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If you’re in your last year at Lancaster, as many of us are, chances are you’ll be in one of three boats.
The first one is the ‘It’ll Be Fine’ boat. This is a great place to be: sailing freely, enjoying the last term of uni, weighing up the sofas of friends and family on the down-low to anticipate where you could be sleeping once the rent ends. In other words, an optimist. Things will be fine. You’ll sort a job out without worrying too much about it.
The second boat is the ‘Sorted and Smug’ boat. You’ve got everything worked out: you have the job lined up (and nailed the interview). You have Interrailing planned as a quick getaway between graduation and your first day, and this last term is pretty breezy for you because you have life near enough mapped out.
The third boat is the ‘…’ boat. This is for those of us that have no clue. Nothing. Somewhere between Freshers and now you’ve had vague inklings of plans and the occasional ‘perhaps’, but by and large, you’re dreading the end of term, and not just because it’s the end of an era and so on – but because you’re not sure where you’ll be.
This last one is not only the boat I’m in, but the boat that feels decidedly not as secure as the other two. The biggest problem with university is that it has – at points – felt more like a conveyor belt for creating employees rather than the nurturing, boozy paradise that is has often been. However, it’s not about life during the past three years that gives your time at uni its meaning, but life beyond the ol’ gown and cap.
Don’t panic if you’re in that third boat. It’s very easy to waste a lot of time sweating the phrase ‘I have no idea where I am in three months from now’- and that can bring on anxiety at best. Moreover, it soaks up precious revision/socialising time, because it becomes all about then, rather than now. The main aim for me personally in the last two terms has been to try and remember that looking back on this time, I’ll want to think of everything that has happened, and worrying about the future is definitely not a highlight I plan to reflect on.
I saw a post on Instagram recently that explained that when you look forwards, of course you don’t see how you can draw between the dots. When you look back, however, everything makes sense, because of course it does, in summary. Things resolve themselves: time moves forwards. You realise things, plans form and work themselves out. You get opportunities that, three weeks ago, you had no idea would arise.
Most importantly, it really doesn’t matter. Most of us who are leaving this year will be 21 or 22. Being a graduate of any university doesn’t mean that you have to become a banker and earn £30k in your second year after graduation, despite the pressure to conform to capitalism and the need to earn big bucks. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do this – we all have different ambitions – but by the same token, if it’s not what you want to do, the only people who care that you’re not doing that will be the uni you’ve graduated from, and that’s just so they can flaunt themselves near the top of university league tables. You’ll know from friends that have graduated a year ahead of you that they’re living, breathing, surviving – some happier in their jobs than others, but life goes on.
You don’t lose the things that matter the most either. Even if your plans are still “perhapses”, you’re not going to lose your friends. You won’t lose being sat outside the pub in the sun, or being able to stroll around the city centre. Granted some things become further out of reach – if you want to go round the world then you’ll need to pull £10,000 from somewhere miraculously – but every day won’t be much different. It will be a shift from living in Pendle ghetto, but you’ll still get up and have a bowl of cornflakes. If you stay in the UK, the sky will still be the same grey, but not as a symbol of pessimism, just as one of familiarity.
Whilst the third boat may feel the least secure, and that may be fact, in reality we just all need to get on the first boat. I don’t know anything really, despite cracking on for a whole article about how things are going to be fine. That’s optimism though. When uni ends, it’s time to head home, think, and then put Netflix on. Or walk your dog, or apply for hundreds of jobs, or decide that you want to be a monk and catch the first flight to Tibet. It doesn’t matter. Love Lancaster, but love whatever happens after, too. In all honesty I’m scared of what’s ahead – but it’s also really bloody exciting. In a years’ time we can look back together and realise how things mapped themselves out for us, before we look ahead, and think one phrase in mantra: ‘it’ll be fine’.