“Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.” – Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton is, as ever, an inspiration to us all. But sadly, Dolly, to have a life at the moment, I’ve got to make a living… bottomless brunches aren’t cheap! And ever since graduating into the big bad world of work, I have come to find that—more than ever—making a living comes with having no life.
Jumping into a career is a challenge for anyone, but especially for my fellow 2021 cohort of graduates (and the 2020 class before us) who have been slapped in the face by the chaos and aftermath of lockdown. Everyone older than me tells me leaving university is a ‘transitional’ period; I’ve been referring to it as entering the void and floating about aimlessly, using my last bit of student loan as a life jacket.
It’s more than post-uni blues; it’s a post-uni nightmare.
I really liked uni, but just not enough to rush into a panic master’s degree now that my studying days are over. Even though the actual ‘education’ bit ended up being the biggest drain of my mental and emotional energy, I loved the thrills of uni life: the highs and lows, the questionable choices, the unruly student status.
So, imagine the shock when I suddenly had to leave my free-spirited uni habits behind and step straight into working from home (AKA remote working from my childhood bedroom). What an anti-climax.
Remote working is one of the few pandemic-induced luxuries, for most people anyway, who appreciate the change after years of office work. For me, it is—and has only been—the norm.
Against popular opinion, I really need some not-remote working right now—even if it comes with more actual work. After my messy final weeks of uni, I’m craving structure. Because despite finessing my chaotic schedule of two-day hangovers, hourly crying sessions and writing essays at 3 am… I think it’s time to at least eat breakfast in the morning and not in the afternoon.
I’ve even started romanticising office culture in my head and giving my deep-seated FOMO a new meaning: Fear of Missing Office. I want to meet important business-y people for coffee and order fancy lattes, or take part in communal tea-making and the politics of mug ownership. I want to go for awkward after-work drinks where Sharon from Accounting has too many cocktails and tells everyone who’s sleeping with who. I’d even take a commute—there I said it. I would grin and bear a commute if it meant my post-uni life wasn’t slowly becoming defined by Zoom.
That dreaded digital conferencing app, that coincidentally rhymes with ‘doom’ and ‘gloom’, has destroyed my people skills. I’ve gone from online lectures and seminars to online interviews and meetings. Every new person I’ve met in my professional life has been via computer screen. I’ve greeted only blurry faces and static voices, which doesn’t (unsurprisingly) help me make any meaningful connections. These people might as well still be strangers.
Hear that? That’s the sound of my sociability withering away. In 50 years, I’ll hear the word Zoom and shudder with fear, taunted by whispers of “I think you’re on mute” and “how do I share my screen?”.
So far, in an attempt to shoehorn myself into some semblance of a routine, I have a) tried to get up early and b) failed every time. Nothing is stopping me from hitting snooze when I can roll out of bed and stumble to my laptop, 30 seconds before a work call. Once the reigning queen of the cat wing, I now can’t even be fussed with a dab of concealer, knowing no one can see me IRL.
That phrase about having places to go and people to see is a wishful dream. If I did have to get up and get out every day, I’d be a different person; I could wear something other than pyjamas and read books on the train and smile at passing strangers. Wow, I really do love romanticising the mundane.
That is why this love letter to my 20s is more of an elegy, as I lament the perfect post-uni lifestyle I might never have – not soon, anyway. But then again, there is plenty of time to turn my attitude towards my 20s around. In a year’s time, I might be squashed amongst the bodies of fellow commuters, bouncing about a bus or being hurtled through a tube tunnel, wishing I was still working from the comfort of my bed. For now, I will plan my days around sitting at my laptop and remembering to go touch grass once in a while.
Ah, to be young.
Words by Jessica Saunders
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