This time last year I’d handed in my dissertation, as my course timeline was very different to everyone else’s, so some of my friends hadn’t even started yet. We’d started rehearsals for our final play which would then be taken on a national tour. It all felt so exciting, but also terrifying. We were at the end. I don’t think anything can truly prepare you when how you feel when you leave university. And I’m not talking about going to the Futures team for help with CV stuff and job applications (which I do wish I’d done, looking back). I mean mentally.
If you’re lucky, you live with your best friends for three years, being together 24/7, studying and working on things you love and are passionate about, having all the freedom in the world. And then it ends, you pack it all up and move back into your childhood bedroom, your nearest friend is over 5 hours away and you get asked ‘What are you going to do next?’ ‘Haven’t you got a grad job yet?’ ‘Where are you going?’ and the most upsetting thing someone can ever say to you ‘No we can’t order a Chinese!’. It feels like you’ve taken a really big step forward by finally finishing your degree, to then be taken back to square one – but now you have a massive debt to pay off. You’re in the adult world now they say but your mum still won’t buy you a McDonalds because there’s dinner in the fridge.
I remember handing in my last bit of work to the student services desk, a place I’d normally run to with my friends at 3:45 when the deadline was at 4. But this time I walked slowly, alone, as my course ran on longer than most and so the campus was quiet, something I still find odd as it’s normally bustling with life. It was just me. I handed it over and signed the sheet, and that was it. University? Completed it mate. I felt so relieved that it was all done, I’d never have to write an essay again, but I couldn’t go to Barjon with my friends to celebrate like we normally did because they weren’t there and Barjon was closed. It was all very anti-climactic. And this melancholy feeling washed over me, and I couldn’t shake it for months.
I was sad, to put it simply. Just pure sadness. It was almost like I was grieving being in education. At the time I was 22 and I’d spent the last 18 years in education, knowing that when September came around, I’d be going back to school or college or uni but not this time. I didn’t know what was going to happen in September, or October and all the rest. I’d always thought I was a ‘the world’s your oyster’ kind of person, but it turns out I’m really not. I don’t like oysters, at all. I was so scared I didn’t know where to start, I just remember thinking ‘OK, I’ve done what I’ve always wanted to do, now what?’ and I had no answers. I spent an untold amount of hours on indeed.com trying to find a job, after a while I stopped being picky and applied for anything because I just needed money. Still with no luck, I eventually had to go back to my old admin job which I hated. I had nothing to look forward to, all my motivation, creativity and hope left me. No amount of wisdom from my parents or grandparents could help, I was so miserable and lost. I used to love going to the gym with my friend but every time I tried to go myself, I just cried because I was anxious, and it was just another reminder of how alone I was.
One day I decided to try again, so I went back on indeed and saw that Marjon was looking for a Student Engagement Assistant and I read it and thought why not? I applied and got my interview date; my parents gave me some money to buy smart shoes and I prepared for questions I thought they might ask me. I’ve performed on a lot of stages, in front of a lot people, even been nearly naked on stage and I’m still profusely sweating during job interviews. Then I saw two of my friends who had also gone for the job, it was a bit weird, but we all went for a dark fruits in Barjon wishing each other the best. After a second round of interviews I got the phone call that I had got the job and I remember putting the phone down and I just cried. Turns out, I would be back at Marjon in September after all.
So after nearly year of being a fully formed adult in the real world I am going to share with you the biggest secret of all time – none of us know what we’re doing! My mum still says ‘I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up’ and it’s so true. I’m aware of how lucky I was to get this job, but I know that I would’ve found something eventually. It just takes time. For some reason we feel like time is running out, we have to achieve this by that age, or we are failures. But that couldn’t be more wrong. You’re never going to be stuck where you are jobwise/mentally/physically forever, it shall pass and you will move on. I’m not sure what wise prophet said this ‘You’re allowed five emotional minutes a day, then you gotta be a gangsta’ but I wish I’d stuck to it. The feeling of loss will go and eventually you’ll know where you are going to be in September.
Thank you to Sasha Morrissey, BA (Hons) Acting graduate and Student Engagement Assistant, for writing this.