This Is Not Your Life Forever

I’m not going to lie: I’m not entirely where I want to be right now. But, to be fair, I’m twenty-two years old; how many people my age are?

Right now, I’m still living with my parents, but I have my eye on a cheap apartment in the town where I actually want to live, the town where all my friends live and where I actually stand a chance of getting the sort of job that I want. However, I cannot currently afford aforementioned cheap apartment after four years dedicated to university, and so I’m working retail jobs until I can. I’m single, I don’t have a lot of friends that I see on a regular basis, and I’m not very good at making new friends. All of this sort of adds up to a general feeling of “meh” about where I am right now.

And I know I’m not alone in this.

There are a lot of people out there who aren’t exactly where they’d like to be. A lot of young adults, still trying to figure out what sort of life they want to live and how they can achieve it, as well as a lot of older adults who really don’t feel “settled” yet. To be honest, it’s sort of a human condition, because very few of us are lucky enough to be born directly into the place where we want to be.

We all have goals we want to achieve.

We all want to find ourselves and become comfortable in our identities.

We all have places we want to go, things we want to see, stuff we want to do.

And sometimes, when we’re stuck in that place where we don’t want to be for long enough, it becomes easy to think that you’re going to be there forever.

It’s easy to lose hope, and to think that the things that you want are never going to come to you – either because you aren’t good enough or strong enough to get it, or because the whole cause feels hopeless.

But here’s the thing: you aren’t at the end of the race yet.

After all, change is the only constant in life. And maybe it won’t always be the change that you expect, but it will be change nonetheless. A year from now, you will be an entirely different person. Ten years from now, you will have an entirely different life, hopefully a life that you’re more satisfied with.

And I know, change takes a long time to come. It can be frustrating sometimes, it can be disheartening, but where you are now is not where you will always be. Time passes slowly, but it passes, and it brings with it many beautiful things. It brings with it your dreams, a new love, new friends, new family. It brings with it an endless array of possibilities, so many that you can’t even imagine them all now.

So don’t get stuck in today. Don’t keep dwelling in this idea that this is your life, this is forever, because it isn’t. People come and go. Dreams come true and evolve into new dreams. And along the way, even in times where you are not satisfied, there are still many things that should not be taken for granted.

I may not be satisfied living in my parent’s house, but at least I have a place to stay. There are too many people out there who cannot say that, and I know that I am incredibly privileged to be able to. I may not currently have the life or job that I want, but I have the means to work toward it. I am grateful for that.

And though I don’t know what your circumstance is, whatever it is, I am sure that you can think of something in it that makes it at least bearable for now.

That’s a problem with being dissatisfied with today; you run the risk of taking things for granted. It’s not the only problem, of course – just a problem.

Enjoy life while you can, but keep working toward the life you want. Stop and smell the roses, and then charge ever forward. But whatever you do, do not give into despair. Do not give up. Your life can be exactly what you want it to be, just so long as you do not give up hope.

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Future Planning: Why I Want to Be a Graduate Student

In my four years at university, I heard the same story told over and over again.

“I didn’t intend to go to graduate school,” they always said. “I was just going to get my bachelors, and then I was going to go out into the world and work, so that’s what I did. I graduated and I got a job, and I absolutely hated it. I hated the nine to five lifestyle. I hated how tedious it all was, how monotonous and unending. I felt like a machine, like a lifeless robot doing the same task over and over and over again, day after day. So I decided not to do that anymore. I decided that I was going to go back to school and continue my studies, and I was going to do something more with my life. I was going to think. I was going to be challenged.”

The first time that I heard this story, I was in first year, and all I could think was, yeah, you were most certainly being challenged. You were working your ass off for six to eight years, and that is a goddamn long time to be in school. The last time that I heard this story, I was in fourth year, and the length of time didn’t sound so bad to me anymore – I just wasn’t entirely sure if their truth was my own. After all, I had challenge and thought in my life already – I had my writing. That would never change. So long as I lived, regardless of what I was doing, whether I was waiting tables or scrubbing toilets, I would always be able to go home and work on something that I knew was worthwhile. So the way I saw it, I didn’t have anything to worry about. Their story wasn’t going to be mine.

I haven’t heard this story since then, but I find myself thinking about it a lot now. I’ve been out of school for a grand total of a month now, and a lot has changed since then. I got myself one of those tedious and monotonous nine to five jobs that I was so strongly warned against. I thought I wouldn’t mind it so much, thought that the meaninglessness of my day job would pale in comparison to the meaningfulness of my writing. Turns out, I was completely wrong. Turns out, I’m living that very same story that I was told time and time again in university.

