Today would have been my first day of graduate school.
I would have been already living in London for a month, going out with new friends, eating plenty of fish and chips, and taking walks along the Thames. Instead, I’m living in the Pacific Northwest, bartending, doing archaeology work and doing my best to learn how to live a happier, more fulfilling life.
All I’ve known for the past 18 years has been school. The more advanced my level of education became, the more work I put into it, and I left undergraduate university having taught three classes and a field school, publishing and presenting a paper with professors and even working multiple field-related jobs directly out of college. I worked hard, relaxed by watching too many tv shows, and gave very little time to myself.
The happiness I thought I was feeling was based on achievements. It didn’t matter to me that I hadn’t eaten well for the past two weeks because I had made one good dinner, once. My lack of quality friend time and good conversation was overshadowed by the fact that I lived with my best friend, even if we weren’t able to spend real time together. My 20 credit course load paired with volunteering at the police station and 4 am crew practices seemed like the right way to spend my time because that was how I was supposed to spend my time. I felt stuck. My time was split between hours and hours at school, volunteering in a way that provided no moral progress, and my rowing practice didn’t even include me working out.
Immediately after graduating, the question of “What are your plans after you graduate?” became all too real and the reason I had given myself to go to graduate school didn’t feel like the right one. Just because I love learning and I love my program doesn’t mean that an uplift move of my life, copious amounts of money and an intensive graduate program will provide me with satisfaction and happiness. In fact, I felt the opposite, and became intensely introverted, anxious and depressed as I felt completely displaced.
My school schedule had been laid out for me since before I was born, and now – after realizing how I can achieve more pride in myself and more happiness in my life and how that may not be through coursework right now – I have no schedule. I’m struggling as I watch my friends, coworkers and colleagues continue to move forward in their lives while I stand on the sidelines at what I feel like is a standstill. The decision to defer for a year is one that has been hard for my family to understand, is something hard for me to understand, and is something that I truly need to do. Instead of feeling a lack of placement, I’ve begun to realize that what I need to do is grab onto my newfound liberation and run with it instead of hanging onto displacement. Now, I’m unbound to do whatever, wherever, and grow to be the happiest person I can – and to hopefully learn more about who I want to be on the way.