Category Archives: graduate

Ode to the Quarter-Life Crisis

It was Summer. You were in an office. Unaffected by the record-breaking rain and the odd, hour-long sun spot, because the windows seemed to be posters of weather, teasing the senses – smugly projecting the illusion of the outdoors. The heat kicked out by the computer monitor is now fresh air. The tapping of keys replaces bird’s song. The birds are outside, swooping against the glass; ‘Corinne, don’t you love us anymore?‘ I don’t know how to love you, birds. That was the old days; the glory days. Must you taunt me so, oh birds? I’m trying to enjoy the Summer. This long, never-ending Summer of .doc.

Can I just say, before we get into this – if you’re younger than twenty – log out, go drink some vodka in the streets and do yourselves proud. What I’d give to be hanging off some concrete step wearing fairy wings again, concerned about whether a second trip to Chicken Licken would be excessive, rather than my dreaded office phone. There’s nothing wrong with my job, I just think freedom is nice and I’m still not used to its absence. The highlights come in someone making me tea. When it goes luke warm with a skin, that’s my life in beverage form. Of course you understand.

Or maybe not. A lot of people have said to me, ‘Six months! Try twenty-six years!’ or something along those lines. Nothing could be more terrifying to me. Or they’ve said, ‘Yeah, thanks; wish I had a job.’ Or, ‘God – First World Problems.’ A lot of my problems warrant that response, funnily enough. I get it, grass is always greener. A twenty-something is never happy.

To further dampen the mood, I’ve been reminded many times that I should use my newly-earned cash to save for a pension – old-age is for fun, apparently – not now. In your prime? Please. If you’ve not heard, zimmer-frame disco dancing is where all the struggles of your life condense into one beautiful moment of validation. Looking out across the Atlantic from the deck of the cruise ship – through your top-of-the-range bottle-cap lenses – you’ll know that the mashed potatoes for dinner won’t irritate your premium dentures, and that saving and missing out on your youth paid off big time.

Whilst I wait impatiently for this, I go a bit wild in private celebration. Purchasing salmon instead of tuna. Topshop instead of Primark. Heinz baked beans – y’know, classy stuff. Living the dream. But as I unpacked my middle-range produce from a Tesco carrier one day, I thought, ‘I appreciate living the high-life, but something’s not right. This urge to throw cash at things, it’s beyond my control.’ I felt most poignantly that I should throw it at a budget airline so that they would allow me to board one of their planes.

Like, to Italy.

But who would go with me? At the time I want to go, and do what I want to do, on the budget I can afford?

(I couldn’t be bothered to ask) NO ONE.

If I was to do this, it would be solo. So I did a lot of research, drummed my fingers on a lot of surfaces, stared at a lot of walls, held my breath – and booked it. Booked the time off work, booked the hostels, booked the flights. Booked. Hit myself round the face with a book. THE BOOK OF LIFE, PEOPLE.

Yeah stuff it in Julia, ‘cos soon I will be

BUY A TICKET (ok!) GET A TAN (burn) FALL IN LOVE (ha) NEVER RETURN (probs will) – I’m living out Pinterest!

Since then I have had to answer to the phrase, ‘ON YOUR OWN!?’ many times, including my sister’s – ‘You’re mental, but millions of people do it without dying and you might be fine’ – which was comforting – but actually it’s made me happier that I am doing it, to prove to myself that it’s no big deal. To prove that my dreams about hostels full of locusts are being over-dramatic. For some people it really is no big deal; just like I find travelling alone in the UK completely fine, whereas others hate it. I mean it’s not like there are slums and disease, just the cousins of Gino D’ACampo. They would find this post, and the fact that I wanted to puke this morning, a gross over-reaction. So?

Italians eat brains and hearts, wave their hands around, catcall in the streets and think spaghetti is a starter – I’m mildly shittin’ a brick.

If you’ve done this, especially in Rome, Pisa and Florence, please comment so that I feel less insane. I leave tomorrow. I’m counting on your support, and restaurant suggestions.


