Mismatched socks, messy hair and bags under my eyes as I rush to my 9 a.m. class. I am then humbled by flunking a pop quiz, a clear reflection of my lack of sharp focus throughout the lecture. Despite all the stress manifesting itself as sweat on my brow, and being surrounded by my peers drinking their preferred warm brown liquid, there’s one bigger question that looms above my head.
I know how to do this part. I know how to finish assignments, fail pop quizzes and make presentations. I can scramble to put a last minute project together, meet my teachers at their office hours for help, and sit in the library trying to absorb whatever academic innovator my teacher is praising that week. Wonderful, I have figured out the education system (took me long enough).
The looming reality of graduation has been more present in my life than expected, and if we’ve had a conversation in the last two months, you are likely aware of that.
I think, as students, we often forget that along with the stress of midterms, the frustration of a crowded bus or the lack of sleep, lies comfort. I didn’t look at school this way until this year – my final one.
If you’re thinking that this article seems like a disguised diary entry with cathartic motives, you’re not wrong. Throughout my university career, I have had the privilege of switching universities and degrees. I have speculated career paths, fantasizing about working for an NGO, becoming a psychologist, and picturing myself as a powerful lawyer, with fancy shoes and manicured fingernails. I contemplated my career options, as I sipped an overpriced latte and worked on my introduction to religion course at the window seat in a hipster cafe. I am a walking, talking, cliche of an individualistic arts student, whose parents told her she could do anything. Poor me.
I’m not complaining. Actually, I guess I am, but I wrote that to sound more self-aware. Did it work?
I am lucky to be in school, and that isn’t to be taken lightly. Although I don’t know what my next step is, I do know that I’m lucky to feel this way. Many millennial and Gen Z university students, like myself, have internalized the message that we must find a good career that gives us a deep sense of purpose and lights up our life. It is hard to deny the privilege dripping from this notion, in a world where so many people are working incredibly hard to support their families and don’t have the time or space to find that “perfect” and “fulfilling” start up company with recycled toilet paper, incredible benefits and a mandate to save the planet.
School has often made me feel motivated and excited for the future, but as the end approaches, I’d be lying if I said I was handling it well. A lot of this semester has been spent spread out on the floor getting a pep talk from my sister on the phone. I am a mechanically and hyper-trained student, and I often feel like I don’t know how to be anything else.
Stuck in a cycle, I’m trying to remain calm and absorb every moment of the student environment, while I simultaneously sabotage myself by comparing how employable I am with my peers. So, how can I conclude this article without leaving you in deep despair of my own existential angst?
Truly, I am not sure. Perhaps I should tell you to drink water, learn to meditate, eat vegetables, enjoy the safe school environment and don’t take life too seriously. I am still grappling with fostering self compassion for feeling lost, and gratitude for the opportunities I’ve been given.
I didn’t know how to be a university student until I was one, so maybe I’ll also learn to be a functioning member of society.
After all, I have my whole life to figure it out.