future

The future freaks me out

I started this blog on 6th August 2013. I’d just finished Sixth Form and was nervously awaiting my A-levels results, desperate to find out whether or not I had made it into university. QFL was a project that was about keeping busy. I suddenly had a lot of time on my hands and far too much to worry about. I needed a distraction. It was therapy.

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This time last week, I handed in my final year dissertation at university. I have one exam left before my sixteen years of education are over. In honesty, I’m not taking this particularly well. I do have some friends that want to leave. Everyone is a bit fed up of the work at this point, myself included, which I wasn’t really expecting, having loved studying up until now. The freedom that comes with earning money will be a huge change, of course, for the better. But I don’t want to leave. I’d redo fifty assignments for another three years. I don’t want to leave people behind. Or maybe I don’t want to get left behind.

I celebrated finishing my dissertation pretty hard. Three big nights out. I woke up at 7am Saturday morning, having gotten in three hours earlier. This wasn’t a normal hangover. I felt sick. But I also had cold sweats and my heart was racing. It was like waking up from a bad dream although I couldn’t calm myself down. In short, I had what I can only describe as a panic attack. In hindsight, it was likely caffeine-induced. My fault. I’d had coffees and jägerbombs and all sorts the night before, to try and perk myself up. So I crashed. Weeks of stress, followed by days of overdoing it, caught up with me. I sat wide awake for an hour and just wallowed, thinking, reflecting, worrying about everything. Talking to a friend about it later, he said something we all need to hear sometimes: It’s okay to worry about the future you know”.

I needed to get where I was Saturday morning because now I can get out. No alcohol for at least a week. A healthier diet. From tomorrow, I get up at a respectable hour. I’m writing a bucket-list of things to do before I leave. Revision starts for that final exam: my last hurdle. I’m going to buy a bunch of books I’ve wanted to read. Start watching films again. I have a few weeks left yet and I’m going to make the most of them, spending time with the people who make leaving so hard.

And, quite frankly, I think I need to start blogging again.

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What do you want to be when you grow up?

Grown up people are obsessed with this question.

Whether it’s a parent, teacher or career advisor trying to pop your tax-free bubble of adolescence, you’ll notice they employ the same tragic tone. It is one that screams: you’re not going to like the real world, best to start lowering your expectations now! One that laments their own long buried ambition, and pre-accepts the futility of your answer.

Career Path

That’s if you have an answer. Adolescence is a time of spectacular indecisiveness. Only last week did I spend, probably the best part of an hour, trying to buy a new pair of jeans, fluctuating between fifty shades of grey and three types of ‘skinny’. (Worryingly, next week I actually have to start looking at renting my first house… Do estate agents charge by the hour?) Another problem hindering any teenager’s answering of this question is their easily influenceable nature. The young mind is a malleable thing. After binge-watching the TV show Scrubs, I managed to convince my 16 year-old self that I wanted to be a doctor. A problematic realisation halfway through my A-levels when I wasn’t studying a single science subject. Luckily, it was a phase I grew out of. But just imagine if my TV taste had favoured Dancing on Ice or WWE Wrestling.

Adult: What do you want to be when you grow up?

Me: A writer.

That wasn’t so hard. Only…what is “a writer”? Once upon a time, I tried to specify “an author”. But we all know they shoot that one down. Aspiring to be the next J. K. Rowling isn’t a feasible, concrete career plan, especially when you start sentences with “once upon a time”. I suppose my subsequent thought process wanted to take that writerly ambition and frame it in a professional, adult-like, briefcase-carrying kind of way. I envisioned that this would plant me behind a desk, in the stuffy office of journalism. That’s an acceptable career option alright…in a loose sense of the word “acceptable”. My frowning Grandad did mutter something about the sleazy press.

Until recently, this was what I thought I wanted to do. Sure, most of the time I find the news extremely trivial and depressing, but there are aspects of journalism that really appealed and still appeal to me. The creative routine, the city lifestyle, the rewarding sense of publication. I was ambitious about making an honest career in a stained sector. My role model being the late and great Christopher Hitchens, who used to say: ‘I became a journalist partly so that I wouldn’t ever have to rely on the press for my information.’

Blogs vs traditional media

I made the plan that every aspiring hack does: to get involved with student media the moment I arrived at University. In reality, the opportunity arose before I even started. An editor at one of my University’s online publications, by sheer chance, found this blog, and invited me to write for him. Hurrah! Look at me making baby-steps towards the career ladder. Actually… A single question knocked that ladder down. ‘What do you want to write about?’

Ah. Um. I had nothing. All I could think was that I just wanted to write. A sentiment that wouldn’t fit into a neat little category like ‘sports’ or ‘current events’. I eventually answered that I fancied contributing to the ‘opinion’ section. No surprise there then. But proposing this just made me feel arrogant. Why should anyone want to read my views? What do I know about anything? This is why I blog – you can get away with it on a blog. A corner of the internet where people are too polite to criticise, or too critical to read. Safe to say, I haven’t contributed an article for student media yet. But I might well in the future. My passion for journalism might return.

That would be awkward, a future editor finding this post…

For now, I have no idea what I want to be.

Writing is a compulsion, a lifestyle.

Living is saying hello and goodbye

Everything is going so fast. A week today I leave familiarity behind (only for a few months, how melodramatic of me) and start the adventure one calls university. Intimidated is the word. My approach so far in coming to terms with this prospect consists of trying not to think about it… But leaving people, places and things behind is part of life. So let’s talk about it.

Goodbyes, however permanent, are unavoidable. Whether you bow out with a grand finale or gradually fade apart, friendships and relationships aren’t constants, they change, and end. Farewells are never easy and I wouldn’t change that for the world. How hard you find it to move on is often the best indicator for the value of what you had. Leaving is sad because it is only when you turn to go that you realise how happy you were not-leaving. For this reason leaving should be a celebration of the past. Tragically, it often seems a necessary step before truly appreciating someone or something. A step I am stumbling over at the moment.

While I will be sure to try and keep in contact with lots of people, this nevertheless is the close of a chapter in my life, and I suppose many characters will herein adopt different roles. I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge their glorious involvement so far, and appreciate how they have shaped my own character-development. To abruptly swap metaphors: we are each a constantly changing canvas that every passerby leaves a mark upon (the closer you let them get the greater the imprint).

Thanks for making my life so colourful.