This is a post about my struggles since graduating from university in 2007 at the age of 22.
Like most people my age who had studied a subject they loved passionately without thinking about the future implications, I studied ever so luxuriously and blissfully knowing that I didn’t need to think about work just yet. I got good grades effortlessly, became a social butterfly and blossomed into a confident and sophisticated young lady towards the end. The world was my oyster.
Then all of a sudden I graduated and had to think about making a living. But I had no ambitions. My sole ambition had been to go to university, and once I’d achieved that I may as well have died because I’d lived a full life and that life had abruptly come to an end.
Life as I knew it was over. I felt like my old self was dead every time I took the train to my brand new job. Dressed like everybody else, reading the same free newspaper I felt anonymous, mediocre, a nobody. I felt a deep void within me and was so desperate to fill it; with an even better job, a boyfriend, new and better friends, better clothes, holidays abroad, writing poems, coming up with ventures and ideas that led nowhere.
I thought I had to be someone. Someone else but me because being myself just wasn’t good enough. My real self was weak and vulnerable, going through a major life transformation and feeling the culture shock of the working world so keenly that I wanted to escape from it. So I decided to strengthen myself, to find my ‘role’ in society, earn money so that I could become somebody and have status.
Between then and until recently, I was trying in vain to make myself somebody important and worthy of people’s respect, so that people would like me, want to hang out with me and that through them I’d meet the love of my life. I didn’t realise that this person I was trying to create was a wholly fictitious character, a caricature of me. And how are you supposed to attract the right kind of people to be your life-long companions if what you present to them isn’t the real you?
So I went in search for the perfect job that would solve all my problems and have a positive domino-effect on all areas of my life. I got interviews for glamorous and cool-sounding jobs that were really just office jobs typing up something ultimately pointless, answering calls and generally acting like a human machine – in things like publishing and charities but didn’t get them and was devastated.
I quit a couple of jobs that were impressive-sounding but so depressing that they sucked the soul out of me. I quit a couple of jobs that I really enjoyed on a daily basis but thought I had no future in them (experience tells me that one should hold onto such jobs!).
I loved working as a Library Assistant but the idea that it was an older lady’s job and that it didn’t have a future (other than to be a Librarian, which I did not want) and that my peers were probably out there tackling meatier jobs with more prestige and pay was enough to drive me nuts.
Another job I loved was being a Teaching Assistant in a class full of 5 year olds. But being predominantly ruled by ego at the time, I thought ‘what other 23 year old wipes children’s noses and puts up with headlice and mess?’ when in fact, being there for the children made me feel so happy because I had to be selfless and was doing the community a favour by looking after their kids well.
Yet I was tormented at the same time with thoughts of inadequacy. I wasn’t earning enough to move out of my parents’ house, I felt like I wasn’t doing anything with my life because my life wasn’t moving anywhere. Happiness was always somewhere else. In fact anywhere else except for the one place it mattered: the here and now.
But what I have realized is that when the present moment is a happy one, nothing else matters and things work themselves out when you are happy in the present moment.