I miss university. I miss being surrounded by people who share my passion. I miss having in-depth discussions about literature with others. I miss being challenged with digging up obscure research, even though the thought would literally have brought me to tears from the stress just over a month ago. And maybe I’m just being sentimental. Maybe I only miss university so much right now because I know that I’m not going back come September. But regardless, I miss university enough to have decided that, after this long, boring year off that I have ahead of me, I will be enrolling in graduate school.

I don’t want to settle for small, in any aspect of my life. I don’t want to not care about what I’m doing. I want my whole life to burn bright and hot and hard, every single aspect of it. And although I have heard that story time and time again while I was an undergraduate student, I think I finally understand what it means.

What Four Years At Post-Secondary Bought Me

Today, I went for a nice, long walk in the sun. There was a slight wind, but otherwise it was perfectly pleasant out. The world was bright, the grass was green, and along the way I passed by a sign that promised a “bright future” for those who attend post-secondary. I didn’t think I was angry at the time. I didn’t even realize that anything was really wrong with me until the sight of this sign made my lip turn up, and the next thing I knew I was silently screaming at those mocking words, “fuck you!

I tell you this only because I think it perfectly sums up how I’ve been feeling lately.

Because here’s the thing: I’ve been to post-secondary. I worked long and hard for four fucking years. I sacrificed my mental health, anguished through tears and headaches, and all of this was supposed to buy me happiness. It was supposed to make me smart and successful, but all it did was give me a passion for books and context in a world obsessed with showing me pictures of their snot-nosed brats who I honestly couldn’t care less about. It bought me a meaningless job doing nothing, just wasting my life away in exchange for money. Money that I need, because in this world, there is no life without money. In this world, money is the most important thing. In this world, money is more important than people and happiness. I learned that much in my four years in post-secondary.

In my first year at post-secondary, I hated the grey world of stone and concrete that I was forced to live in in order to get my degree. Now I miss it. I miss the trash and the graffiti and the controlled nature because at least that world was honest. That was a world of people and all their ugly, capitalist ideals – it was naked and true and unashamed. It wasn’t like this sunshiny hellhole with its fake grass and its identical houses and its claim to be closer to nature than that world despite the fact that it really isn’t. It’s still a world of people, it’s just a world of people that want to be better than what they are, so rather than changing anything, really, truly changing anything, they just bury their shame beneath plastic smiles and manicured lawns and immaculate gardens.

And I’m tired of them. I’m tired of doing nothing. I’m tired of being nothing. Four years at post-secondary was supposed to set me up to be better than that, but all it did was raise me to a greater height so that I hit the ground harder when it let me go.

Four Years

Four years ago, I showed up at this massive, foreign campus with the understanding that this was to be my home for the next long while. It didn’t look anything like I expected, with its blocky, grey buildings occasionally covered in bad graffiti and the endless multitude of posters discussing the possibility of rape. It looked like something from a dystopian novel – big, looming, threatening, empty at the time, and I didn’t think that I was going to make it. I thought, for sure, something was going happen before I graduated.

A few of my friends from high school dropped out along the way, and I figured it was just a matter of time before I did. I couldn’t do this. I wasn’t ready for this. This was too daunting, too much, and staying here would kill me. Oddly enough, the only thing that pushed out all thought of dropping out was an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer that I watched around the same time, wherein Buffy struggles to adapt to post-secondary life in much the same way I did. I saw myself in her then, and I decided that if Buffy could stick to it (later seasons notwithstanding) then I could too.

The next four years were strange and difficult, to say the least.

After my first year, I realized that I had both anxiety and depression. My first year was characterized by emptiness, nothingness, simply getting from day to day and passing all my classes but not really doing much else.

After my second year, I hesitantly began to hope that things might get a bit better. I still hadn’t made any friends at university, but I hung out with a few of my friends from high school from time to time, and though they didn’t know it, they taught me a few things about myself. They taught me that I spend a lot of time trying to please other people. They taught me that I’ve been maintaining this ideal of what my life should be – that I should be partying, sleeping around, getting drunk, behaving (the way I saw it) like a normal twenty year old. But none of that was ever me. It made me feel uncomfortable, unhappy. It was a role that I was trying to force myself into, and I just couldn’t do it. I needed to start putting my happiness above that image.

