The daunting purgatory between graduation and the rest of your life: Finishing University

Sometimes, I can remember so clearly the eight-stone chestnut blonde that left for university in Bath almost three years ago, squashed in the back seat of my dad’s Astra between a double duvet and an exercise bike. Bath may have only been fifty miles from home, but those fifty miles were mine, the bridge between adulthood and my own life. I was recently single after a two-year relationship smothered in insecurity and doubt, and yet now as I left home with my cactus and my notepad, I had never been more certain that that this was what I was supposed to do. I was destined to be a writer in some capacity, and this creative writing degree that I had worked towards was the first step. I WAS GOING TO BE A WRITER.

In my first year of university I lived in halls of residence with four people I had never met. I think whoever was in charge of rooming students must have simply thrown a dice and decided for a laugh to chuck me into a flat with four girls so different to me in life experience and interest that we would either kill each other or form a quirky cult. For the most part it was the latter, and I got on with at least two of the girls at any time, and sometimes I could even imagine having common ground with them. These were not four dangerous women who would introduce me to binge drinking and drugs, but were rather girls who would invite me into a world of staying in, over-indulging in pizza, and learning how to use a curling wand. I had never been a girls girl, but suddenly I was making up for my tomboy years and slightly reckless adolescence by being the fifteen year old I should have always been. We tried going out a few times, but often it would be me drinking alone and wanting to extend the night, me interested in giving fake Irish names and accents to strange Italian boys, and me wanting to create memories rather than avoid hangovers. These girls were not writers looking for stories and life-experience to write about…but I knew that I was.

By the end of my first year I had changed. I was a peroxide blonde bombshell, self-assured and perhaps a little arrogant. I realised I had to venture outside of my cosy sanctuary that was my girly flat, and meet other like-minded people who were slightly more experimental, emphasis on mental. The following summer I was confident around boys, to the extent that I delved in and out of ‘flings’ throughout the year, I knew who I was, I had evolved as a writer, even if I did spend more time socialising than I did writing. I thought I would be ecstatic to return home at the end of the academic year, but instead I found myself staying in Bath for the majority of the summer, meeting new people and gaining valuable ‘writing inspiration’.

Almost two years later, blonder and curvier than the petite timid thing that left Dorset in 2013, I am home again. Having finished my degree by putting more effort into my third year than I ever deemed possible, I felt…terrified. Throughout the second and third year of university when there is actual pressure to perform and write your best, you cannot wait for that final deadline day. You dream of uploading that last file into Turnitin and then persisting to run through a corn-field naked and free. But in reality, I was way ahead of schedule with my work, so a week before everything was due I had submitted all my work, and sat there for a full five minutes waiting for that sink in. I was done. I was done with education, finished my degree, and had tried as hard as I could to graduate with a first. I thought I would love the freedom, but in actuality it was, is, terrifying.

For the first few days after finishing, I tried to maintain my old routine. I got up at around 8am, went to the gym, came home, made eggs…but there was no longer that daunting prospect of an essay or assignment to finish. I was in this strange purgatory where I hadn’t yet graduated with an official certificate…but I had finished university and there was nothing else I could do towards my degree. I began looking for creative jobs involving writing, and soon realised I was not prepared for this reality check. Apparently, after university, they don’t just give you a job in your desire field, and apparently you actually have to graft and research and even gain more experience (more experience than 3 years of hell, mostly involving accusing your uni housemates of stealing your milk) before landing that ‘dream job’.

It’s scary, suddenly being in a position where your life doesn’t have a course. For the last five years I’ve had a plan: Pass GCSE’s, pass A-Levels, get into university….and that was it. There is a panic that you aren’t doing enough to work towards what you want. But what to remember is this- you are young, and there is time. There is so much pressure to get a job the minute you finish university, and even more pressure to get the right job…the kind of the job you went to university to get. But what I’m learning to do is embrace the uncertainty, remember that you’re in your 20’s and you’re supposed to be aimless and scared. No job is below you at 21, no experience is wasted, and nothing is impossible. So try and embrace this purgatory before life swallows you up.



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