Happy Thursday, everyone!
I hope most of you are enjoying the sunshine outside today. For anyone sitting at your office desk counting down the hours to the weekend, you have my sympathy and also only about 29 more to wait until freedom. Although it is supposed to rain all weekend, so that’s a pity for you.
I’ve just come back from four days at my dad’s house in the Wild West, as I call it, which is actually not in the west but in the south of Ireland (but in the western part of the south called West Cork and that’s where it gets its very witty name). It was the first time I’ve spent there in as long as I can remember that I didn’t feel an underlying sense of guilt for not reading some sort of dull report or writing practice essays on German poets or checking college emails to make sure I haven’t forgotten something very important. For the first time in at least six years, I felt wholly relaxed and free to do as I pleased, be it helping Dad dig a new little flower bed next to the pond, reading a book (of my own choice!) in the sun room or drinking old bottles of Namibian Tinta Barocca late into the night without worrying about having a very functioning brain the next morning.
But whilst this lazy post-finals haze all sounds very idyllic and restful, there is still a niggling feeling that I can’t shake off, and I’m sure it’s the same for most college-leavers at some point in the immediate aftermath of finishing final exams. While I was still in the throws of mine, I phoned my best friend Katie in Scotland, who had finished hers a few days previously. “You must feel amaaaaazing!” I gushed, already feeling excitement building as I imagined walking out of the exam hall on the Thursday afternoon into the welcoming summer sun (it rained that day in fact, which is typical). “I did for a few days afterwards,” she said, “but – and it might not be the same for you – the panic about results and what’s going to happen next has started to set in now.” Even though I couldn’t imagine such a panic, even in the days directly after I finished, such a little knot of dread has struggled to its feet and begun to lumber about in my head in the last few days. Sometimes it tires and goes for a rest and the excitement of freedom and looming summer adventures takes over again, but when nap-time’s over the knot gets right back up and back to his post at the forefront of my mind.
Such a feeling, I’m sure many of you will understand, is exacerbated by such things as family friends leaping in front of you and demanding, “So what’s next??!” You can almost see a sort of lottery wheel spinning around in their head with things like “Going to work on Wall Street!”, “Travelling the world!” or “Doing a Masters!” written on each segment. As you hum and haw the wheel slows and ticks past each of these options before landing on “Who Knows!”, and the poor person’s expression is wiped of anticipation and replaced with a blank gaze before they stutter, “Well…it must be nice to be finished, at least”, to which you reply, “It was until this hideous encounter”, but in your head.
The problem is that during college you have so many dreams for your future whirring around in hour very busy head, but you also have the safety-net of “still studying” keeping you from having to act yet, from having to push yourself into the scariness of Real Life and grab whatever flies your way with both hands. In my case, new dreams are born every day, and where I’m finding myself now is a vast expanse in which ideas ping pong past on an almost daily basis, but don’t stay around long enough to materialise. While I was standing in Dad’s garden watching him prune a fir tree I complained to him about the situation to which he replied, “At your age, your head should be full of ideas. I wouldn’t expect anything else.” He continued pruning the tree and I went inside to put on the kettle, a little pacified but still not completely certain.
One of the hardest things to get my head around is the expectation that a child of 18 knows what he or she wants to be for the rest of their life and must then make the decision to follow that path. That is why I chose a BA in Modern Languages, giving me the freedom, I thought, to apply myself to whatever I like while chattering away in German or French as I go. But now that I am finished, I do not want to be a German or French teacher. I do not want to work in the EU (I don’t think). I do not want to be an academic because I don’t have the patience. So then I, and countless others who leave college with a degree that is not applied, are left wondering “What am I?” and, indeed, “Who am I?”
This is all sounding very negative, and I’m sorry. I might take this opportunity to give a little insight into Positive Kiera’s outlook on all of this: the good side to leaving college with an identity that is not yet perfectly sculpted and a bustling myriad of ideas which will not sit still is that you still have time to decide, grow and choose what and who you are. You still have space to try things, to feel, yes, the occasional thud of defeat, but the plentiful moments that something is working out and feels right. We have all heard success stories about people who have come from little and become great. My stepdad, for example, left school at 16 and became a DJ – though somewhere along the way somebody observed that he was good at maths and now he is the project manager of a bank. Jack recently met a chap in Croatia who, having worked for years on Wall Street and having decided it was not for him, moved to Croatia to become a boat skipper. Stories about change and fate and decisions give me hope for the people who answer “What next?” with “Who knows?” If you have any success stories or advice for college leavers you’d like to share, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment!
I have written a lot today, haven’t I? I hope you managed to get to the end and haven’t fallen asleep at your desk or thrown your laptop into the nearest dustbin. I also hope that, if you ever find yourself wondering “Who am I?” that reading this will remind you that you have lots and lots of time to become whomever you want to be, and in the meantime you are a wondrous creature with hundreds of possibilities. I am off on a roadtrip now around the Irish coast with some excellent girls. Next Thursday I promise there will be less depth and more pictures to my post 🙂
See you soon and lots of love,
(cover picture by the amazing Amanda Shadforth at @Oraclefox)