The sun shone with great resolve behind candyfloss clouds dispersed across the city skyline. I longed to feel its liberating warmth against my skin as I traipsed past similarly weary faces, hauling one fatigued foot in front of the other. The standard walk home from work, where the scent of a flower, a smile from a stranger, or a bangin’ tune spurs you onwards.
Whether you spend your days serving waffles, making coffee, or selling people things they don’t need, we’ve all experienced the somewhat gratifying yet monotonous consciousness: today’s shift is over! The evening lies ahead and those precious hours will be grasped with vehemence, even if that merely involves making a mean taco and stuffing ones face in bed with dear ol’ Netflix.
Alternatively, there’s wine to enjoy, friends to see, paintbrushes to hold, or chords to strum. For a short interval, we pay no heed to day-to-day tedium and allow ourselves to dream of the future.
Adults (like, real adults) tell us to cherish the time spent being a student, but you never really comprehend the gravity of that comfort until graduation. Upon doing so, it’s easy to feel intimidated, insignificant, lost. Like a skilled auspicious light clutching your qualifications at the mercy of a grumpy, patronizing soul sucker … sorry, is that too harsh?
Old farts tend to belittle the generation of over-qualified, under-satisfied humans they produced. “I’m glad you can pay your rent but when are you going to find a proper job?” I’M TRYING AUNT BETTY OK. And it’s true, it’s not like we don’t try to find work in the professional field we have been trained in. I can’t count the number of cover letters I’ve written, hours I’ve spent searching for employment and emails from Workopolis and Wowjobs that have eventually found their way to my Gmail trash can. When a potential employer cannot even take 30 seconds to respond to an application, a simple but pertinent question follows … why the fuck did I pay thousands of dollars for my education?
At the beginning of the 20th century, many young people weren’t able to attend school because of the economy’s industrial and agricultural demands. As the economy grew more complex, so did the skills required to manoeuvre it. And where must those skills be gained? School, of course. But we don’t talk about needing a thousand hours of experience in your field if you ever want a paid position. Or the fact that while balancing classes, many of us have to hold down part-time work in order to, you know, eat. It feels like post-secondary education has become more expensive and its rewards less tangible.
We have been raised to believe one must attend a post-secondary institution in order to be successful. But success carries different meanings for different people. It could involve having lots of money, a fulfilling career, time to make art, self-confidence, to feel at home somewhere, the opportunity to travel, or a happy family. Apparently, all these things require more school. What’s more, further education is often funded with money borrowed from the government. This bond secures a labour force that has little to no choice but to settle for any available job in order to tackle the looming loan monster once their schooling is complete, rather than devising a way to break into a preferred profession.
I’m not saying those of us who were able to gain post-secondary education aren’t lucky. It is a privilege. That needs to be recognized. But being fed up and dejected shouldn’t be mistaken for being ungrateful. It’s difficult to pacify overwhelming anxiety about one’s future, or to feel worthy when our hearts are being poured into latte art. Then, you read the news and immense heartache ensues. In comparison to the awful realities for other humans on this planet, moaning about a boring job is shameful.
What I’m saying is it’s easy to lose enthusiasm envisioning a bright, fulfilling future. What we seem to so easily forget is that there is still a point to realizing creative desires. Having a day job that you like isn’t the only way to be successful. There is something to be said about taking whatever it is you love to do and putting work into that passion, even if it isn’t paying the bills. It is nerve-wracking to imagine the actualization of a creative hankering you’ve always had, because taking something from one’s imagination and trying to transfer that to an external medium is a daunting task, and sometimes it’s easier to not even try. But try, and keep trying. Very few feelings compare to gaining recognition for something you put your soul into. It’s why I have this blog; it’s something to give me purpose, to keep me stimulated and content as I serve waffles to people who can actually afford brunch. At some point, the job market will shift and more “educated” and socially conscious voices will have platforms to inspire. But for now, recognize your unease. And then compose yourself and remember your worth.