It’s a little over three weeks since I finished university and already I’ve absolutely no idea what to do with myself. I spent the first full day of ‘freedom’ (if you can call it that) in bed with a hangover that must have rivalled the one Dixon laments in Kingsley Amis’ 1954 novel Lucky Jim. In case you haven’t read it, I’ll give you a heads up: the guy felt bad.
Day two was whiled away in a hazy and still not entirely sober panic, as I oscillated between feelings of joy – largely at the notion that I would never again have to read anything written during the Early Modern period, or anything at all that doesn’t interest me in the slightest – and absolute terror, for the very same reason. It had suddenly dawned on me that if I really didn’t want to, I would never have to read another book again. I could, if I desired, live out the rest of my days reading signs, pamphlets and application forms, with the occasional trashy magazine thrown in for good measure. For the first time in my life, I was completely and utterly free and it horrified me. I kept tormenting myself with things like, ‘what if I never read anything again? Like properly read. Analyse. Absorb the stuff in to my grey matter and actually think about it. What if I lose the will or the time, or what if I end up like Esther Greenwood in The Bell Jar, only able to focus my attention on novels about abnormal psychology whilst munching my way through bag after bag of monkey nuts.’ ‘What if?’ I thought to myself? ‘What if I end up like Esther, starving to death at the bottom of my own fig tree, all because I can’t make a decision? What if I stop reading and start burying hot dogs in the sand?!’
I spent most of day three on the verge of hyperventilating after having made the rookie mistake of checking my ailing bank balance. One too many celebratory G’n’T’s had not only left me with a hangover to end all hangovers, but had also meant that my financial situation was almost quite literally in tatters. As I scraped together my last few pennies to make up enough for the bus fare, I realised that for me, ‘Living Below the Poverty Line’ was not just a sociological experiment. My less than desirable financial planning skills, coupled with my newly heightened level of intoxication, had made it a reality. With no money, no job and no ‘Vacation Reading List,’ I felt like a stranger in a foreign land, a sailor lost at sea, an explorer heading into previously uncharted territory. To put it simply, I felt like someone who doesn’t have the faintest idea where they’re going or what they’re going to do when they get there. I felt lost.
After that, I was forced to attend to the various appointments and obligations I’d neglected during my dissertation period, and whilst the prospect of this was incredibly dull, I thought it might give me the opportunity to reinstate a semblance of structure into my life, since, one would assume that having to be organised, punctual and presentable again would also require a state of mind that wasn’t characterised by blind panic and incoherence, but it hasn’t in the slightest. On the contrary, I’ve found myself having to fend off a lot of increasingly difficult probing questions about my ‘future’, whilst wading through a swamp of unattended paperwork, all with a brain that is still stuck in the recent past and is capable only of pondering the problem of intimacy in George Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty Four.
I realise that most of the dilemmas I have outlined are those that can be easily solved: No Money? Get a job. Worried you’ll stop reading? Buy a new book and take the plunge. I do understand that I’ll need some time to ‘adjust’ to the realities of post university living, but I still can’t help feeling that there should be some sort of rehab for the poor souls whose time in education has come to an abrupt and unsettling end. Actually, now I think about it, maybe there already is. I think they’re calling it a ‘Masters degree’…