A BA Bereavement

Like it or not university is a bubble, and by the time you finish your finals, that bubble has burst

Cartoon by Brandon Seager

Cartoon by Brandon Seager

Don’t worry. What you’re feeling is perfectly normal. Losing a huge figure in your life so suddenly often produces a sense of emptiness, an absence of purpose. Many people turn to drink, and their days disintegrate from strict routine to listless lethargy.

There is no bereavement like finishing your degree. A once-lauded labour of love soured to a captivating Stockholm syndrome – a marathon, three-year project, with a frantically intensive three-week sprint at its close.

And now when you wake up at the behest of that rigorously recalibrated body clock, you roll over to find the textbook that once lay beside you is no longer there. The agoraphobia of an empty diary clamours for summer plans, or the press of a club-drunk crowd.

Of course, unlike most bereavement the loss of a degree is also a cause for jubilation. What with the summer sun and the newfound glorious freedom it’s hard not to feel that things are looking up.

So it really does elicit a curious cocktail of sensations, to which most respond with a party. Others feel the need to write a column.

There is one aspect to finishing my degree that is certainly transformative. Frankly, you can be as much of an anti-student as you like, but like it or not university is a bubble, and by the time you finish your finals, that bubble has burst.

I didn’t get that coveted grad scheme place contested by literally thousands. I’ve not landed my dream job straight off the bat. Alan Rusbridger has not called to say he’s sorry about Guardian Coffee and will I please help them out.

Part of this happy grieving process is realising that you are not the best in the world at what you do. There’ll always be someone smarter, more on the ball, who made better choices sooner.

The bitter Oxbridge rejects among us will have had a taste of this, although paradoxically they are also the most likely to believe they are the dog’s bollocks regardless.

But pretty much all of us at a prestigious university like York will have been used to excelling, intelligent and committed enough to be given and to create for ourselves the opportunities we have strived for. Unless you are one of the lucky geniuses who enter the world of work like Fonzie to a party, there is going to be some relegation of expectations.

I take from Rusbridger’s radio silence that I am not a genius, but I do have something valuable: I know what I want to do with the rest of my life. I find it really helps when planning what to do with the rest of my life.

But it also means that just because I didn’t get that dream job first time round, just because I wasn’t that one-in-one-thousand, doesn’t mean I’ll never get there. I can try again. I can try a different route. If I’m doing what I love it doesn’t really matter how long it takes.

Perhaps, bereft of my degree, this is the final stage of my grief: acceptance, that this is real life now, and it’s not a case of pass or fail.

8 comments

  1. 9 Jun ’13 at 3:01 pm

    Proud Training Contract Holder

    After university, I’m going to be rolling in paper.

    Sucks to be you.

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  2. 9 Jun ’13 at 3:09 pm

    Re: proud training contract holder

    My life is enriched by knowing this.

    Reply Report

  3. 9 Jun ’13 at 3:21 pm

    Proud Training Contract Holder

    Considering that I’ll be paid for even talking to someone, I’m kind of a big deal.

    Reply Report

  4. 9 Jun ’13 at 4:25 pm

    Alan Rusbridger

    Josh,

    I am sorry we cannot offer you a job at The Guardian. Unfortunately in this time of austerity, we all have to play our part in the big society, meaning that we are making a number of transfers at the moment.

    I would like to offer you an invitation to work at the newspapers latest venture, #GuardianHummus. We wish to produce the perfect blend of chickpeas and lentils into this delight for our readers. We intend to attach a free container of #guardianhummus with every copy sold, thanks to our friends at the Scotts Trust.

    Please email me for more details.

    Thanks

    Alan “ball so hard” Rusbridger #esq.

    Reply Report

  5. 9 Jun ’13 at 5:35 pm

    The Conservative Party

    You have no one to blame but yourself

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  6. @Proud Training Contract Holder: Me too!

    Reply Report

  7. 14 Jun ’13 at 4:41 pm

    Donald Donaldson

    Enjoyed reading this, Boswell, and I think it could’ve only been improved if it were just a tad longer.

    Shame your legacy will forever be tainted with the ‘drones’ debacle; this article was a true purveyor of talent.

    Reply Report

  8. Thanks Donald, I appreciate it. And I always enjoy a good backhander.

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