I don’t know what I’m doing.
I’m 22 years old, thankfully employed, living with my parents and I don’t know what I am doing. I thought I would know by now, but I don’t and I’m terrified.
Let’s start from the beginning, shall we? I went to university in the UK, at the University of Sheffield. After three wonderful years studying Journalism, I graduated with a good degree, great experiences, an immeasurable enthusiasm for writing and relatively exciting job prospects. Graduation was fun. I knew I had things to look forward to, as graduates always do, but I was constantly possessed by fear.
About a year before I graduated, I started having panic attacks. I don’t know why. It started during summer, when I was supposed to go to a party, but the idea of putting on a dress and talking to people made me hyperventilate and cry hysterically. I didn’t understand why I was reacting that way for something as moot as that. My mother didn’t understand either. I am still going to therapy to get some kind of comprehension.
A few months later, I had another episode. This one lasted for about a week and almost, painfully, severed several of my relationships. I am so grateful that I held on to everyone I love at the time, but it was difficult to see through my panic attacks and constant palpitations. For around six months I had a pain in my chest from the moment I woke up to the moment I managed to go to sleep.
What was I afraid of? What choked me up so much?
When it all started, I had just found out that as soon as I graduated, I would not be able to stay in the UK as I had hoped. I had to leave, because a visa program for international graduates had been scrapped by the Tory (protectionist) government. The program had allowed international students to stay in the country for a couple of years without being sponsored by employers. A few months before graduating, that program was cancelled and thousands of international students who wanted to stay had to leave.
I came back home to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“I can’t believe you’re complaining about going back to sunny Brazil.”
Yeah, if you knew anything about life you would know things aren’t so simple. With the starting salary I am now on, I am completely unable to live on my own, let alone pay for my own food. My parents are supporting me.
I shouldn’t complain. Here, when you start working that’s the deal you get – a lot of people live with their parents well into their twenties. It’s completely socially acceptable and ultimately necessary. Also, I like living with my family, because I missed them during the time I was away building a life in another country.
But now I want to find a way out, not away from my current life, but towards a life of my own. My plans are simple: save money and do a Gender Studies Master’s degree in the UK. Then I can at least have another shot at getting a job and I will learn about a subject I absolutely love.
I don’t know if I will be able to save enough for a master’s degree, so I’m my putting most of my money away. As a child, my family moved around several times and that left me with a fear of unwanted change– moving around was never my choice, and even though I loved travelling the world, it has left me with a fear of losing. I am saving, so I don’t have to lose again.
My salary is paid in Brazilian reais, which means even though I am earning more than the minimum wage here, I am also earning less than the minimum wage in the UK. My savings haven’t amounted to much so far, and I don’t even know if this master’s degree will get me anywhere anyway.
My job isn’t ideal. I studied journalism, and dream of becoming a columnist or news reporter. Instead, I work as an assistant at my old high school. It isn’t a bad gig. I do a lot of admin work, dabble in marketing and get to meet interesting people – and my co-workers are extremely lovely. It’s a good environment to work in. But it’s not journalism, it’s not writing.
I feel like I let myself down.
I want to go back to the United Kingdom. I left a life behind. I can’t be hired as a journalist here, because I never learned how to be a journalist in Portuguese. And I want to write in English, I can’t help it.
Talking to my boyfriend about all this, I realized I have been whining for a few months now. He noticed too, of course. But I can’t help it if I am not where I want to be. I’ve never been one to quit complaining – I’m a writer after all, and we’re all grumpy complainers. The world is never good enough.
But I did everything right. I went to university, I got a degree. I got some good work experience under my belt; I work hard every week to get bylines. And sometimes I catch myself thinking that it’s just unfair.
Life isn’t fair, warned the adults. But they also said I could accomplish anything I set out to do. They said if I went to university, learned how to write, applied for jobs, I would get to do something I love.
I should have listened to the first advice more carefully.
“You feel ripped off,” concluded my boyfriend.
He summed it all up in that little, tiny sentence. My parents put me through college; they paid big money to give me an amazing opportunity so that I had a chance of being a journalist. I feel ripped off because I thought it would be a sure thing – pay for uni, get a job, be independent.
In my growing pains, I learned that the world is not quite like that. No one owes you a job, you really have to start at the bottom, probably in a position that isn’t your first choice, and you work upwards from there. I’m still young, I have plenty of time to be a writer. All is not lost. I shouldn’t be desperate right now, I shouldn’t be this afraid. And that’s a good thing because it will make you stronger, and ultimately happier when you finally reach your goal. Right?
So this is my reality: I’m a spoiled, educated, whining, terrified brat who feels ripped off. I hope I grow up someday.
[Contributed by Nicole Froio]