This was always going to happen. Perhaps not like this, but one way or another, this situation was always going to arise.
I have quite a bit of work experience under my belt. Actually, after I graduated from secondary school at the age of 19, I had no intention of ever going to university.
But I did, and at the time of writing this I have spent the past four and a half years within a university setting. And that does something to your brain. Some reward centre up there in your head gets rewired to equate achievements to grades and numerical figures. It conditions you to require supervision and evaluation. Nothing feels like a real achievement without someone’s stamp of approval. And you don’t even realise how out of sync you are until that bubble is burst.
To preface all this, I started my undergraduate degree at the tender, yet ripe age of 23. Before all that I had plenty of jobs, albeit unskilled, in different sectors and I am 100% qualified to make you a long drink, manage life supporting devices and handle emergency care. I can expedite your appliance return and when the mood strikes even sell you a speaker or a microwave. However, at no point did I require someone to pat me on the shoulder and call me a good girl.
As COVID-19 hit in March 2020, I had two university courses and a sociology dissertation to finish. Like many of my peers, I had no inkling of what was going to happen come graduation. As my inbox filled with job rejection emails, I threw myself headfirst into a publishing master’s degree which meant committing to yet another year at university. And what a relief that was. Another year shielded inside the institution with all its familiar comforts and protocols. That entry level graduate job could wait. After all, I wasn’t that gutted about getting to remain within my comfort zone for a bit longer. Besides, working in publishing, it turns out, is something that I really and truly want to pursue.
After having spent the first term learning the theoretical basis of the industry, the second term required me and my course mates to go off and co-produce an actual publication as well as landing ourselves a professional placement within the publishing industry. At that point in early January, I believe we all felt the pressure and crippling imposter syndrome.
For me, the tasks at hand nicely outlined the inner turmoil I was experiencing towards the tail-end of February once I had secured my placement, but also gotten started with getting the group project off the ground. On one end, I had the familiarity of my comfort zone tugging away at me, and at the other was a deep desire to devote myself completely to that growth mindset. In the middle was me, riddled with fear and self-doubt. Could I really do this? Was no one going to tell me how? Excuse me, but I’d like some guidance please? I’m not qualified.
Although, as we all know, I was, and as most things do most of the time, everything turned out just fine.
As my placement progressed, I found myself in the middle of a shift. After years of academic indoctrination and constant supervision, I was now left much to my own devices most of the time and coming to terms with the fact that no one would be looking over my shoulder was, and still is, mind blowing. This newfound sense of trust in my abilities has been immensely empowering, but it constantly reminds me of the level of responsibility that comes with it. Only now, I don’t shy away from it because I have learnt that I can handle it.
And it is this shift that I wish to highlight. University is stressful. Apart from the never-ending deadlines, timetables, social engagements and extracurricular activities there is a whole lot of personal development that needs to happen. More often than not, you find that your heart has migrated from your chest cavity into your throat. And despite this, actually leaving university is incredibly disorienting as you are forced to come to terms with how differently the rest of the world operates.
This was always going to happen. Perhaps not like this, but one way or another, this situation was always going to arise. And now I’m almost at that threshold, leaving that comfort zone behind once and for all, and I think that I can actually probably do this, all by myself.
But I’m looking forward to knowing for sure.