Last year I thought I was having a quarter life crisis. And if I was, this year is my answer to it. It seems fairly common, at least for those of us with a liberal arts degree (or two), to finish that last final exam with a triumphant arms over head ‘NEVER AGAIN!’ chant followed by the realization that you are lost without a clue what comes next. You are more lost than the day you took a train, then a bus, into the middle of we-speak-no-english Austria then proceeded to walk through a field for 3 hours looking for where you thought you knew you were going only to end up back at a train station to then board the wrong train that will take you 4 hours to get what should have taken 1. Ya, pretty damn lost. Not so lost you think you’ll die, but pretty sure you have no idea where you are going, should be going, or even if you want to go there.
Now I feel the need to backtrack slightly and confess that when I finished my last final exam I phone my Mom and told her how sad I was it was all over. I think I understood, I got how cushy studentdom was, how much purpose it gave my, just how good I was at it, and how much of an excuse it was. “I’m a student” explains why you are missing family dinner, you’re broke, and look like you haven’t seen the sun. I was really in my element and I was leaving it. At this point I’m glad school no longer dictates my social life, to not be spending endless hours in the library, every Saturday and holiday at school, leaving campus around 11pm every night.
So you leave school for the first time in some 16-20 years and you realize that you don’t know what it was all for, what you want to be, and why you even did it. Really, for most of us we went because someone older and wiser told us it was a good idea. We were told that you have to go to school to get a good job to have a good life. While having a good life does not necessitate going to school, the chances you can land a well paying job being a university graduate is higher than those who are not, at least, further educated. But I digress, this is not meant to be a piece on the merits of education so much as the terror of leaving the womb of university.
As I was saying, I finished up school half terrified, half excited, and fairly disenfranchised that my degrees meant a single thing. I had a job that could pay my bills and was applying to ‘adult’ jobs in my field. Because that was what we do. We go through the steps we were told. School. More school. Jobs. Better jobs. But better jobs didn’t come. I mean I’ve gone to interviews, whatever. That is also not the point of this. I’m getting to the point.
I think through this terror we really start to question who we are and what we want out of this life, hence the quarter life crisis, coinciding with graduation and my 25th birthday. The true depth of the crisis never really hit me until lately. I mean I knew I didn’t know what I was doing, and I knew I didn’t know what I wanted to happen, but mostly it just left me adrift in an ocean. I didn’t question much. People kept saying that everyone goes through this, keep applying to jobs and something will happen. The reality is, after almost two years of that, I don’t know if it does. And then you have to ask yourself if that is what you really want.
Along the way I’ve met some interesting people who have a different outlook on life. There is a coach I work with who has the most interesting stories about his past careers and life experiences. If he liked something he pursued it, he worked weird odd jobs for a year or two here and there and always has an great take away from them. You can tell talking to and being around him, he has a passion for life. He lives in a far less conventional way and I have to say, he seems happier for it.
When I think about the people I want to emulate they aren’t the ones who went to accounting school, then became accountants, then died. Sorry accountants, I’m sure you’re cool too. And maybe that was a life you wanted, you know, you love numbers or something, or doing that work made it possible for you to do the other things you loved in your downtime. But I want to enjoy it all. And so I’ve decided to make questionable decisions. And I find it hard, so hard. I’m a play it safe, calculate risk, do the right thing kinda girl. I’m a must do my best, impress them all, make no mistakes kinda girl. But dammit if that doesn’t lead you down one predictable life path.
Knowing this, I’ve been trying to make small changes, take little chances, do things that I might not have done in the past, and worry less about the social implications. I think I thought I was doing this for a while. I thought I was being bold, trying new things, but I really wasn’t. I was still safely, cautiously, and calculatedly taking the risks I deemed not risky at all. And when I did try to do new things I didn’t really push myself to do them differently. But I’ve had a few liberating moments of clarity lately that have given me some room to make change, one of which I had just the other day. I said to myself
If I do nothing with my degrees they will not be a waste, learning for the sake of learning was worth it.
School changed me so wholly in how I think, write, what I am passionate about, where I went in the world, and if all of it was just for the sake of knowledge and expanding my brain it wasn’t a waste and if I never apply my schooling to a tangible job it doesn’t make me a failure. It is hard to tell people I’m a lifeguard, that I’m this old, I have this many degrees, and yes, I’m a lifeguard. And while that will be a struggle for me until I am no longer a lifeguard I will not let their conventions drag me down. I think we all need to get a little unconventional.
The long and the short of it is I applied to be a flight attendant this week and it is one of the only applications I have been genuinely excited to send in a while. I’ve chosen to allow myself to imagine my life differently than a path I had in my head and see what trying something new can teach me. Only good things my friend. Only good things. Now here’s hoping I get accepted.