Quarter Life Crisis

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.

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I basically feel like I’m looking out at a permanent mist.

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.

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So now I’m left to wonder… where does that leave me?

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.

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I’m standing on a ledge, looking at the drop.

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.

I Know What I Want

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.

Voluntarily Out of Depth

This week marks the start of the second semester of my second year at uni – I’m officially half way through my degree!

The new semester means I’ve just started 3 new modules. And for two of them, I am completely out of my depth. I knew I would be, and that’s why I chose them. One of my modules isn’t even in either of my departments – I study English & History, but I was able to choose one in the Archaeology department for the history side of my degree.

I realised quite how out of my depth I was in my first lecture for my module in archaeology – on the Sumerians. The lecturer threw out a question and I sat there completely nonplussed until an actual archaeology student a few seats down from me shouted out an answer that was probably obvious to around 90% of the people in that room. I can guarantee you that his response would never have crossed my mind.

But it’s all part of the experience. The other module in which I feel I’m completely out of my depth is one on cinema & the making of modern India. I can safely say I have never in my life studied anything about India, and I’ve never even seen a Bollywood film. Thankfully though, the majority of students doing this module are equally out of their depth (the exception being my Indian friend & housemate who’s taking it with me, which is great). Our lecturer asked in our first seminar, just out of interest, why we’d all taken the module if we’d never had anything to do with the subject matter.

All of us pretty much agreed with our answers: why not?

The only reason I’m not entirely out of depth with my English module this semester (on Medieval Narratives, if you’re wondering) is because I happened to choose a history module last semester on the medieval period. That module gave me the opportunity to become familiar with a lot of what we’re covering in the English module. (Reading Middle English is still going to be a challenge though!)

I always think that I came to university to learn about things I hadn’t come across before. I wanted a bunch of new experiences. And new experiences are going to throw you out of your depth – but that’s not a bad thing. I mean, it makes life more interesting, for one. Voluntarily learning about things you’ve not come across before broadens your horizons, and, as my lecturer for the India module pointed out, it makes you more interesting as a person.

Being voluntarily out of my depth is something I try to embrace in a lot of ways – it’s about conquering new challenges, figuring out different methods of approach. I like the challenge.