So what happens now? After a total of eighteen years in the cocoon of education, I am a free butterfly.
No longer tied to the grips of a dissertation or trapped under college lecturers gaze, there’s a whole world out there for me to discover and explore, to find my feet, my career, my calling, my future. And I am utterly terrified. I feel like a baboon trying to take to the water. While a weight has been lifted, more pressures seem to take the place of the ones I had rid the very moment I handed over the blue hardbound book.
Education from start to end is a continuous stream of crossroads. The first is at Leaving Cert, you decide to go left, and continue in that direction for three years. If you’re lucky you love what you studied and you continue on that road. If it’s the opposite, you come to another crossroads and you go right. And then another comes along after that and this pattern will continue as you remain clueless. Ultimately you realise you were completely confused the entire time and at each turning point you took a chance and hoped for the best.
Life is complicated
The way life and education were collectively presented to us in movies was straightforward. You leave school, go to college and find what you love, leave college, find the job of your dreams, meet the person you will marry and have babies and three dogs, raise your kids, grow old together and die. Straight, to the point and an easy life. Ultimately you discover quite early on that life’s intricacies are much more complex and complicated than that dream-like sequence. But quivering beneath this realisation was the lovely idea that once you got your degree, you’d be ok. Jobs would line themselves up, you could stay at home and start your life, but it doesn’t necessarily work that way.
As my class and I sat together after handing in our dissertation that would finalise our masters, we came to that realisation. The majority don’t have jobs, and if they do they are unsure if this is the path to take them to where they want to go, and most can’t even articulate that thought. Many don’t want to stay in Dublin because it’s too expensive, too difficult to secure housing, but where else do we go? The opportunities are in the capital. It’s either that or venture to a foreign land, and thus we stand at another crossroads.
Hungover and Broke
But this one is different. Different from the ones before it. It’s a weighted, night sweats kind of worry. They say my generation will never be able to afford to buy their own house. We will never be as financially secure as our parents were. We have twelve years to stop global warming from destroying the planet we live on. And we are the millennials and Generation Z, the very ones responsible for quite a lot more of what is wrong with the world.
When you are wrapped in the college world, your sense of the outside world is slightly warped. Real life worries are there, but you are still at a considerable distance away from them. They haunt on the outskirts, but they never hit home. You fall back on the "I'm in college excuse" far too many times. Then the wool is pulled from your eyes on the final day and the Sunday fear becomes a week-long funfair.
Leaving college is like being constantly hungover; parched and thirsty for life but too broke from the night before to do anything about it.
Albeit, I have faith. My classmates and I have enough conviction to be ok. The generations that we balance between have been partly responsible for two positively colossal seismic shifts in our Irish political landscape; the marriage and abortion referendums. We are more inclusive than our predecessors and we believe equality to be a commandment. Although millennials are viewed as ungrateful hooligans who cry when they don't get what they want, my experience is different. I have seen friends and classmates work two jobs to get themselves through college. Even now, as their career path isn't their preferred, they will stick with it and work hard until the perfect fit appears. We realise instant professional gratification is not possible.
Even though the world seems like a show of sorrow, we remain positive. Because you have to. If the world won't, then who will? We have grown up with an archetypal view of life after college, which is why so many of us are fearful when we seem to encounter another uncertain crossroads.
Leaving education is scary, the world is scarier and the thought that you may never find your perfect fit is the scariest. But you will and we will. Underneath the fears are perseverance and an unwavering ability to look on the bright side.
So focus on you, work hard, and forget about what everyone around you is doing. The cocoon is gone and instead of it is a place filled with hardships and lessons, but also boundless happiness, opportunities and adventures.
And they call that place life.