Grieving My Undergraduate
I’ve been a graduate for 2 ½ years now. It’s been 2 years of job hunting, accepting adult life and trying to see past the fog. You’d think I would have done my learning as a student, but most of my learning has been done outside of the lecture theatre. During these 2 years, I’ve not only grown as a person, but I’ve also spent a lot of time pining for the past.
I moved to University at the age of 18. I had no gap year, and like many others, went straight from living at home and going to school every day to living alone in a new city and taking myself to lectures. Thinking back to it, I always wonder how a bunch of children were put together in a flat and expected to be responsible. Even as I got into my third year, I still spent the majority of my time seeing what I could get away with. I’d go on nights out, rock up to work the next day hungover, then submit half-arsed essays 5 minutes before the deadline. I wouldn’t particularly recommend this lifestyle; however, I do miss the spontaneity and lack of responsibility that I had.
For anyone who doesn’t know me, I am a Secondary English NQT and have spent the past year wondering if this is the right career path for me. A lot of this questioning is rooted in the fact that I feel too young to be where I am.
One aspect of my life that has been most affected by the move from undergrad to graduate is my social life. You’d think that it might be my education, but that felt more like a process and this felt like a singular extreme move from complete independence back to dependence.
So how do you get over wanting to go back?
Pining For The Past
Every couple of months I make the journey down to Bath (my Uni city) to try and recreate a night out from my third year. Every time it leaves me aching and wanting to be back. Every time, I spend the next week with the blues, missing my friends, the city and my old life. It’s been the same routine for 2 years and I found myself lost when I came home, feeling like I had been forced out of that life too quickly and working out elaborate plans for how to get back and never quite managing it.
When Corona Virus hit, things got worse. I felt like everything that I had achieved up until that point had gone to waste. My independence had been completely lost as I sat in my childhood bedroom every day getting drunk on Zoom.
When the restrictions lifted in the summer, I made a trip down to Bath as soon as I could. I saw all my friends, went to one of our favourite bars and had breakfast the next morning in our café of choice. But driving home, I felt flat.
I still don’t fully understand how I got through the first initial grief stages of leaving University. A lot of people choose to move out after University, rent their own place and make new friends. I didn’t do that and so it became incredibly lonely as I saved money for an unknown goal. I pined for my friends who were elsewhere and felt stuck in suburbia.
For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere. My hometown is Essex, which, although can be beautiful, is tainted with a certain attitude and lifestyle that doesn’t resonate with me. I know a lot of people feel the same about their home towns, and there are parts of this place that I love, but after living elsewhere, I realised that this wasn’t the be all and end all. So why am I still here?
I think one of the greatest things that I have learnt since leaving University is that it’s okay to be passive. I am a very involved, opinionated and passionate person and these qualities are something that I am proud of. But for me, after fighting for so long, when I finally learnt to accept where I was and to just live, things felt easier.
Be angry about things, yes, but I think an important lesson that I learnt was to choose your battles. Going against the grain in a world that doesn’t champion me was only going to hurt in the long run. For the first time in my life, I’ve kept my head down and just worked and saved my money. It’s been incredibly challenging because I am the sort of person who likes to constantly achieve things, but one thing that I didn’t think about was how challenging patience is and that the achievement at the end of this will (hopefully) be worthwhile.
I think it’s easy to believe that you aren’t achieving because you don’t have a long-term relationship, or you still live at home or you don’t have a ‘proper’ job, but actually, I think going through the confusion of this is a gain in itself.
I am often plagued by the thought that because I live at home still that I am not achieving anything. I fight battles with my own brain, asking myself why I am bothering to save to buy a flat when I want to travel anyway. But at the same time, I am not sure what I would be accomplishing by renting a room somewhere in London. I’d probably feel constantly stimulated by short-term happiness, but I think I would still feel a deep pang of anxiety that is the unknown.
So, this is where I began to accept that I cannot tell the future and I cannot live in the past. It’s 2021, last year was probably the worst for graduates and now we just have to get through the rest of it. It’s okay to not know what you’re doing and it’s okay to feel like you’re lost. It’s hard not to compare yourself to others and it’s hard to not be scared by absolutely everything right now. But take each day as it comes and keep learning about yourself along the way.
Loving Loneliness (Sort Of)
I want to finish on the idea of loneliness and how incredibly painful that feeling is. Even without COVID-19, loneliness is something that creeps up on us in our post-graduate lives and it’s consuming. Loneliness is one of the greatest sources of depression and anxiety and it just causes a lot of anguish. However, and bear with me with this one, being lonely has taught me a lot about myself and I have learnt to live with my own thoughts and my own character without constant distraction. I think overall, our lockdown’s have been horrific and writing this in our third national lockdown has taken me a month thanks to the lack of motivation, but it’s also been a time of reflection, because we’ve been forced to be with ourselves for long periods of time, which is something we have never had to do before.
I don’t feel particularly grateful for this period of time because it’s rubbish, but I have learnt to love myself in different ways, a lot of that being to stop punishing myself for things I can’t control or don’t know are true and also to trust my gut!
As I mentioned, I am struggling with motivation at the moment. Going back to online teaching is tough, as is lockdown in general. I want to use this time to write as much as I can, but I’m not going to force myself (another lesson learnt!) I’m looking forward to writing more and sharing my thoughts about being a twenty-something, so please leave a comment if there’s anything you’d like me to share more of or found interesting.