Welcome back to the Vent Corner, where the jobless, the aspiring and the “floundering” can get it all off their chests. This week, Marianna Manson deals with losing her optimism since leaving uni…
‘Floundering’ is not exactly a term I like to use in regards to myself. It’s hardly conclusive to notions of poise, elegance and good grace, which I evidently wholly encapsulate. Somehow, though, I feel like that’s exactly what’s happening.
Everywhere I look, fellow graduates are carving out the rest of their lives into intricately labeled 10-year-plans. Settling snugly into six-day weeks, eleven-hour days and solid annual salaries, they’ve all managed to accrue job titles, which, frankly, they’re not too embarrassed to put on Facebook. My Facebook brazenly states that I’m the senior exec of “keepin’ it cool” which, though undoubtedly true, has failed to secure me the expendable income I seek. And it’s not even as though those nearest and dearest to me who are now enjoying the luxuries of annual holiday and sick pay had been those hyper-organised, above-and-beyond kind of students, either. At university you’re led by the hand and are always acutely aware of what’s laid out ahead of you – at this stage roughly two years ago, I would be preparing to prepare for a gruelling 14 day post-Christmas reading binge, desperately compiling 9,000 words across three modules and psyching myself up to function on the severely limited calorie intake customary to the beginning of the year, traditionally a time of restriction and misery. After that would come the stealthily increasing panic habitually associated with the lead up to exams, followed by an inevitably debauched summer whereby the old adage, “if you don’t use it, you lose it” would slowly but surely become painfully applicable to my state of intellect, just in time for the start of third year. Sure, we’d be vaguely conscious of the internships being landed and the plays being written in our peripheries. But we were the cool kids. We took huge pride in our languid approach to our education, safe in the knowledge that our imitable brain capacities had seen us just fine through our GCSEs and anyway, employment was ages away and we’d cross that bridge when we came to it.
The start of 2015 seems to hold in store a few disparities, the most glaringly obvious being the crippling anxiety and gut-wrenching dread that comes with being a graduate of 6 months and being no closer to working out anything mildly resembling future career prospects. I’m really struggling to define the boundary between ambitious and unrealistic. I know that I would love to work for Cosmo, Glamour, or the newly online-aphied version of Company, but is it naïve to entertain the thought of miraculously landing some kind of features writing role rather than just the opportunity to make tea and steam iron clothes for the big girls? Still, I’ve been told (over and over and over again…) at least all this aimless dream-harbouring has taught me what it is that I don’t want to do; I don’t want to work in sales, I don’t want to spend any large proportion of my day on the phone (especially not selling on the phone) and I really, really don’t want to work in close proximity to men in £900 suits with zero personality, as an insignificant cog in a cooperate mechanism. I want to exercise my creative flair, dammit. But it’s becoming increasingly apparent to me that the career path I’ve chosen is the same one chosen by millions of girls and young women across the country. This shit is cut-throat; the literary equivalent of ‘being a popstar.’ And so while I know what it is I irrefutably DO NOT WANT TO DO, perhaps it’s time I got over myself and realised that this economy does not give a shit about what I want.
I’ve had mixed emotions about my post-graduation circumstance. Living in a quirky flat in quirky East London with some quirky friends, spending my days serving artisan coffee and my nights drinking wine, generally living the bohemian dream, all seems perfect on paper. And I had convinced myself that, after a draining three years at uni, I was in no rush to embark on the relentless rollercoaster to my dream career. I was happy to spend the year taking it easy, indulging in frivolous blog writing and generally fine-tuning my online presence just in time to burst onto the magazine journalism scene as the most influential force since Anna Wintour. But biding your time is hard, the pressure to make money and lay groundwork is undeniable and underachieving is frustrating when the people nearest and dearest to you are all doing so well. Despite the fact that I know there are millions of unemployed graduates across the country, and that I’m totally not the only one to feel dissatisfied and let-down by a crumbling job-market, it’s difficult to really acknowledge that when, in my personal circles, I can count those people on the fingers of one hand (one finger, of one hand, actually.) Excitement and encouragement for my fellow English graduates has gradually been infiltrated by a twang of resentment when I listen to them gush about their lavish office parties and their Karen Millen work wardrobes.
Ultimately I think that this swelling bitterness is borne out of perpetual dissatisfaction (with a lot of things, not just my employment), precarious self esteem levels and general FOMO. We’re a generation inherently indoctrinated with the “grass is always greener” mentality – and I learnt a few years ago when searching for the perfect picnic spot that actually, it just looks that way from away. Who knew?
Obviously this can be a good thing. It generates ambition and motivation. But it also fosters detrimental feelings of lack of self worth, and feeling like we’re not good enough or doing well enough is inevitably the start of a vicious cycle. Like so many things in life, I think the trick is just not to compare yourself to other people. Put some blinkers on, and focus on what’s right in front of you. Sometimes I look at my flatmates, both of whom are students, and even find myself thinking wistfully of unemployment – the lure of bacon sandwiches at 11am and late night study sessions can seem strangely appealing when you’re up at 6 to head to work and spend the rest of your afternoon frantically applying for impossible grad schemes. But keeping motivated and working hard feels pretty good, and it’s gotta get us somewhere eventually.