Yes, this is a You Me At Six lyric; one that has been revolving round my head semi-continuously for the last week or so. As well as being in my third year of uni, I work part time at a local supermarket, nothing too out of the ordinary right? So I will assume how I currently feel isn’t too out of the ordinary either.
I have felt so overwhelmed for the last few weeks since the third year began. I have so many essays, research projects, posters and exams to complete as well as a 10,000 word dissertation to plan and write, as well as work 16 hours (minimum) a week, and maintain some kind of social life and have some quality time with my family. The last two have been impossible and the former only just. Add to that the breaking news; it really shouldn’t have been but yanno oblivious as always, that I have to decide what I want to do with the rest of my life. At least thats how it feels. Masters applications are already open, most people seem to have some clue what they want to do and how to apply, I however, do not. I thought I could take a year off and work out what I want to do, but then I am stricken with the idea that I might just end up working at a budget supermarket for the rest of time and honestly, what’s the point.
That was all probably exceptionally dramatic but honestly this is the hardest year of my life. Everyone tells you the years at university are the best of your life. I would agree, to some extent, until the reality of life after this year hits you. At 21 I thought I would be travelling, looking to move out and branching out into a career I love. In reality I spend more time than I should staring out of the library window dreaming of that life. It makes it worse that when I bring this up to a lot of the people around me the vast majority seem to have a handle on this? Did I miss the memo? A lot of them have known what they wanted to do since they were tiny, woke up one morning thinking “yeah I want to be a doctor/ primary school teacher/ *insert clearly defined career path here*. Since then they have done every task that need to be completed to get the right GCSE’s, A Levels, Degree and Masters as well as placements and references and whatever the hell else you need. All done because they have the motivation that comes only from knowing what you really want.
I don’t have that motivation. I don’t have any in fact. Life feels very much like I am just going through the motions. I wake up to the mundane routine, uni work and then most days, actual work, then bed. On rare days off I get to go hiking or shopping or visit my grandma, but oftentimes I am too exhausted to achieve this. I have mentioned this to some proper adults too, they all say it’s “just growing up” and “adult life”, but I don’t think it should be, and if it is I don’t think I’m ready for it. There has to be more to it than this.
Maybe it is because I haven’t found my chosen path yet, or worked out what I need to do to achieve it, but the realisation that I should have been making the decisions for and planning for it since I was 16 is one that has hit me with a bump. If you think I have no idea what I want to do with my life now you should have seen me at 16, which is when I apparently needed to start getting work experience and placements for something I didn’t even realise I needed to do then. Equally a lot of the decisions I made then (subject choices and where to go for further education) may have prevented me from being able to do the Masters that I might like to, as a lot (all) of the courses say “in a relevant subject” of which my degree is not, or are subject specific.
I know a lot of what I am complaining about is my own fault and the consequences of the choices I have made along the way but it has reminded me again that I think it is unfair to expect a child of 16 to know what they want to do and choose their path dependent on that. We don’t allow 16 year olds to vote and have an opinion on their futures and the world around them, but we put inordinate pressure on them to get the ball rolling with the future independently, seemingly with even less education than we force on them about politics.
I have achieved well in my education, I have tried hard and in this third year I have finally decided to force myself into hard work- although I do feel guilty for writing this blog post because in doing so I am procrastinating and not drafting my essay. I was always told that if I did so, then the world would be my oyster and basically every door would be open to me. This doesn’t feel true and I am feeling increasingly lost. There are plenty of help and advice services available at Uni but virtually everyone has the same advice, to take your time and to make the right decision for you. But in doing so you are made to feel like you are falling further and further behind everyone else. There is so much to think about, about everything. You feel bad for being employed as a student because you cannot be flexible enough for your work because you have SO much uni work to do, but you can’t put work ahead of Uni because that is what is most important, but you can’t not work while studying because the loans just aren’t enough. This constant internal monologue of panic leaves little room to think about Masters and future career paths, and when it does that creates a whole other avenue for anxiety. All the while being stuck in the same mundane routine.
I know a lot of that was waffle that is unlikely to be read by any kind of audience but I needed to get that out of my head. It perpetually ruminates in my mind and unless I am able to explain it the tension builds further and further. I think fundamentally I still feel so young, while also feeling so old. I should not be feeling this ambivalent about life and its routines at 21, and I shouldn’t feel so unprepared and naive to them either. There is also the isolation of feeling like everyone else around you has a better handle on life than you do.