Oh lights go down
In the moment we're lost and found
- Birdy "Wings"
I spent the
last year of university past four years of university wondering what I would do the day they handed me my diploma, but when it actually happened I felt like I was back where I started. When you go through university you picture yourself graduating with job offers or moving on to a masters at some fancy school. Actually, I almost did move on to a masters at a fancy school, but considering that my acceptance to Parsons came with a not-so pretty price tag, that whole dream went out with Wednesday's trash. I think that was the point when I felt like my four years of sweat, tears, sleepless nights and multiple breakdowns a week was useless and I might as well start using my diploma as firewood for a summer bonfire. At least that way my diploma would keep me warm.
When I entered my last year of university I had high hopes and dreams for the future. The world was my oyster or at least that's what people told me. I was treated to stories of post-grad success and told "you're smart, you're hardworking, you'll make it," and while I still like to believe that, every single day that goes by without being able to find a job or internship, a little piece inside me wants to use some very bad words to release the frustration building inside.
It also doesn't help that I still don't know what I want to do with my future. I have friends who have known for years what they want to do, and are well on their way to achieving their goals, and I would be lying if I said I wasn't even a tiny bit jealous. Yet, most of my friends are feeling exactly the same way I am, and even the ones with fancy internships are feeling like they are simply being used for their skill with no intentions to keep them on for the ride after their initial internship period is over. Listening to my friends talk about their future plans, especially those who have yet to graduate is also interesting because I see in themselves what I saw in me earlier in the year, but I can't help wondering how they will feel once that diploma is in their hands and they are told to enter the real world.
It took me about a month after I received my very expensive piece of paper to realize that I was done with my undergrad. For the past month I have been experiencing varying levels of anxiety, insomnia and stress. When I left high school I was glad to get out of the place and I never looked back, but leaving university I feel empty. I had a wonderful university experience, and knowing that I had to say goodbye to those experiences, the people, and the slight feeling of reckless abandon that one can only feel in school, I now feel like crawling into a hole and crying. Life is so much harder after you cross the finish line and realize that the real world is actually a complete bitch and you better be prepared to fight her or you'll be lying on the side of the road in pain. (Obviously, I mean that in a metaphorical sense).
I have spent the summer in unemployment, telling everyone that I am taking time off to relax, which is partially true. While it might sound pretentious, I am not at all prepared to go and work in retail or at a coffee shop after I have spent years suffering through sleepless nights to achieve good grades so that I could eventually receive the very expensive piece of paper that currently hangs on my wall and stares down at me every time I walk into the room, as if it's asking why I am still in my pyjamas at 2pm on a workday. The simple truth is that I don't ask much from life. All I want is to have a job that will make me happy and pay any future bills that I may have. A pay that will let me at least have the tiniest little apartment in downtown Toronto that I can call my own. The silliest problem of all is that even if I tried to get a retail job I am not qualified. Apparently, my university degree does not qualify me to fold clothes, something that a Grade 9 student in high school is "perfectly" trained for. But as I mentioned earlier, even if it makes me sound pretentious, I really don't want to work somewhere where someone's high school education is worth just as much, if not more than my university education. Don't get me wrong, I am willing to work my ass off, and I have worked at jobs that have been painstakingly hard, physically, mentally and emotionally, but at this point in my life, I am ready to begin my future career, and not work at a minimum wage job hoping that something better will come along some day.
There is no better word to describe how I feel apart from lost. I am lost. I don't know what I should do with my life, I don't know where I should look, where I should go. The wrong direction and the right direction have lost meaning because who is to say that either is better or worse than the other. The feeling of being lost while you're still in undergrad is not the same as when you have left. While you're still in school there is a sense of safety around you because there is still an amount of time that you know exactly what is in store for you for however many months you have left at school. If you decide to go for a masters you have even more time to hide within a circle of school comfort. But some of us don't have that option. A masters was only an option when I was applying, but when faced with the reality of an acceptance that would require spending about $150, 000 over two years (money I don't have to spend), I realized that my Plan B was now Plan A. Unfortunately, my Plan B hadn't even been drafted.
Ultimately, I have no idea what I will do with my life. Every single area of my life is uncertain, and frankly, it scares the shit out of me. Anyone who is in the same boat and says they are perfectly okay with coasting is lying. The unknown is fun for a while, when you have enough money to travel the world, to go to crazy parties, or to spend lots of time with your equally unemployed friends. Yet, after a while the euphoria goes away and all you're left with is a void that cannot be filled. You start to miss the busyness and stress of the life that other humans inhabit, and no amount of Friends reruns or copious hours spent on the internet can fix the part of your heart that you had attached to school life (a part that would eventually have been given to a future job, but now remains barren, worse than even the hottest and most deadly desert).
Life after graduation is hard, lonely and anxiety ridden, but at the same time, there is a tragic beauty about it all. While the road ahead may not be paved, I am now presented with the difficult but ultimately, rewarding opportunity to craft my own path. Unlike many others, I am given the opportunity to stray from a prepared road, and map out my own life direction. Whether I turn right, left, go straight, or even go back, I am my own guiding light, and because of that, my heart becomes charged with a thrill of excitement. I don't have a plan. I don't know where I'll be or what I'll be doing in the next two weeks, two months or two years, but I know that my future isn't on a map. For once I am the cartographer, and I am ready to start my work.
The first maps weren't created in a day. They took years of travel, thousands of hours, much dedication and many wrong paths until they were deemed successful. If the first explorers took chances of going into uncharted waters, I too am ready to embrace the open waters and see where the current takes me.
Photo by Elizabeth Pandza.