I have no idea what to do with my life after uni, so I’ve written a Tab article about it
Life is a maze and I am so lost in it
When I finished university I came to the realisation that I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life.
For almost the entirety of my life up until the day I finished uni, there was a structure, an order to the way I went about things. In first school I knew what was coming next – middle school (don't @ on me on this, we had a three tier school system where I grew up, I don't need all you primary/secondary kids telling me it's weird).
In middle school (yes, middle school), I was aware that high school was coming next. Then sixth form, then university. It was a map that all I had to do was follow, the structure of education helping to ease my way into adulthood, totally unaware of what would happen when it was over, but not really thinking that far ahead.
When you finish university, the structure is gone. It leaves you to your own devises, free in the world to supposedly do what you want to do. But what if you have no idea what to do?
It came suddenly, the day of my last exam, the mass exodus of lectures, essays, deadlines after three years of adjusting mentally and physically to the demands of university, leaving you dazed and confused in the wilderness of the adult world.
University is like a bubble, a bubble that makes you believe you are an adult in the real world. It's like real-world-lite, with a taste of the problems you might find outside, but with the comfort of knowing you get a degree out of it at the end. You pay upwards of £30,000 to get a glimpse of the real world, a try before you buy scheme, except you are obligated to buy at the end.
Since leaving university I've become ashamed of what I see as my own failure to kick on in life, yet I live nearly exactly the same life as I did at the end of my last term and the majority of my final two years.
I worked throughout my degree, in bars and pubs late into the night, and as a writer for The Tab, which is either a good thing or a bad thing depending on how triggered you are by listicles. I would go to university or crack on with university work during the day, and go to work at night, fit my social life in between those things – that was the general consensus three or four times a week when I'd have shifts and or deadlines.
I have a similar job now, and I in fact work more shifts and longer hours. Yet because I don't have uni work to do anymore, because I'm now in a position of paying back my student debt rather than accumulating it, I feel like a failure. Even though I'm working, even though I work hard, I feel like I'm not accomplishing anything, as if life is passing me by or I'm not making the most of my time.
It's as if three years of an English Literature degree was a complete waste of time. Perhaps it was, depending on how you feel towards BA degrees. Perhaps I would have been better off doing a 'proper' degree, like medicine, or a subject that hasn't been completely devalued over the years like pretty much all of the arts have been.
Take away that structure of education and all of a sudden I'm a failure because I'm working in a bar, which I feasibly could have done three years ago without ever going to university in the first place. Is that what I'm meant to think? That because I haven't done anything with my degree yet, I am therefore failing? That because I'm doing a job I don't need my degree for, it was all a waste of time?
It does feel that way sometimes, and it's degrading. From the moment I left university, it felt like a rush to do something interesting or worthwhile. It's as if it's a race to see who get a job first, who can train to be a teacher in the quickest possible time, who can get accepted onto a Master's degree before they've even finished their undergraduate.
I decided to do a Masters' degree, because why the hell not when you have absolutely no idea what else to do? But I rushed into it without looking at what the course may actually entail, all because I had a little experience in the job it would lead to and I thought I would be good at it, and ended up doing something I wasn't enjoying, all before taking a leave of absence to work out what it is I actually wanted to do. From there, after taking some time to think, I've found a course I actually want to do, and will be doing that next year. Because I took that time, because I spent a little time working in a bar where I wasn't particularly engaged, I had time to figure out just a little idea about what I might want to do.
Other people I went to uni with have become fully fledged teachers in that time, others have gone travelling, some went home and did absolutely nothing. That's fine, as long as it makes them happy. I wasn't happy doing an MA I hated, so why should I do it? Life isn't a race.
But that's easy to say when you have a whole year to fill in between university degrees. It's like limbo, where life is passing you by as you wait to do the thing you want to do. The waiting kills you, waiting for something interesting to happen, and whilst all of this is happening it feels like everyone else around you is accomplishing something, something you aren't.
I'd love to go travelling, but I can't afford to because I have to save to study a Master's. So here I am, sat here thinking I haven't seen as much of the world because someone I vaguely know is posting pictures of their road trip across America on Instagram. I should be doing that! But I should also be training to do an important and fulfilling job like teaching. Or I should be travelling. Or teaching. Or a Master's. Or saving money. Or this. Or that. There are so many options, yet my options are limited. That's what it feels like to be stuck not knowing what to do after university.
I'm incredibly grateful to be in this position, however. To be writing this article feels incredibly ungrateful. I have a 2:1 degree, a job, money saved up, and here I am moaning that it feels like I have nothing. I'm confused and ungrateful, yet totally aware of where I am and grateful. In short, life feels like a maze that I haven't quite managed to navigate, and maybe this is how it will always feel. Now how's that for a faux-profound ending, I'm really putting that 2:1 to use.