Chloe Harte navigates the murky waters of an uncertain life-path, and chooses to find strength in the unpredictable
As university students, we occupy a transitional space. No longer are our days symmetrically divided into morning, break, afternoon, lunch, after-lunch timeslots, and yet, we have not reached a completely autonomous stage. Living with parents, or being financially dependent, we cannot pretend that we occupy the societal space characterised by fully-fledged adults. Rather, we remain afloat in the interim space between the two – I cannot seem to find a current to sweep me ashore, or to a final destination. However, I am cognitively aware that once I do wash up on the sands of my final destination, it would be borderline impossible to merely dip my toes back into the waters of change, let alone swim neck-deep in it. Instead of panicking that I don’t know the synchronised routine of the swimmers around me, I’m going to dive into the midnight-blue depths, to try each stroke in turn, and pay no mind to the floaters or the synchronised swimmers.
Although it may seem as if you are encircled only by those who can be confident in the inevitability of their financial success and job satisfaction, you shouldn’t panic. Take agency in the uncertain. It’s easy to stop kicking your legs when it seems as if you’re never going to reach the shore. Sailboats named internship, placement and graduate training programmes shadow the horizon, each laden down with peers, safe and dry. All of a sudden, practicing the breast-stroke alone doesn’t seem adequate. Can it even be considered moving forward if your progress occurs at a fraction of the pace of those who leave you in their wake?
As humans, we are prone to the masochistic inclination of comparison. Statements such as “she’s younger than me, how has she been to three continents” and “how did he get that placement?” have fleeted through my mind at many a moment. It’s as if we look for reasons to tear ourselves down and to diminish our own achievements. In reality, it’s a pointless exercise to measure one life by the timeframe of another. No two people have the same priorities. Although at the beginning, the paths of many students intertwine, the further into education one ventures the more divergent each person’s route becomes. Realistically it is impossible to compare the incomparable.
Think of it this way: to navigate a certain course quickly is not merely logical but necessary. A student of science, for example, may be certain they want to work in a lab, therefore the right placement or work experience could be the breeze that lifts them to their destination. Furthermore, if said student is encircled by 100 plus more students that share that aim it quickly becomes a race against time to find the most lucrative graduate programme or internship. In such an instance, the most direct course of action takes precedence over the most scenic of routes. However, if, like myself, you’re from an Arts background without a necessarily concrete goal to strive towards, why would you rush out of the waters of opportunity and experiment? Everyone’s pace differs, just as everyone’s course diverges from one another. That doesn’t mean you are being left behind or that you can’t be as successful as someone with a direct path, merely that comparison has been overridden. The only way you’ll drown is if you spend time fixated on the paths of others and forget to swim yourself.
On the other hand, if speed really is where your priorities lie, side projects offer the possibility of projecting you further than a stand-alone degree. Perfecting a skill and using your initiative, whether that be through independent activities or joining a society, can nudge you ashore as quickly as anything else. In focusing on your talents and what drives you, you are half-way there. There is no such thing as a meaningless existence, or a meaningless college degree. Everything is based around perception. A final destination for one person is but a stop-sign for another. Take risks and chances while you’re not tied down by responsibilities. If something doesn’t work out, that experience will shape your path more. In figuring out what you don’t want to do, you will come closer to the opposite. Choose to be a swan. Elegantly and calmly gliding, while working overtime behind the scenes to ensure that serenity is possible.
Determination, confidence and a little bit of luck will keep pushing you forward, and you’ll get there. Where? Who knows? Keep working hard. Perfect your skills. Say yes to every opportunity. You’ll get there – wherever ‘there’ actually is.