If I had to identify one thing as one of my biggest flaws, it’d be impatience. And it’s not like I’m going to go off on one about being in traffic for twenty minutes, or because a salesperson is taking a while to find a pair of shoes in the right size – it’s more a sort of long-term impatience.
You see, I have a habit of setting myself very long-term goals. Writing books, for one. Learning things. Completing a degree. That sort of stuff. And my issue is that, all too often, I get frustrated by the length of time it takes for me to complete that goal. That’s not to say I’m not willing to put in the work – I am – just, I always feel like I ought to be able to do things sooner. I can focus too much on the end goal and not what you learn on the way there.
Honestly, I’ve been like that my entire life. I was always ahead of the game when it came to learning to handwrite and spell as a small child, because I was fascinated by it all, but I have anecdotes from my parents of two- or three-year-old me, however old I was at the time, getting frustrated and teary at not being able to hold a pencil properly, or not being able to write a certain word correctly.
Later, at age six, I saw an advert on TV for the Keane album Hopes and Fears, and decided I wanted to learn to play the piano. I started lessons shortly after my seventh birthday, and sure enough, I would get really frustrated when I didn’t pick something up immediately. Even still, 13 years later, I find myself getting irritated with myself if I can’t figure out how to play something almost immediately.
And it’s the same with things where the length of time a task takes to complete isn’t up to me. GCSEs, A Levels, and my degree, for example. I don’t know what it is – I guess I’m just always looking to the next thing, and that makes me slightly impatient for the current thing to end. Which makes zero sense, by the way, because I actually enjoy my degree. I like working for it, I like the topics, I love learning what I’m learning – but I still find myself, from time to time, getting a little impatient at the length of time it takes.
It’s something I’ve been aware of about myself for a long time. I should be able to concentrate more on what’s now, and focus on being able to enjoy the time things take. I’d say I’m definitely better at coping with my impatience now than I was when I was, say, ten (though if I wasn’t, that would probably be cause for concern), but I’ve probably still got a way to go.
Do you find yourself getting impatient the way I do? What do you do to combat it?
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.
This feels like an odd post to write, but it’s definitely something that’s on my mind a lot. A lot of people around my age don’t know what they want to do with their lives, or what they want out of them, and they don’t know what sort of people they want in their lives. And the thing is, I do.
And that can be quite isolating.
I know that I want a career, and I know what I want that career to be centred around. I know which sort of people I want in my life, and which I don’t – and I find it easy to read people, so it doesn’t take me long to realise if someone I meet is somebody I want to be around.
I know that I’m okay with working hard for the things that I want – I actually like working hard to achieve my goals. I know I’m not a party animal, and that I don’t have to be. I know that I don’t want to use Tinder, as much as it often feels like I’m the only person my age who feels that way.
The only issue, I find, is that most of the people I see in my day-to-day life don’t feel the same way. From my experience, at university, the guys I meet are far more likely to just be boasting about their drunken conquests, with no direction and no aims. Often, the girls aren’t much different. Pretty much everyone looks at you like you’re a weirdo when they find out you don’t drink alcohol. And a significant portion of people are reluctant to do the work necessary to achieve their goals – if they have any.
It’s a laugh for many people I see if they only turn up to one hour of lectures in a week, because they only came to experience the ‘student life’, whereas I came to university because I wanted to study. I wanted to learn about things I didn’t know about before, and build my knowledge base. Lectures and seminars and reading are the reasons I came to university, not the nightlife. I came so I could experience living somewhere else and meeting new people – but even meeting new people is hard after everyone’s settled in in first year.
You get people wondering and asking why you don’t have a relationship yet. Some people thrust Tinder and a billion other dating apps in your face. They talk about how they met their partners after six beers in a bar in the early hours. And for someone who doesn’t want to meet somebody that way, that idea doesn’t particularly appeal. I know people whose relationships have only ever started in a state of inebriation, and I can’t help but feel a little sad about the idea that people are so reluctant to speak to people if it’s not online or if they’re not drunk first.
I think many people I’ve met seem to be waiting for the dream to come to them, waiting for the solution to just walk into the room. And I’m not sure that’s the way to go about it. I’m not saying that it’s not okay if you simply haven’t figured out a direction for your life yet, because it is. But I do think it’s good to take time to figure out what it is you do or don’t want, however you want to go about it, because it allows you to make more valuable use of your time.