I recently had to fill out a sheet, outlining my plans and goals for the next two years—two years. I looked down at my next couple years of existence, glossing over birthdays, events, moments of stress and joy, arguments, sweet nothings, and all the rest that makes up the bulk of our lives. It’s a bizarre experience, and one that ultimately told me, if I buckle down and don’t take any breaks, I’ll be graduating with a BA in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies, a minor in Communications, and three semesters of co-op under my belt in two years.
Now for my panic attack.
I’d been planning on intending to graduate within (rough estimate, if I took a semester off) the next year and a half, so figuring out the final date of Spring 2017 wasn’t too much of a shock. What was a shock was realizing how relatively quickly and really very slowly I’m approaching life “in the real world.”
We toss that word around a lot as students—life “in the real world”—and it’s because life often feels like a simulation, a contrived creation, in the blur of work, school, and tuition fees. Even at the Other Press, where we produce a newspaper on the weekly and do much of the work that career journalists do, we occasionally speak of getting a media job “in the real world.”
It’s not like we’re existing in some laboratory, the madcap creation of a not-so-sane scientist about to unleash us on the world; we’re not inhabiting an alternate universe, gazing upon Earth. Being a student is like looking out from the edge of a cliff—we’re constantly on the precipice of our next stage in life. High school is a different matter, when the pressure isn’t so high and you’re likely preparing yourself for more school. In college and university, you’re preparing yourself for employment, a semi-affordable apartment in the Lower Mainland, and possibly a longterm relationship to tie it all together. Of course emerging into this phase of life doesn’t necessitate having it all figured out, or immediately getting the job that you’re going to die with. Still, it seems like you have to have things somewhat kinda-ish figured out, right?
I keep feeling my age as I get older, thinking back to one year ago, when I had just transferred to Simon Fraser University and was trying not to get lost; two years ago when I was still at Douglas College working out requirements for graduation and filling the Opinions section with my rants and raves; three years ago when I was a super nervous 18-year-old and occasional contributor to the Other Press, scampering to grow away from the comfort and complacency of adolescence.
The good thing is, I think I keep growing up and evolving, no matter how generally perplexed, overwhelmed, and nervous I am on a daily basis. Honestly, I think “having your life together” is a myth that will never be entirely unravelled and debunked. We keep hanging onto the idea that we’ll be full, whole, and complete someday, or that there are people out there who are. In reality, uncertainty and indecision are essentially unavoidable. It’s almost paralyzing that, in not knowing what’s “supposed” to happen next, we have all the options in the world; but much as it can cause of a mess of anxiety, it’s kind of ok that we spend a lot of life lost, confused, and figuring out where to go next. It’s kind of wonderful.
In trying to find an ending to this Lettitor on uncertainty and not knowing how my life will proceed following my impending (yet still so far off) graduation, I stumbled on a quote from Gilda Radner. I’m going to take the easy way out and leave you with her poignant words:
“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.