Burnout. That’s the best way I can describe how I’m feeling. I am burnt out.
As my university journey draws to a close, I find myself working and studying endlessly, trying to obtain the diploma I wanted so badly when I enrolled three years ago. It’s strange to think that it has already been three years– I feel like I’ve spent half of that time indoors, trying to get into yoga, or watching people make sourdough bread on Instagram.
Did I get what I wanted out of my university experience? I asked myself the same question exactly one year ago when I was battling anxiety regarding my future. I spent endless nights lying awake, thinking about my aspirations, trying to figure out my identity. I was so accustomed to the slow progression of education that it had become a safe space for me to avoid confronting my future. Completing university forced me to do so. But do I feel fearful? I doubt it. My life used to feel all-consumingly bleak– I saw myself as being trapped by society’s expectations, conditioned into wanting a certain kind of life. I’ve now come to understand that these expectations are merely an abstract framework of how life should progress. It isn’t created by you. Nor is this framework a one-size-fits-all– it’s normal, freeing, even, to want something different out of your life.
I’m a law student in my final year, without a job or any internships. It’s not because I don’t try. It’s actually because I try too hard, just not for the things I truly desire. Beginning this degree completely changed my personality. Going to university every day was a struggle, so I hardly went. Year after year, I kept filling out applications. But right around December, when vacation-scheme season hit, I found myself without any job prospects. Each year I asked myself, “Is it because I’m not good enough?” Sometimes I would blame being unable to find work on the difficulties of being an international student. Other times, I would console myself with illusory notions of the next application season. It was the same thing every single time: “Next year will be better.”
Now, there is no next year. And to be honest, it feels more liberating than ever. As I seriously start to think about what the hell I’m going to do with my life, I have started to listen to myself more carefully. Is the corporate law life for me? Definitely not. I have always been a creative child, in awe of the media and everything that comes with it, from celebrity lifestyles to internet culture. I grew up reading Tavi Gevinson’s ‘Rookie’ and indulging in cult films– I never planned on working nine to five, walking the well-trodden path of a law career. My ideal life is definitely not one where I work to uphold the capitalist system I criticise. But then again, I had never before seriously considered what my ideal life could be.
I had to get real with myself. I really had to. If you ask me what I dream of, I would say that I want to be the second woman to ever win an Oscar for film directing (right after Kathryn Bigelow) and use my celebrity status to become best friends with RuPaul. And then be a judge on Drag Race. Do I make films? Absolutely not. Is RuPaul in my phone’s contacts? That’s a no too. I used to entertain what I thought were ‘crazy’ dreams for a law student. They were my escape from the grim mundanity of sitting behind a desk for hours daily, going through legal documents. But when I got real with myself, I realized I had to commit to a new life.
I made the decision to nurture myself, physically and mentally, and really listen to what I wanted. I reconsidered the small daydreams I had– my passion for film and everything creative, my desire to learn how to sew and make my own clothes, my yearning to impact others through writing. I realised that I am not above or beneath any of these dreams. All I need is the passion to actually do them, and I already have this passion within me. It feels both scary and exciting to be entering this new, uncertain phase of my life. Breaking free from the traditional law student path is wonderful. I’m now the creator of my future. This path feels like a bunch of building blocks scattered everywhere… and it’s up to me to pick the ones I like to build something meaningful. I feel more in control than ever.
I’m going to take a year out to do everything I have always wanted to do. I’ll take a film class. Write more. Start using my old analogue camera again. I don’t have to become a professional at any of these things. What I have to do is try my dreams out before I rule them out completely. So for anyone who is struggling with an uncertain future and unfulfilled dreams: you don’t have to settle for a degree you’re not connected to, or a job you don’t like. At any given time, you can choose a different path.
Edited by Ishita Uppadhayay, Essays Editor