You’re out in public and bump into an old acquaintance you haven’t seen in a while. You do the usual spiel about how nice it is to see them and after that initial wave of excitement finally wears off, you feel it. They’re looking for a conversation starter and of course they’re going to hit you with your least favourite question. And right on schedule, there it is;
“So what have you been doing with yourself?”
Here we go again. I don’t know what it is about this question that causes me to have an existential crisis every time its asked, but there’s something about suddenly being put on the spot to try and justify what you’ve been doing with your life since high school that makes me want to curl up into a ball and cry. Especially, if you’re like me and did the whole ‘going to uni’ thing only to end up in the exact same spot you were beforehand.
Without the ignorant bliss of being an undergrad with the “I’m studying” excuse to give the illusion that you’re at least trying to successfully adult, you’re left to make excuses for yourself about how you’re just “comfortable” at your current job and that it’s only “temporary” until you find something you can make a career out of. It’s easy to be in this situation and look at how well others around you are doing and feel inadequate or as if you’ve fallen behind. But the actual reality of the situation is that adulting is actually really hard.
Growing up, I always envisioned my pathway in life being very structured and I had a short timeline in which I hoped to achieve everything I wanted to do. I’d graduate from university, get myself a job then settle down and raise a family by the time I was in my late twenties/ early thirties.
For the most part, I’d stuck to my plan. I went straight from high school into a three year degree studying something that I thought I was passionate about at the time. I found out the hard way that uni life is more than just free food, alcohol-fuelled social events and no one to force you to attend your lectures. It’s actually really difficult and at times, overwhelming. I was left to bullshit my way through essays on topics I hadn’t properly studied (P’s get degrees ✌🏼), fix the mess I’d created by procrastinating literally every uni-related task I had to do, and learn just what the hell APA referencing was and why I’d never heard of it before now.
Even though by some miracle, I survived three years of emotional breakdowns to graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree, I was now left with a very expensive piece of paper and a burning question in the back of my mind: “Now what do I do?”
Fast forward to today and it’s been almost two years since I graduated and I still have no idea what’s next. Sometimes I find myself imagining what life would’ve been like if I’d chosen a different degree or applied myself more at uni instead of coasting by.
In hindsight, I could’ve done a lot of things with my life/degree and maybe it would’ve made me happier, but there’s also a chance that I’d be miserable too. Life is unpredictable and always changing, and rather than dwelling on what could’ve been, I’m slowly learning to understand that things are not always going to play out the way you’d imagined in your head.
The beauty of meeting so many diverse people in life is that they teach you that there’s no need to adhere to a timeline or compare yourself to others to see how you’re doing. As long as you’re happy at the end of the day, that’s all that matters right?