On the 28th of May 2021, I finished my undergraduate degree in Broadcast Journalism.
In the weeks leading up to that day, my breaths were short and shallow as I tried my hardest to blur one hour into the next, go to sleep earlier and wake up later – anything to make the days fly by faster than the standard 24 hour rate.
In the final weeks of university, my brain felt consumed by deadline dates, essay word counts and playing my own voiceover clips on a loop. There was nothing I wanted more than to finish my final piece of work and experience freedom.
And then the freedom came.
And I didn’t know what to do with it.
As I’ve finished university during the delightful point in history involving face masks, QR codes, furlough and capacity limits – I’ve not had the classic graduation experience. I’ve been unable to punctuate my dissertation hand in with a night out or six. (Although I have somehow been drunk at last two out of seven days of the week. Where there’s a will, 30 people allowed outdoors and table bookings – there’s a way) I’ve not been able to naturally slip into a postgraduate career or find myself whilst sipping a coconut in Bali.
The best part of the last eighteen months I’ve been locked away in a house, in a relationship, socially distancing, working on my degree, following a set routine, saving my money and living the same day over and over.
Finishing university has been a massive mental shift for me. I’m twenty three years old, so I don’t necessarily have the classic “Oh no, now I have to #adult heheh xoxo” worries that someone a couple years younger than me would have after finishing university. I’ve been an “adult” for the last five years, and I’m well aware that it’s all a bit of a scam. There’s no such thing as being a proper adult. Having a £45k salary and a financed Mercedes doesn’t make you any more of an adult than being on an hourly wage and tapping your bus pass twice a day.
I’m in no rush to become the elusive adult. I’d rather build a house on The Sims 3 than try to understand what a Mortgage is. I’m sensible, I have savings and I have ambition – that’s enough for me right now.
But here comes the stickler.
I don’t actually know what I am doing with my life.
There’s the classic never-left-the-town-they-grew-up-in critic who scoffs at the idea of doing a £27,000 degree and graduating without a yellow brick road of career prospects lined up for them. The same people who splash half their salary into a round of Jagerbombs at Wetherspoons every weekend look down on people like me, with a good level of education but no office chair to spin around in 9-5 every weekday. With that, I say – each to their own. (I am fully aware it’s possible to be a hybrid of the two. Get a great degree and then spend your entire life in an office job and wearing too-tight shirts in Revolutions at the weekend. Bonus points if you’re a male called Jack)
But actually, I’m happy I don’t know what I am doing with the future.
To tell the truth. I did have a plan. I have an offer to study a two year MSc degree in Mental Health Nursing. I applied for the course seven months ago, when I envisioned the future as moving into a flat with my then boyfriend, studying the degree, working my placements and coming home to a dinner in front of The Chase. My plan was very picket fenced, bed before ten, walk the dog sort of vibes.
After my relationship, degree and Lockdown 3.0 ended, I realised just how much I may struggle to study such an intense degree whilst living alone (or living with multiple housemates; no way am I arguing over taking the bins out after working 12 hour shifts wiping bums). I also started to realise that I have options. We all have options, and the path really isn’t set in stone.
After I finished university a few weeks ago, I allowed myself to ease off some of the mental shackles that I’ve had in place for the last couple of years. I’ve always known exactly what my next step is. I’ve always had some rules or element of control over my life. Whilst this has been beneficial in some regard; it’s also held me back from truly listening to my intuition.
Some of the best choices I’ve made in life have gone against the regimented voice in my head. Following my intuition and listening to what I actually want and desire has sometimes been the best thing I could have done.
I think part of the issue comes down to the idea that we are raised to aspire towards a career. We are quite literally educated and conditioned to believe that the peak of success is how many zeros are in your bank statement. You’re seen as a successful graduate if you work in a big bank, and an unsuccessful graduate if you serve someone a Big Mac. But who’s to say that either is more successful than the other? What if the banker has a drug addiction, and the McDonald’s worker has just finished their debut EP and is going to be touring the world next year with their music?
Each situation is individual and each individual is in a different situation.
I have some ideas in the pipeline as to what I would like to do with my life. I love writing, I know that I want to help others with their mental health, and I know that I want to earn enough money to pay my rent (how do you spell mortgage again?).
But I also know I am in no rush. One day I’m going to be forty five years old. Why is there such a rush to complete life in your twenties, when one day you’re going to be forty five (No offence to any over forties reading this). But imagine ticking off every single one of your life goals before age twenty five, and then spending the rest of your life twiddling your thumbs and envying the younger generation for their freedom.
I have long term goals, short term goals and enough life experience to know that everything works out in the end. The messy, confusing and out of focus periods of life are when the most mental clarity can shine through. It takes a bit of coasting along and embracing the moment, in order to find your centre and work out what truly makes you shine.
I don’t think there are many people who took their year eleven leavers photos and knew exactly what they wanted to do with the following decades of their life. If they did, they could be one motorbike or divorce away from a mid-life crisis.
Having stability in external factors like a specific career path, a relationship where you just tolerate each other and a genuine love for a plain ham sandwich and ready salted crisps meal deal is enough for some people. A simple, structured and safe life is the perfect solution for many individuals out there. But I’m aware that isn’t me. I’m aware that my desires lie elsewhere. It’s about harnessing that desire and using it to your best capabilities.
That being said. If you’re reading this and want a writer – please hire me x