.” Matter of factly she placed her meat in the pan, adding, “it started getting kind of boring.” But she had no other interests and was near finished, so she remained in the degree.

“I thought I was going to do science,” Meera Eragoda, an alumni of Capilano University, shared a similar sentiment to Nouri. “When I was 8 to when I was 17 I was like ‘I am going to be a veterinarian.’” Eragoda, who is now pursuing a career in journalism, realized, “science is kicking my ass and also I don’t like it,” in their first years of school. It was that moment of frank clarity that saved them from a degree they hated but left them totally unsure what they wanted to do instead.

After a few years working they returned to Capilano and completed the Legal Administration Assistance Certificate. However, after entering the workforce they once again realised they were in a place they strongly disliked and craved something more. Eragoda decided to finish a bachelors in History at SFU because it was something they figured would be interesting.

Whether you are Nouri who decided to stick in a degree you’re unsure of, or, you’re Eragoda and take your time to choose something you feel more compelled toward, neither approach seems to prepare you for the reality of the working world. However, Eragoda notes they don’t regret taking their degree. Neither does Nouri. While both had their problems with the system, they felt their time at university allowed them to find their interests and make discoveries that have deeply informed their path now. 

However scammy or rewarding the university experience was to them, one fact remained, they would have to enter the working world at some point.

“It’s definitely eating at my soul,” sighs Eragoda, “there’s a lot compromising.” Eragoda says the practical reality often looks different to one’s imagined career path in university. “The job I’m currently in is definitely a compromise,” they add. Eragoda is not currently working a job in the journalism stream because, especially while starting off, finding sustainable regular work in a freelance industry is near impossible. 

Eragoda identifies doing a job you hate for the benefits as being a trade off of living under capitalism—another challenge they faced after engaging in theory throughout university. There’s a clear paradox of being aware of structures you want to dismantle but being unable to escape the need to eat, care for yourself and grapple with societal pressure inherent to said structure. Ideology doesn’t put food on the table.

Eragoda went deeper into the guilt that surrounds a lot of post grads changing their original career paths, “The capitalist mindset of ‘your job needs to define you’ is something I’m still struggling to undo.” Eragoda notes how much worth we tend to bank on our jobs, convincing ourselves, “you’re not achieving because your job is not necessarily what you want to be doing.”

“Your day job is not going to be the solution to everything,” Eragoda says. Both individuals have had to face harsh practicalities after coming from 20 plus years in a system that taught theory alone. And while the frustration and exhaustion of this growth shows, the acceptance of the challenge and hope for fulfilment remains. Their dreams just look a little different from what they pictured in the classroom.

“I’m not going to be satisfied with just staying here.” Eragoda says of their current job. They’ve been told by many people that it’s going to be hard and unsustainable to pursue a career in journalism, but they are now understanding that just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s a dead end. Many life avenues can be explored and changed. And perhaps that’s the beauty of practical reality. Each experience you engage in will offer totally unexpected results. With that new information comes new patterns of growth and self discovery. But just because we can see the beauty in the process, don’t fall into the trap of expecting it will be wonderful and easy. As Eragoda reminds us with a little tough love, it’s worth it to go after your dreams because, either way, “everything is fucking hard.”

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