Life After Cambridge: Part One

IZZY PRITCHARD is back from beyond the graduation, dishing the dirt on what life’s really like after Cambridge. In the first of a three part series, she’s feeling a little lost in London.

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Direction, I am coming to believe, is highly over-rated. I always liked to think that I walked in a straight and undeviating line. You wouldn’t see me lost in a foreign city; my navigational compass was faultless. I always knew where I was going and how I was going to get there, to the point of obsession.

And then I graduated. Boom.  All orientation vanished and I was cast into blackness.

For the employable, it seems that all signposts from Cambridge point to Clapham, a cushty graduate scheme, a new Marks and Spencer’s suit and a pension plan. Weekdays spent in Deloitte, and Saturday nights spent in Infernos (a club that seems to share suspicious similarities with Cindies).

This August, as the glory of my Cambridge degree faded into a distant June memory, as it pissed it down outside, and as I failed once again to get through to the Pizza Express Assessment Centre, I wallowed indulgently in murky depths of disappointment and despair.

They said work hard, get good results, go to university, become a ‘Young Professional’ (a title I am learning to loathe). Then settle down with well-mannered and socially appropriate spouse in suburbs, from whence you will go forth and multiply. Glibly, I set off down this path, naively believing that my student debt would magic away as the hefty pay cheque was plonked into my account every month.

The reality for the unemployable is a mouse-infested flat in a dodgy end of London. The excuse for my jobless residence in one of the most expensive cities in the world? A Masters, of course.  This became my get-out clause from any potential ‘Pre Life Crisis’, were I to return home, and a bright beacon of purpose for my overly driven self.

I warn you now, kids, as the voice of the wise graduate: Cambridge prepares you for little. Danger in Cambridge: inhaling a penny? Being hit by a cyclist in a Barbour? Dropping a text book on your toe?

Now ten year olds smoke on my doorstep. This evening I was greeted by my new neighbour. He did not offer  the flowers or fruit bowl I’d expected. Instead, he spat carefully onto my head from the balcony above.

My flatmates look a little surprised every time their quaint country bumpkin returns home in one piece. They are hardened Londoners, fighters who are accustomed to the battlefield on the streets. They wear neon tights. They are edgy, and I am not.

So here I stand: unemployed, directionless, and in debt. But, children, take comfort. I am also having rather a lot of fun. Every street is new, every day different. My diary is no longer dominated by Big Fish Ents. It is for me, not Si B, to decide what I do with my evening.

And, yes, I am lost- but I feel liberated.

Check back next week for Part 2 of Izzy’s post-graduation column.

Illustration by Esther Harding