I’m wishing I had read more of those Buzzfeed articles “10 things to remember after graduation”, “5 things to tell your graduate-self”. I briefly cast a look at such things during my final year but I believed graduation wouldn’t change anything so I didn’t pay attention. Due to my stubborn attitude and habit of thinking I can handle more than I can, I refused to consider whether the end of my education and student loan might have some effect on me. I refused to believe those who say (from experience) that graduation is difficult and I refused to agree that it would be necessary to give myself some time to settle into what being an ‘adult’ demands. I believed I could hack it, that finally I’d be free to start doing what I want to do and that having a degree to my name would offer me more confidence in my skill and worth. It turns out, I don’t even really know what I want to do and having a degree hasn’t made me feel anymore confident about my skill or worth. It turns out instead, that this storm is far harder to weather than forecasted.
I seem like a right miserable sod, I know. Miserable and ungrateful for the opportunity to go to university and study what I love (performance). I appear privileged and ignorant of it … but I promise you, I am not. In fact, I haven’t felt anything that could be described as ‘miserable’ for a very long time, but the G-word (graduation) changed a LOT of things. The familiar question from family friends, neighbors, co-workers catches me off guard and I don’t quite know how to respond “Oh you must be SO glad to be finished!?” The truth is, no I’m not really. Or … yes, I am because I worked really hard and now it’s done and I’ve got my certificate and my family are proud and my photo is up on the bookshelf for all to see, but the idea that with graduation comes a solid ‘knowing’ of who you are and what you want has certainly not landed in my hands. I’m not sure it’s landed in anyone’s hands, but I can only speak for myself.
I don’t want to make it seem that I have no idea about how to spend the rest of my time on this earth: I have an idea. I know I like making shows and talking about shows and watching shows and I also like cycling and nachos and Grey’s Anatomy. I like spending all of my time with my friends and laughing until I cry and I know I’ll get somewhere if I keep on working hard and putting myself out there, but there is a version of myself that I miss. At university I was the eager beaver and proud of it. I was on time, up-to-date and mostly ahead of schedule. I knew what I wanted to achieve by the end of the day and 90% of the time I got there. I received good marks and I enjoyed feeling like I knew what I was doing. My friends surrounded me and I had time to spend wandering around Manchester with them. My student loan just about got me through the semesters (along with a few shifts) and I went to bed pretty content every night that I was working hard and doing it right. It’s different now. I miss the version of myself who saw her friends everyday, and felt like the world was her oyster. Who didn’t eagerly await her weekly payslip to check if she would make rent this month. Who had a goal and a deadline and a plan. It felt as if everything changed overnight – my friends moved home or got full-time jobs, I no longer had a regular routine and suddenly my student loan wasn’t going to tide me through. It was an easier time and I wasn’t quite ready for it to end.
Again, I hope I don’t sound privileged and unaware and if I do, please believe me when I promise you that I am aware of the #firstwordproblems that I’m moaning about. I just wasn’t ready to suddenly feel like I need to reinvent myself. I wasn’t prepared for the quiet loneliness and the uncertainty of how to move forward. Nor was I ready for the serious lack of money. Ah yes, let’s not talk about money.
I’ve been trying to combat each problem of mine with a solution, so I’ve been thinking about what I can do to make myself feel better? Surrounding myself with people in the same position helps. Surrounding myself with people who are doing what I like to do and are also trying to find ways to spend their time doing those things whilst also paying rent, helps. Surrounding myself with people who don’t ask me “what’s next?” helps. Reminding myself of the great pool of talented friends I have helps, for example, listening to my pal Mattu’s soundcloud and surrounding myself for a few minutes by his musical skillz. Knowing that he works hard on his work and doesn’t let the fear of failing stop him from taking risks motivates me & reminds me that as long as I am *doing* something, I am always moving forward. Books by public figures like Amy Schumer’s The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo and Amy Phoeler’s Yes Please detail a very similar journey by artists who have gone through the same roller coaster and made it out alive and they motivate me to get out of bed and write something new. I’m grieving the self-confidence I had whilst as uni, the belief that my work would get better as long as I kept making something new. Well Ali Wilson, you aren’t making any new work by laying in bed looking memes of Joe Biden so you better GET UP and get on with it. It’s the only way to get better.
With this mad splattering of confused emotion, I’ve come up with my own version of a Buzzfeed article – 5 things for the recent graduate to remember:
1: It is ok (and important) to give yourself time to get used to that non-uni life. It’s ok to grieve your student loan. It’s ok to feel overwhelmed by council tax.
2: Doing something small that moves you a tiny step forward in your quest to fulfill your ambitions will make you feel a million times better – even if that’s just reading a Guardian article about the relevant topic or talking to your housemate about your eventual plans.
3: A cup of tea will, as always, ease the pain. Or wine. Get on the wine.
4: TALK ABOUT HOW YOU FEEL. People will understand and you might even find someone who feels the same. Get it off your chest and then shake it off.
5: (The most important) Forgive yourself.