When you go through the process of university applications at school, you expect to have the next few years of your life planned out. When I went into my degree, I thought I knew exactly what was coming: three years of French and Spanish classes surrounded by new friends, plus a year abroad sandwiched in there and a degree by 2022. If you’d told me when I was 18 that I’d spend the end of my second year back at home in the middle of a global lockdown, I would have spiralled into the kind of self-doubt and anxiety I find myself in now. But that’s exactly what happened, and now I find myself trying to move on to the next chapter of my life without the slightest clue of what that’s going to look like.
So here I am: wrong place, wrong time. In another life, I’d be making anxious preparations to spend a year living it up in France, researching local live music with the world opening up in front of me. Obviously, that’s not how it’s going to go down. Instead, I’m surrounded by decisions without enough time to make them – do I risk a shorter exchange? Sacrifice half of my final year? Defer, and try again later?
This wasn’t part of the plan!
I’ve learned a lot about myself in this weird experience. I’ve learned to let myself be emotional, to cry and be stressed even when the voice in the back of my head is telling me to calm down, because there’s always someone who has it worse than me; it’s time to leave this attitude behind me. My emotions are real and I have every right to feel them; after all, the life I’ve spent two years building for myself seems to have disappeared without a trace. My concrete academic plans are cracking at the foundations, but what hurts the most is that I never got a chance to say goodbye to my friends before we went our separate ways.
I’ve been listening to a lot of Amanda Palmer in lockdown, and her lyrics “I just want my friends all together in one place” from the song ‘My Space’ have been a slap in the face every time I listen to them.
I have every right to feel like something has been taken from me.
The only thing I’m sure about is that I’m sure as hell not going to give up now. I have enough people behind me telling me that I wouldn’t get anywhere with a humanities degree, that I would regret moving to another country and that I wasn’t going to succeed, and it’s these words that are stopping me from giving up now. And isn’t spite one hell of a motivator? Even though I don’t have a plan – like most of the world – it’s time to make one.
Coming to terms with not having a plan when you’re an organised person is perhaps more difficult than actually moving forward without one. Social media is only serving to make it more difficult – seeing people use quarantine to learn a new language or run 5k every morning when you’re still finding reasons to get out of bed is exhausting. The only way we can move forward in times like this is by moving at our own pace.
I know that I’m not the only person feeling this way. Incoming students, new graduates everyone else affected by any number of factors has found themselves in a similar situation. Knowing this can be a comfort; we can stop, reflect and rethink together, each at our own pace. Let’s do this together – I promise I won’t make you run any 5ks.
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters