Diagnosis: Sudden Onset Adulthood

And what are you going to do after graduation?

That question. The one your professors begin to ask you during advising sessions. The one friends fervently ask one another to ensure they are on the right track. The one that your Great Aunt Helen, and the rest of your relatives, barrage you with at every family function. What do you plan to do next?

That question is enough to make your palms sweat, heart beat faster, and mind race.

While graduating does bring with it exciting life changes and the opportunity to finally put one’s education to a more practical use, it also has the tendency to spur cases of sudden onset adulthood. A relatively common ailment among people aged 18 to 25, sudden onset adulthood is characterized by unusual behavioral shifts such as buying groceries and doing laundry, earlier bedtimes, and growing paranoia concerning the future. Unfortunately, symptoms usually develop gradually over several years; they often go undetected until a trigger event, like renting an apartment or seeing a loan payment plan, result in fainting episodes and acute nostalgia for childhood.

I have wrestled with these issues during large scale transitions in my life. Pre-school to kindergarten, elementary school to high school, and high school to university—I keenly remember an anxious mix of excitement and trepidation during major transitional periods in my life.

However, the transition before me is very different. I’m not just moving from school to school, but rather from school to “real life.” In an effort to assuage my anxiety, I’ve attempted several quick fixes, like ice cream and procrastination. If you’ve ever tried these methods, you’ll know that they only work for the short term.

Fortunately, I gathered the courage to tackle the question head-on. By reflecting on my time at Arcadia, I’ve identified a few areas that I’m very passionate about, including community service, health, and the exploration of different cultures. And, for the past few years, I’ve entertained the idea of combining those interests through a long-term volunteer experience like the Peace Corps. Eventually, I hope to combine knowledge in medicine and public health to create sustainable and culturally appropriate health interventions in areas with great disparity in care.

Now at this point, many people might think, “Well, that’s an answer to the question!”

Technically, that is correct. But, talking about doing something and actually doing it are very different. To move forward with my goal of joining the Peace Corps, more action was definitely necessary. And what better place to start than the Internet?

As I delved into the Peace Corps website, I unearthed an incredible amount of information. The Peace Corps, a United States governmental program, was created in 1961 to promote world peace and the exchange of cultural understanding. To my surprise, over 220,000 people have volunteered for this program since its inception—my excitement at the possibility of adding to that legacy of service further confirmed that I was looking in the right place.

Currently, the program offers opportunities in six service sectors, including agriculture, environment, community economic development, education, youth and development, and health (my interest area). After some research into these areas and the geographic regions available for service, I began the process of applying. This concrete forward movement has dramatically lessened my fear of what is coming next.

As many of my opportunities at Arcadia have taught me, from studying abroad to changing my major, the unfortunate anxiety that comes with change and new experiences are often followed by something truly life changing. Whatever my post-graduation life holds in store, I know it will be just that.

Photos and video courtesy of the Peace Corps