Sunday, 27 November 2016

How do I Adult? - Same fish, new pond...

If you were to take a look at my About Me page, you will see that I recently graduated from the University of Hull. As much as I adored my time at university, by the end of my third year I was very ready for that period of my life to be over. I honestly never wanted to write another essay again for as long as I lived and I was tired of the university environment. It seemed childish to me in my final months, and I felt so ready to work and behave like an adult and surround myself with other adults. My only problem now is, I have absolutely no idea what being an 'adult' means. 

When I was a student I was comfortable. At times frustrated, but there was a comfort in that frustration. I was in the same boat as the rest of those in my class and we supported each other. Legally yes I was an adult, I could make my own choices, I lived away from home and I was as independent as I wanted to be. But we lived in a suspended world; a world where we were no longer kids, but we weren't quite ready for all of the responsibilities of the real world. Student life was a comfort, and we always had the university, our peers, or our families to fall back on. Once I left that comfort I felt alone. I felt lost and surrounded by unfamiliar territory.  You've heard it said that someone can feel like a big fish in a little pond and then a small fish in a big pond? Well,  I would never be so arrogant to say I was a big fish while I was at uni, but I knew my pond and as a fish as part of a wider group of fellow fish I knew and understood my environment. As a graduate,at first I felt like a fish without my shoal, in an ocean that I had heard about but had never experienced for myself. Its a BIG world out there and there are so many things I never knew I had to deal with and never anticipated would be so difficult. 

Poor Little Fish

My choice to stay in Hull definitely showed that in reality I wasn't fully prepared to say goodbye to my old pond just yet. And I think it also shows that I wasn't fully ready to fully leave the security of my comfortable little pond, otherwise known as my student lifestyle.  When I was a fresher and the City of Hull was chosen to be City of Culture 2017 I decided to stay after I graduated in order to gain experience and use the connections that I had already and would develop over my time at the University of Hull. The plan stayed, but the reality of it became difficult when I realised that many other 2016 graduates as well as many other previous grads, also had the same idea. Of course we all have a strong connection to this city, and we all love it (and for good reason) but the sheer number of Hull grads and remaining students who wanted to get involved meant that suddenly rather than just being peers and classmates, sometimes we were each others competition when it came to finding work. 

Finding work has been one of the most stressful things I have had to experience so far as a graduate, and probably always will be from what I've heard. The idea that you have to compete for a role against several other candidates, and sell yourself in a way that is confident but not too cocky is tiring, complex and confusing. What is the best answer when your asked 'what is your greatest weakness?' What is a 'good' handshake? How long should you wait to ask about salary? There are so many questions about interviews that make most people quake in their boots. Throw in anxiety into the mix and boy oh boy, it makes the whole experience simply delightful *insert eye roll here*. For me,I want to work somewhere where I know I will be happy,confident and supported as well as challenged, taught and pushed. My worst nightmare is being stuck in a monotonous role where I am never challenged and never given opportunities to improve or prove myself. I want a reputation which precedes me; that I work hard, that I'm good at what I do and what I'm not good at I learn how to be. But to find that environment and still be assured that if I, for one reason or another, have an anxiety attack or if my depression rears its ugly head  I'm still in a safe space or that I can take time to ensure I and my work are okay is scary. When I was a student there were numerous times where my mental health wasn't taken seriously and I was made to feel like I wasn't doing enough or I wasn't doing my best. And those experiences have transferred into my concerns about future work. Meaning that not only am I afraid that I won't find a job which challenges me, but what if I find a job which challenges me and I can't handle it? I may be 22 years old, but when my mental health is at its worst I feel like a little kid and I'm lost. 

For a recent interview, which I was very anxious about, my father gave me this piece of advice... 
"walk in there like you've been doing the job for years. If you can convince yourself that you can do and have basically been doing this job already, your interviewer will believe you can and have been too."
Although this advice was about an interview, I feel it applies to  the whole experience of 'adulting'. If you act like you can, you will eventually believe you can, and those around you will believe the same. I have had some great chats with people who are 10, 20 years older than me and they still feel like they have no idea what they are doing, and yet to me they seem like the most together people on the planet. Even though I'm no longer in full time education, I'm still learning. I will never stop learning. The change may be scary, but without change, I will never learn anything new. Yes, I might be applying for some of the same jobs as some of my peers, and I may be having to find work temporarily in a place I hate in order to cover my rent, but you know what my friends are in exactly the same boat! They are looking for work, as I am. They too are stressed about rent, about council tax and how on earth you pay it, about the constant battle between affording to buy either cheese or wine. At first, I felt like I was a lost fish, in a big ocean I didn't recognise and didn't know how to survive. But in actuality, I had just become part of a much bigger shoal, where we all face similar challenge and we can support each other. This new environment will become our home and we will not only learn how to survive it but together, as we learn and as we grow, we will thrive.

To see more of my photos and posts follow me on Twitter and Instagram @Connie_cookie

Thanks, see you soon


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