After my third year, I came to the conclusion that I needed to put my past behind me and start focusing on my future. I’ve always prided myself on my ambition, but it’s hard to climb upward when you have all of these insecurities, doubts, anger, and fear from yesterday weighing you down. So I decided that what I needed to do was cast that off. I needed to be a little bit selfish, I needed to focus on myself. I needed to actually start making my life better.

And now here I am, almost finished my fourth year. Almost at that graduation that I never saw in my future, and I only made it here by being so preoccupied by what I needed to learn that I didn’t even really see how far I’ve come.

In the four years since I’ve been here, I’ve learned that there is no ‘normal’. I’ve learned that just because society says that I need to do something, like, say, drink and party, that doesn’t actually mean I need to do it. Normal is a pointless standard, especially when the alternative choice is happiness.

In the four years since I’ve been here, I’ve learned that life is occasionally going to be terrible and difficult to get through, but that doesn’t mean that you just stop trudging through it. Even when you’re just getting by, just doing the little that you need to in order to survive, someday that’ll change, and you’ll start doing things because you actually enjoy them again. It just takes time.

Hell, in the four years since I’ve been here, I’ve even learned to love it here. I love my classes. I love the reading and the lectures and my peers who usually have some pretty insightful things to say. I love these blocky, grey buildings with their bad graffiti because, for one reason or another, I’ve always been drawn to broken things. I love those posters warning against rape because now they’re less of a threat and more of a call to action, an attempt to make people realize how prevalent rape is in university campuses and how we all need to do our part to make that stop.

In the four years since I’ve been here, I’ve started to identify loudly and proudly as a feminist, not caring what anyone has to say against that. In the four years since I’ve been here, I’ve gained an appreciation for Victorian literature and medieval Arthuriana, while still maintaining my old love for comic books and bad movies. In the four years since I’ve been here, I’ve learned that just because someone is older than you and paid to know more, that doesn’t actually mean that they do. I’ve learned to question, to think, to empathize. I’ve learned a lot, and as much as I never thought that I’d say this when I first showed up on this dystopian campus four years ago, I’m really going to miss this place.

But even so, I still have so much to learn. I’m not a perfect person, not even after four years of post-secondary. There are lessons I’m trying to teach myself even now, and lessons that I’m sure I’ll stumble upon in the next, unknown chapter of my life. And I can’t wait to find out what those are.

Welcome to Exam Season

The end is almost here. I’m almost done.

And a part of me wants to focus on that. A part of me wants to be sad that it’s almost over, because there are things that I’m going to miss. I’m going to miss going to class every day. I’m going to miss seeing some of these people, and I’m going to miss hearing what they have to say. I’m going to miss reading books that I might never have picked up otherwise and finding that I actually really enjoy them. I’m going to miss all of that, and I know I will, but I just can’t focus on any of that right now.

Because before I do, I have one more thing to focus on: exams.

Fuck.

Exams are a medieval torture device invented by some sadist who figured that students’ lives didn’t suck enough already. I mean, yeah, sure, they’re all broke, living off of ramen and alcohol, they have to deal with a shockingly high rate of reported depression, anxiety, and loneliness, but are they pulling out their hair, stressing over an isolated few hours of their lives enough?

Exams are a faulty system made for people who learn in a very specific way – or should I say a person who learns in a very specific way, because I’m pretty sure that it was just one dude and he’s the one who came up with exams. Because I can memorize facts and definitions as well as anyone, but that doesn’t mean that my brain retains them after I’ve stuffed them all in just to spill them out on that sheet of paper they offer me. And that’s not to say that I haven’t learned anything from these classes – I have. I’ve learned a ton, but that’s not what exams are really testing. At the end of the day, they’re more interested in what I’ve memorized than what I know, and we’re all aware of this. We just choose to ignore it because it’s kinda funny to watch the suffering of others.

Exams are unceasingly stressful, right up until the moment they’re finished, because how do you prepare for an exam? Is this the information I should be focusing on? Am I studying enough? If I catch up on this reading, will that actually be useful or just a waste of my time? Who the fuck knows! Just keep at it until your eyes cross and you’re spilling blood from your nose, because anything short of that is a sign that you aren’t doing enough, damnit!

And maybe I wouldn’t hate exams so much if I didn’t have anxiety. Maybe I wouldn’t hate exams so much if I actually learned anything from them. Maybe I wouldn’t hate exams so much if they didn’t just feel like one big swelling of pointless information that you spew onto the professor’s paper and then leave having gained nothing and lost everything, all in one go. Or maybe I’d hate exams no matter what, because they aren’t intended to be anything that actually benefits humanity. They’re just meant to be entertainment for all those professors who secretly hate their students.