- 15 Sep 20
It's a time of uncertainty and a little confusion - but also a time of delicious possibility. Rose Keating on life as a final year student.
Final year. I didn’t think this day would ever come. I thought that by now I would have dropped out, failed or died of food poisoning. Possibly a combination of all three.
But yet, somehow, here we are. I’m going into final year.
I’ve tried saying the words out loud to myself, but they don’t feel right on my tongue. They feel too heavy; the words ‘final year’ have all the weight and inevitability that a large, solid boulder does moments before crashing down on someone’s skull. Final year is my own, personal cranium-crushing boulder.
But, please, reader, don’t let me be mistaken. I can’t wait for final year to start; I am counting down the days, hours, minutes until I return.
I relish the thought of getting back into the awful, hectic swing of college. I miss the dangerous thrill of an incoming deadline, the sticky adrenaline of an essay all-nighter, the helter-skelter chaos of campus. I miss the messy nights out, the disgusting morning after, the giddy fits of hungover giggles at the back of a too quiet lecture hall. I miss my lectures, I miss my books, I miss my friends. I even miss JSTOR, a little. Yikes.
I am embarrassingly fond of being a student and all it entails and can’t wait to be back at it again for the last hurrah. Even with the looming, ominous threat of a dissertation hanging over my head, I wouldn’t trade my final year for anything.
No, reader, it’s not final year itself that I dread. Final year itself is something I am very much looking forward to.
The thing that I really dread, the thing that sends a dark, bone deep shudder through my body, is the thing that comes hand in hand with final year. The thing that attaches itself at final year’s side, an unwanted, unasked for third wheel.
The thing that I dread most is the question that will hound me throughout my final year, no matter where I run to, no matter where I hide: the question of what I plan to do once final year is over.
Lord, have mercy. Save me from the harsh realities that that question will make me face. Protect me from the unforgiving, cold light of adult life. I’m too young and dumb to face the dawn of real responsibility just yet.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret, reader. I’ve been asked that question a lot over the past summer, and every single time, I lie.
I’ll be chatting with someone; the person asks what year I’m in, what I’m studying. Upon hearing the words ‘English Literature degree’, a hungry, joyful light sparks in their eyes; a lion’s euphoric glint upon facing a dripping, tender piece of meat.
“But, what on earth are you planning to do with that, once you’ve finished final year?” they ask. The words are almost concerned, but no one can disguise the underlying smug, sadistic glee.
I smile and say I want to work in a secondary school. Or seek out employment as a journalist at a reputable news outlet. Or teach English as a second language abroad. Or pursue an academic masters, a PhD, and eventually become a lecturer at university.
I beam and I lie and I say I want to be something that sounds plausible and sensible. Something that is a very reasonable and logical career choice.
I do not tell them the truth and say I want to be a writer, because that will sound silly and ridiculous and reveal that I am naught but a big buffoon.
When I say the words “I want to be a writer”, it feels the exact same as saying the words, “I want to be an astronaut.” Or: “I want to be a superhero.” Or: “I want to be a queen.”
It feels like saying “I want to do this unrealistic, fantastical, beautiful thing.” It feels like admitting “I want to be someone that it is impossible for me to be.”
Maybe this sounds dramatic. After all, there are far more writers in the world than astronauts, superheroes or queens. Maybe writing isn’t the most stable of careers, but really, in our current socio-economic climate, what is?
The reason I like college so much is that I’m told exactly where to go and what to do, in order to succeed. I’m given a timetable, a reading list, assignments. I know my deadlines, I know my wordcounts, I know my exam centres. I have all the rules, regulations and guidebooks.
Where is the rulebook that tells you exactly how you are meant to succeed in your chosen career path? Where are the guidelines that tell you how to make the transition from studenthood to adulthood? Where are the clear outlines that tell you how to take the first step towards the job you want, and the step after that, and the step after that?
How do you honestly answer the question “What do you want to do after final year?”, when you don’t really know how you’re going to go about doing it? What are you meant to do when you have no idea what you’re doing?
Truthfully, reader, I’m not entirely sure. This is not a useful allegory, a helpful fable, because I myself haven’t quite found the answer to that question. I have a sneaking suspicion that there is no simple, straightforward answer or clear-cut guide for figuring out the rest of your life.
I’m beginning to think that there’s a strong chance this particular strain of confusion might be a large part of what life after final year is all about; if being a student is being told exactly what you need to do, maybe being an adult is having no idea what you’re doing and learning how to cope with that. Maybe being an adult is understanding that you aren’t always going to know what you’re doing and learning to be alright in spite of this.
Final year is beginning, and I’m still not sure what exactly I’m going to do after it’s finished, but I’m beginning to think that maybe, that’s an okay thing.