A little about me (Part 1)
I’ve been debating about starting a blog for a while now, whilst at University one module had us write a blog for 10 weeks and I struggled immensely to find something, anything, to write about. Eventually I started blogging about the (much-hated) Hipster. It was a satirical look at the phenomenon of the hipster, observing what the media portrayed as weird and wonderful acts of hipsterism, yet to me seemed like day to day things – drinking flat whites, riding a bike with one gear, growing facial hair, wearing vintage clothing. All of these things are made to look so bizarre, yet when you really look at them, are just the same acts that you and I do every day. An interesting article in the Independent somewhat explains how there is essentially a bit of hipster inside of all of us – as much as you’ll hate me for saying that, it is sadly true. This is probably why I ended up writing my BA dissertation about the hipster.
Now I find myself having graduated from that University with a degree. I am – I feel – to most extents, the generic graduate. I have a undergraduate degree in Sociology, I have some pretty average A-Levels (not that they matter) and I have some work experience in bars. I am lucky, in that, I did a lot of side projects, such as producing/directing a 28-minute documentary on London’s thriving brewing industry, organising screenings for said film, professional event photography & filming, and I did also end up being part of the management team of the bar I worked in; all giving me great experience and most importantly, putting ink on my CV. Amongst most graduates I might fall to the top of the pile at the HR department of a company. Despite all this, I still feel as if I am the generic graduate; and I do not say this naively.
‘I have left university without knowing what I want to do in life.’
And I have arrived at this junction the same way that most of my generation, and I’m sure following generations, have & will arrive.
As, I’m sure, most of you reading will have experienced, I had to choose my A-Levels at age 16. I was given advice from everyone: parents, teachers, older siblings, random people I met out and about. Looking back at it, I can’t help but remembering a phrase from the Quindon Tarver song Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen),
“Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia; dispensing it is a form of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth”.
I’m sure they were thinking about my well-being. They were all concerned with my career. They were all hoping for the best future for me. But. They were all wrong. And they were wrong for one good reason. They were (as I was) asking the wrong question. The same question we get asked from a young age, the innocent little question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
There may be some of you thinking, “but why is that the wrong question? You have to be able to plan what path you’re going to take through the rest of your education. A-Levels will affect what course you are going to take at University, your University degree will dictate what job you will get, and thus your whole career!” But, my friends, this is not the thinking that should be taking place at 16. The age where most kids can’t actually sustain their own lives; you may be able to cook, you probably don’t know how to work the washing machine; you might have looked after siblings, but you certainly don’t know about many of the jobs out there, you certainly don’t know how to fill out a tax return form and you certainly don’t have enough experience to decide (substitute ‘guess’) how you are going to live the rest of your life. (And it is a guess – further reading: Oppland, M. nd; Schlossberg, N. 2011)
The advice I was given, was given to me by looking at facts. By looking at what I was good at, my grades and my so called “talents”. I was good at Design & Technology (I’m actually currently sitting at the desk I designed and built for my A-Levels!), I was good at Physics & I showed some sort of enthusiasm for it, I was alright at Maths and I had an interest in Business. So these made up my A-Levels. No traditional subjects, involving extended strings of words or sentences. And for a good reason, I had never learnt English properly, throughout my education. In fact, I had learnt almost all my English from talking to people and watching television, thus never really learnt written English and had absolutely no interest in reading a book – the ideal child of Roald Dahl’s Mr. & Mrs. Wormwood.
Now, fast forward a year and it is time to choose your University course! Possibly one of the most life-altering decisions of your life. And here comes the same question asked a year prior, possibly phrased in one of its masked (or not so masked) variations; “What do you want to do you you grown up?” or “Have you thought about how you’re going to earn money after Uni?” These questions are not designed to get you to look inward. They are designed to get you to look outward and compare yourself to others.
“I generally find that comparison is the fast track to unhappiness.” – Jack Canfield (quoted in: Ni, P. 2014)
Comparison is generally bad. You loose your sense of self, and as we all know (if we just looked inside), what we portray to the world is a very different image to the one inside of us (Tempesta, D. 2014). We compare ourselves to our parents, our peers and all those we see in the media. For the most part we do not know what they have been through to get there and we certainly do not know if they actually like it where they are. Therefore the decision of what university course we are going to study seems to be made from someone else story, but the version of the story we’ve made up. This is not a good basis for making a decision.
Having looked at the path I’ve taken to finish my degree I can see that I probably didn’t make the right selection at A-Level, and deciding to study Civil Engineering at University was definitely not the right choice either (although arguably they were the best choices as they have brought me to where I am now). To date, I feel the best, and most difficult, decision I’ve made regarding my education is to quit Civil Engineering and start the course I’ve just graduated from, BA (Hons) Cultural & Creative Industries. And this leads me to the next decision I made. A decision I feel might bring me closer to an answer to the question I was asked 8 years ago. A question part of me doesn’t want to answer however.
More on that next time. Thanks for reading and please share your experience through school!
Ni, P. (2014) ‘How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others—and Feel Happier!’. Psychology Today. [Online] Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/communication-success/201409/how-stop-comparing-yourself-others-and-feel-happier [Accessed 3 September 2016]
Oppland, M. (nd) ‘5 Reasons Why We Should Stop Planning Too Much and Live in the Moment’. [Online] Available at: http://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/5-reasons-why-should-live-the-moment-instead-planning-too-much.html [Accessed 2 September 2016]
Schlossberg, N. (2011) ‘When the Future Becomes Reality: Why Planning Ahead Doesn’t Always Work’. Psychology Today. [Online] Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/transitions-through-life/201104/when-the-future-becomes-reality-why-planning-ahead-doesnt [Accessed 1 September 2016]
Tempesta, D. (2014) ‘Why You Should Stop Comparing Yourself to Others’. The Huffington Post. [Online] Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/daniela-tempesta-lcsw/comparing-yourself_b_4441288.html [Accessed 3 September 2016]
Cover Photo Credit: Flickr, no alterations made.