Ask no questions, and you’ll be told no lies” – Charles Dickens, Great Expectations.
There are some questions I don’t like to be asked.
I’m a person who, generally speaking, does not enjoy being hounded.
I ran into someone this week whom I had not seen for months. “Have you got a boyfriend yet?” was one of the first things she asked me.
I could have told her about the boys I think of as invisibles. The “good idea at the time” sort of whims and things that led to not-things, the emotionally unavailable, the too-pushy ones, the closeted gays who crash tackled into me on their own spiralling journeys (tangling me in webs I never belonged in), the ones who began so well, but whom I ran from nonetheless because they didn’t think like me – and I need that – and the recent one who seemed nice but whom I kept secret nonetheless, because I thought he would turn out exactly like the others.
But that’s not the focus of this post.
I could have told her I’m fussy about who I let in my life, and about translucent strings which tie me to myself, strings which meme lords tie into starter packs using “daddy issues“, that make me not desperate for a relationship.
But I shouldn’t have to justify to my parents, my extended family, my colleagues, random acquaintances and friends why I’m 21 and single and not really horrified about it.
I’m tangled in an intricate web of expectations.
As of final marks and feedback sent my way late last week, I have completed all the credit I need for my Bachelor of Communication and Media Studies degree. At the end of next semester, I’ll hopefully have completed all credit for my Bachelor of Commerce, also.
Drawing closer to my potential end of study has ignited a plethora of gentle anxieties in my mind. I can scarcely remember a time in my life where I haven’t been formally studying; I did not take a gap year and next June will mark 4.5 years at the University of Wollongong.
What’s next? – everyone. (Literally, everyone.)
When people ask me what’s next for me, I tell them I do not know. It’s the truth.
But it isn’t a bad truth. I don’t feel that I’m in a position where exiting tertiary education next year leaves me no options, or that I’m completely unprepared for the ‘outside world’ or stand no chance in it. Yet when I say “I don’t know” in response to this question, the connotations are generally negative in sentiment.
“I don’t know what I want to do next year” coming from my mouth connotates the following:
- I just want to write
- I think I’d enjoy freelance writing and editing for a while (but, you know, statistically not financially viable)
- I think I’d enjoy the pressure and buzz of working a corporate PR environment
- I’m learning the digital editor role at work. I think I’d like to continue this
- I want to study further or work overseas
- I’m probably 65% sure that an honours year is a good fit for me (but please don’t ask me to justify the benefit of that extra year of study to you).
It’s not that I have no options, it’s that I have plenty. And I’m increasingly understanding that having a cemented plan for almost anything doesn’t allow me to produce my best work. I often create study timetables, to-do lists and the like. It’s a gross misuse of my time, purely because I severely lack the disciplinary ability to follow them. When I have things which need to be done, I just sort of put them off till the last minute and magically they get done – which isn’t necessarily a good thing, but I’m going with it. Throwback to that one time I wrote an entire marketing reflection on why planning a campaign is a waste of time, and these sorts of things should be winged and experimental. My tutor was slightly bemused, judging by her feedback (I don’t think marking-interesting always means dictionary-interesting), but awarded me a HD nonetheless. I’m not sure why.
I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in my life. (Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath)
I feel lucky to be in a position where I’ve studied what I am passionate about at university and there are a variety of different paths I can take in the future – it’s up to me. But the best way for me to communicate that when asked in passing remains “I don’t know” – because I don’t.
I’m further thinking about expectations as I type this, because now that I’ve completed my final BCM subject, this blog really will just be my little compartment of internet.
To some extent it always has been mine. I chose the colour and font. I chose the URL, although I’ve updated it recently. In each assessment brief I was given fairly wide discretion in terms of how I designed my writing and what that contained, yet the skeleton of this blog was still very much predetermined by some sort of board – a thoughtful, innovative board, but a board all the same. And now there’s just me.
What do I want to look like on the internet? How can I craft this blog to be a representation of me, and not a representation of my assessments?
“Sit where you like”, she said.
I don’t like entering rooms first, usually, unless it’s my room. There were three chairs, and even though she didn’t say it, one was most definitely her own, because power distance, one was white space, and one was very close to the door and I sat there because once a stranger told me I had less rights than a prisoner, and even though it’s not like I would have sprinted out of the room anyway, I liked the feeling that maybe I could.
I wanted to ask her where people normally sat when they came here, but I was afraid of the answer. I don’t want to be predictable.