It counts as quarter-life when you’re twenty, right?
If you are, like me, a student about to enter your final year of study at university (although, to be honest, even sixth form would do), then there’s a good chance you’ll be familiar with the feeling I’m struggling with right now: the ‘wtf am I doing with my life’ feeling.
If I had to describe it, I’d say it’s like a heart-squeezing, stomach sinking, brain numbing type of stress that probably has many different facets all feeding into it at once. And no matter how many times you tell yourself that it’ll all work out in the end, it persists. I basically feel like I’m looking out at a permanent mist. I’m standing on a ledge, looking at the drop.
It’s also not helped by the fact that, at this point in your life – or in mine, certainly – other people are taking a particularly keen interest in what’s next. Parents, other relatives, friends, friends’ parents, parents’ friends – you name it. For some reason, they all start showing sudden interest in you.
Personally, I’ve always had a sort of plan. I’ve had it since I was about five or six years old, and it hasn’t really changed since, aside from gaining a bit more detail in the interim. But this plan has a drop-off point where it goes from specificity right into the vague grey area. That drop-off point? That’s going to be next year. In May, specifically. Five-year-old-me’s plan went like this: primary school, secondary school, GCSEs, A Levels, English degree, be an author.
In actuality, I did do basically all of that – I obviously completed primary and secondary school, I did my A Levels (in English, History, and Geography), and I’m doing my degree in English and History. I’ve written a manuscript and am working on a second, hoping to get them published at some point.
But that’s not exactly enough, is it? Authors don’t get paid much even when they’re successful, so I’ve always had it in my mind that I’d have to find something else to do alongside my writing. I didn’t know what that something else was going to be for a long time – I’d have daydreams of various paths: editor of a magazine, or working in a publishing house, or something.
More recently, I’ve expanded my horizons. In the last couple of years I’ve gained an interest in not only writing manuscripts, but also screenplays. And with that came a shift from simply considering magazines or publishing houses, to daydreams of working on film sets. After all, journalism has never been something I’ve particularly wanted to do – I’ve done it in various voluntary roles, and I know I could make a career of it if I put my mind to it, but it’s not where my heart lies, and it never has been.
So now I’m left to wonder… where does that leave me? I finish my degree in less than a year, and I’ll need to support myself both financially and creatively thereafter. I don’t like relying on my parents, and goodness knows they’re ready for me to stop needing to. And I could go into a bazillion rants about how difficult it is to start out doing anything in terms of paid employment these days – I’ve never managed anything more than temporary retail and marketing positions, and even those were hard to get. Things are made especially difficult by the fact that the area I live in when I’m not at university has extremely little in terms of any opportunities whatsoever. Even finding a simple retail job here is a nightmare. But ranting about that won’t help. I’m not always successful at it, but I try not to dwell on things I can’t change.
In pursuit of that, then, I’m trying to figure out what my next steps are. I’ve signed up to a couple of websites that are, for lack of a better term, film-orientated, and the (admittedly somewhat bleak) hope is that I can find something like work experience over the summer. And in case that never materialises, I’m also signed up to a website called Skillshare, in the hopes that I can learn something from it and build my knowledge of the film-making process.
As it is, I’m sadly inexperienced in anything film, partly because I never really thought of myself as a person who could work on a film set until more recently, and partly because I have honestly never had the opportunity to do such things. I was forever taking up whatever exciting opportunities came my way back in secondary & sixth form – I went on an app-making course, I went to Microsoft’s Think Computer Science events, I volunteered on the Youth Council, I wrote for a website, I got published in a science journal… but filmmaking never crossed my path. And I seem to be at the one university in the country without any student film society.
Aside from that, I’m still working on my manuscript. I’ve started making a list of places and positions I’m going to start applying for in early 2019 for when I graduate. I have a couple of possibilities for post-graduation in my head, but they’re far from certainties.
But I do know some things for certain. I know I’m going to work my arse off in my third year. I know I’m going to throw everything I have at it and hope to all that’s good in the world that it pays off. I’m know I’m going to continue working on my manuscripts, and I’m going to figure out how to write a screenplay. I know I’m going to keep searching for every opportunity I could take.
And I know I’m going to stay determined.