I graduated last June. If you had, at the time, asked me what the last four years of my life had been like, I could do one better than simply telling you and instead could give you a set of instructions that, if followed to the T, could replicate my experience for you. Right in the comfort of your own home. Here:
Step One: Since you’re reading this post, I take it that you’re probably sitting down (unless you have one of those new age stand up desks, in which case, proceed to Step 2) – stand up.
Step Two: Take off your slippers (if applicable) and socks (and if you’re wearing shoes in your own home, just…stop reading this. I don’t understand what you’re doing with your life.)
Step Three: Look around. Identify the thing in the room that has the sharpest corner and briskly walk towards it. Faster! It’s getting closer – quick! Stick out your foot, and slam your toe onto the corner of said object.
As you proceed to hop around the room on one foot in a maelstrom of obscenities and shame, clutching your now bruised and or bleeding toe in one hand while biting a knuckle on the other, do the following (this step is important): every time you land after a hop, shout out the name of a different career. Anything at all. Don’t hold back or over think it. You can do it.
Now that we’re both on the same page, let’s continue (also, you may want to get a band aid). So, yes. My university experience was about as enjoyable as a stubbed toe, and filled with as much uncertainty as a Late Autumn Uncertainty Fair (what, you’ve never been?)
I went to University because it felt like that’s what I was supposed to do after doing well in High School. Like everyone else, I was sold the concept that if I wanted a job, if I wanted to “do something” with my life, I needed a degree. So, a degree is what I got…well, $40,000, a lifetime of stress and an unhealthy amount of sleepless nights later, anyway.
Then, something crazy happened. I graduated. It was over. I had won. But you know what didn’t happen? Jobs. Clarity. A sense of “Hm. That was all worth it, after all”. Despite everything we’d been told going through the school system, the fancy piece of paper with your name and program on it does not, in fact, leave you any better suited to navigate the world than had you climbed up a tree in a broccoli costume and shouted the names of US Presidents at passers-by.
With school done and me uncertain of what I wanted to or should be doing, I just started applying to any and all jobs I found. Office assistant? Yep. Street fundraiser? Sure, why not. Dog snatcher? You betcha. Wait. What? Scratch that last one. Then, after weeks of disappointment and confidence crushing, I got a job at a grocery store. You know how I got that job? By taking my degree off my resume, so as not to appear over-qualified. Yes, four years and $40,000 later and for the honour of baking bread for Mr. Loblaw, I had to pretend none of it had ever happened.
Needless to say, that summer sucked. As someone devoted to social change work, it felt like my soul was being eaten away every time I was forced to throw out almost expired product. I spent the rest of the summer in something of a state of depression, grappling with some difficult questions around where I was, where I wanted to be, and how in the hell I was supposed to get there. Luckily, at the end of the summer I managed to get an internship at Engineers without Borders (or more correctly, a “Social Change Fellowship” – it’s all about the names, people). Needless to say, I was pretty stoked. Little did I know, however, that the real ambiguity was only just beginning…
Until next time.