Quarter-Life Crisis

‘I hope a this like tha Italy you see on Pinterest. Thass a hundred dollar each.’


Unemployed? Unflustered.

If you’ve managed to ignore that our country is in a state of ‘decline’, yay for you – you’re either successful, or you may live under a blanket; probably cartoon-themed.

‘A million young people unemployed!’ says News. ‘Stop using Comic Sans on your CV, you deluded youths,’ says BBC3’s god-awful programme Up For Hire. ‘What are you doing now, then?’ says distant relative at uncomfortable family gathering. As tempting as it is to bury your face in your Cheerios and inhale until the pain gently stops, there is another way! As a recent graduate myself, here’s what I’ve learnt about surviving the unemployed pool of the university machine.

Allow yourself to go through the motions. And not necessarily in the following order. Denial. I was all, ‘I’m graduated, and what? No need to hurry.’ I got a waitressing job back at home, spent my entire Summer serving grilled fish and paid off my overdraft. Then came Solid Motivation. I attacked my savings, sent out job applications, looked at flatshares… Utter Desperation when nothing was working, then Panic. I signed up to the dole upon realising the entire uni process doesn’t actually guarantee a result in any job, let alone one that you want – hello Isolation and Misery.

Obviously, all of that sucked. But I’ve now reached a state of calm. Someone had to tell me, ‘Stop being so hard on yourself, it’s only been a few months’. The world gives you this engrained sense that you have to rush, when really there is no reason to. Keep trying and stay motivated. But don’t beat yourself up. It’s cool – if you want to get somewhere in life and you are willing to go the distance, then you will get there, sooner or later.

Don’t compare yourself to others unless it’s as a source of inspiration. Go at your own pace. It’s easy to look at friends who have sorted their lives and think, ‘If it’s that easy then why not for me?’ When I asked people further, they’d struggled just as much as anyone to get there. Everyone is in the same boat here, don’t stress that you’re the unluckiest loser in Gradville.

Your degree doesn’t have to determine your direction. I studied English Literature and Creative Writing because I love it. And I loved studying it. I got good grades, became better educated and had an awesome time. But I’ve discovered that most jobs English supposedly ‘grants’ me aren’t all that appealing unless I want to become well acquainted with a filing cabinet. It’s ok to go off course – stay open-minded and broaden your search. I became a better person through my degree and I don’t regret a second of it, but it doesn’t have to define me – it’s just part of me. You decide what makes up the rest of you, whatever that is.

It hits you doesn’t it? /wipes tear.

Do what you have to do to survive, but don’t sacrifice what makes you happy. We spend a ton of our lives at WORK. Not drinking wine, dancing, watching films, playing Xbox, jumping in the sea, sleeping or anything else cool and fun. I learnt that whilst doing twelve hour shifts and feeling like I’d never wear my own clothes again. If you’re in a job you hate, recognize your interests and nurture them. Don’t sacrifice what you love. If you love to travel, look at what careers will allow you to do so – travel writer, air steward, club rep etc. If you love drawing, start working on a portfolio or project on the side. Document your capabilities; you never know when they might come in handy as a reference to show what you can do.

Don’t assume that these are permanent life decisions. Mate. No! If you end up happy with your career for the rest of your life, good for you. But maybe you’ll follow a certain direction for a few years, then realise something else holds the key to your aching, unsatisfied heart. Maybe you’ll have to study again – so get onto UCAS. Nothing is a permanent choice; you can change your mind whenever you want to. Cheesy, but your life is what you make it. So if you want to be a circus performer, go ask a clown.

Not this clown.

Finally, ignore the media. It has been my most useful realisation. What happens to a person is massively down to the individual, and all the media does is generalise. Sure there’s some truth there, but to them, ‘a good story’ is to dish out a huge dose of depressing. Try your hardest, do what you feel will work for you, and switch the TV off when some dick journalist is bellowing her ‘bomb all universities’ opinion that no one asked for. Stay positive and screw the rest. Good luck, grad. /salute.