The future is coming! Run! RUN! (Photographer: William Murphy via Flickr).
Unsafe Space

The Fear

Attention third years! You have just two months left to work out what the hell you are going to do with the rest of your life

It is deadline week. Midterm deadlines are awful. Like really, really bad. I always know when my midterm breakdown is imminent, because I start doing really strange things to distract myself from working. Like spending an hour rearranging my underwear drawer or taking up knitting, or watching sixteen episodes of Peep Show in a row. Not only is the midterm deadline stress escalating, but my anxiety scale skyrockets the moment I think about graduation, getting a job and becoming an actual, functioning adult are beginning to make an appearance.

I have a this new emotion that plagues me on idle Sundays when I am trying to watch four-hour long reruns of Come Dine With Me. A feeling of dread and panic and absolute apprehension for the future, a feeling I have since nicknamed ‘the fear’. The fear has rumbled within me pretty constantly since my return to university following the Christmas break, but it strikes me the worst when I am doing my level best to do sweet F.A. I can no longer enjoy Sundays, or hour-long ‘sits’ on my bed in my towel after a shower. I can’t even enjoy my afternoon naps anymore, because now, I always feel like I’m supposed to be doing something.

I should be applying for more jobs, or more work experience or I should be doing some extra reading or I should be figuring out how to pay taxes or how to take our landlord to court when he definitely refuses to return our house deposit in the summer. I should be figuring out where I am going to live in just three months time. I should be deciding whether I will return home to North Wales, or whether I really should go travelling to Thailand in order to find myself, before I inevitably sell my soul to a corporate business, work a seven day week to pay off the debt of my education and slowly begin to despise myself to the core, until I am eventually dignified with the sweet embrace of death.

I want to graduate, I do. I’m tired of learning and exhausted with education and I’m ready to go out and share what I’ve learnt over the past seventeen years with the world. But I don’t know how to graduate. I don’t know how do life after university, I don’t know how to ‘adult’. Adulting is doing stuff like making meals that don’t just involve beans and bread, and not picking up every 5p you see on the floor and going to dinner parties. Dinner parties! Imagine having to make polite, appropriate, small talk with other actual adults about actual adult things. Like the euro, or the stock market, or Graham Norton. Imagine having to drink wine responsibly. Imagine having to drink wine by the glass and not by the bottle. And there will be wine snobs, people that tell you how to drink wine. He will be called Alexander and he will be from Surrey and he will swish red wine around his cheeks and wear a shell necklace and tell you that the only wine that he drinks is from the finest blue grapes squished individually by the only the big toes of Spanish princesses.

Although my irrational fear of Alexander is pretty bad, my biggest fear is graduating and having to go back home to live with my mum and dad again. I will go crazy. My parents will go crazy. My fragile emotional state can no longer deal with my dad shouting “YOU NEED A PLATE FOR THAT” every time I try and carry a piece of toast upstairs and my mother telling me that she knows I haven’t had a vegetable for nine days and insisting on making me eat vegetable stew for the following week.

There’s an actual scientific phrase called the “teen reprise” which essentially is when you go back home to live with your parents, you immediately return to being a teenager. Your acne will come back and you’ll get fat and angry again and everything your parents do will be SO ANNOYING and you’ll make friends with kids six years younger because they’re the only ones still going out every weekend to your local nightclub and you’ll have absolutely nothing to do but watch Facebook videos for hours and stalk your ex boyfriend on Instagram.

At home you won’t be able to have the heating on for twelve hours a day any more and you can’t leave plates to go mouldy on the side any more and you can’t roll in at four am and throw up in the bath any more and you certainly cannot use the washing machine for just one shirt anymore, oh my GOD can you imagine what your dad would do ?

A couple of weeks ago, I spent six hours, six hours filling in a quiz online to find out my ‘perfect’ job. It was pretty in depth and I filled it in over a course of about three days. Divided in sections, the questionnaire asked about my work ethic, personality, personal dislikes, values and skills. I was so confident that this questionnaire would reveal my life plan. Alas, after six hours of answering questions about the most intimate details of my professional and personal life, the website concluded that my absolute perfect, ideal, dream job would be…a dairy farmer. I don’t know how my journalism degree, experience in media and passion for travel led them to believe my fate lay within dairy farming, but I was absolutely more confused about my life by the end. Maybe I DO want to be a dairy farmer?

In one mind I see myself in pencil skirts, and Ted Baker silky blouses with rose petal buttons and pointed stilettos in pastel suedes. I will be successful and powerful and beautiful and wealthy, clicking around a sky scraper office in London, carrying a clipboard and wearing an expensive pair of glasses and perfectly glossed Louboutin-lips. I will go home to my children, Noah and Elizabeth, who are being privately educated and are excellent at remembering their please and thank you’s. They will be dressed only in JoJo Maman BeBe and have pink cheeks and we will have a marble staircase and a cinema room and Giles, our in-house butler, will always park my special edition Range Rover in the drive for me, so I never need learn how to park.

However, I also envisage a life on the road. Never showering and growing dreadlocks, I would wear the same vest and combat shorts for days on end and would dedicate my life to saving animals in the third world. I will have no children, I hate children, and I will have space in my heart only for the world’s most vulnerable creatures. My money will be sparse but my heart will be full, and my home will be an orange tent with a hole in the roof and I will have no friends because I smell too bad and can’t ever afford to go for brunch.

Although I’m terrified, ‘the fear’ is good, I think. Having to make decisions means I have options, and choices to make, which can only be a good thing. Growing up is scary, and imagining a world where it is no longer okay to binge watch Netflix and eat a baguette and humus as a healthy balanced meal makes me a little bit sad. But hey, I can sleep easy knowing I can always become a dairy farmer, right? RIGHT?!

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