An Existential Crisis

It feels surreal when I reflect upon the chain of events that has led to me writing this, as though I’m peeking at memories that aren’t quite my own.

Growing up my career plans amounted to nothing more than getting a good degree and simply taking it from there. Not very specific I know, but I’ve never been one of those people who have always wanted to ‘be’ something. I used to go through phases, usually based on my interests at the time. Reading the newspaper would make me ponder being a journalist, or watching amazing nature documentaries such as BBC’s Planet Earth would make me think ‘I want to do that.‘ I also wanted to be a doctor for a long time, that is until I had some work experience at my local hospital and glimpsed first-hand just how difficult it would be emotionally. Artist, forensic scientist, lawyer, businessman, I considered them all and more. I was very lucky because I was a high achiever at school, even luckier that I enjoyed most of the subjects, which gave me the freedom to flit between these potential careers and realistically believe that if I worked hard enough, then I could do them.

Anyway, when it came to choosing what I would study for my degree, I just picked what I enjoyed the most and which consequently came to me most naturally, which was English Literature. I was fortunate enough to earn a place to study at Durham University back in 2012, and, like every other student, I was excited for what has become something of a cliché: ‘the best three years of my life.’

I was a lazy student, but I also took a real interest in my subject. I was the type of person who would happily miss all of my lectures, and instead while the day away absorbed in whatever book I was reading. I learnt an awful lot, and became fascinated with areas of literature which I would never have come across on my own. Fortunately, this easy-going eagerness worked out well for me, as my grades (on the whole) were good. I was confident that I was well on my way to getting that coveted degree, and beyond that, well, it wouldn’t really matter.

Fast forward three years to 2015.

At the time of writing this, I should be stressed out over my final exams; I should be excitedly anxious about whatever job (if any) I would land in the future; I should be unashamedly smug with myself, because by all accounts I should be on the cusp of graduating. However, I’m not experiencing any of those feelings, because I walked away from Durham a few months ago. Instead, I feel very pensive about what exactly went wrong, and I’m just a little bit jealous of my soon-to-be graduate friends. Above all, I don’t really know what to feel. I considered university as a rite of passage, central to the otherwise shifting plans I had for myself, so the idea that I wouldn’t get my degree was unthinkable. Suddenly my prospects feel very limited indeed.

Unfortunately, my time at university could be best described as a series of personal setbacks, with each setback more difficult than the last to stomach. I became increasingly unhappy as time wore on, and I quickly realised that I didn’t believe my own answers whenever I was asked how uni was going for me. The cliché that university was meant to be this amazing place gradually became a cruelly unrealistic expectation, and I felt all the more ridiculous and isolated because of it. The irony was that these feelings could all be put down to some pretty unfortunate luck, and my own inability to look past this and simply enjoy the moment.


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