Photograph taken by Verity Katherine.
At graduation, while some people were going off to internships, grad schemes, jobs, masters, and more – some were already working! – I had nothing. Yet, I had to have an answer to the big question, “What are you doing after graduation?”. Until this moment, I’d always had a plan.
I’d tried preparing for this moment during the year, but every time I looked at a job application, my heart would start pounding and my throat would feel so dry that I had to go party for a week or two to feel better.
While some people were preparing for interviews or applying for masters during their final year, I was living in the present and making the most of my St Andrews experience.
I immersed myself in my committees (Fine Food and Dining, Literary Society, StAnza Poetry Festival, and more) traveled around on couches, and went out every night of the week with all my international, intellectual, and interesting friends! I went for nights out in Dundee, wrote for student papers, and dyed my hair blue. I dumpster dived, organized dinner parties, and hosted the pub quiz at Drouthy Neebors. I felt so connected to my St Andrews community; I finally belonged somewhere.
Suddenly, it was graduation: the gowns, the champagne, the congratulations. When asked, I said I was going to be an au pair in Spain, but the truth was I had no clue and felt hollow every time I said it. Then everyone left, and my entire life lay before me.
I began to apply for jobs. I applied for 10 jobs in writing because that was my new dream. Nothing. I began to regret all those nights I spent having fun instead of applying for jobs. I applied for 30 more jobs in writing and also publishing because that was my dream in high school. Nothing. Eventually, I didn’t care. I’d apply anywhere for anything. I was stuck in a dark spiral and the only way out was a job. I began to hate everyone! All jobs could suck it. I kept looking up one way tickets to India. That would be fun. I applied and applied and applied.
Three months later, CLICK! I was offered a PR and Marketing Internship at Red Hen Press, the oldest independent poetry publisher in Los Angeles. Yes, it was unpaid. But at least it was the perfect experience for my poetry-writer-publishing dream! And, thankfully, my family lived in LA so free rent. I worked really hard, got two part-time jobs, and eventually was offered a paid role as the PR and Marketing Assistant and was eventually promoted to Social Media Manager. Woop!
It’s now 2020. I’ve been living in the ‘real world’ as long as I was studying at St Andrews. I’ve been unemployed two more times since then and currently work as a support professional for people with developmental disabilities (an essential service so currently employed!), which I never predicted. Every time I was unemployed, it felt like the end of the world, that I would never rejoin society, and that I was a total embarrassment. Yet, every time I have emerged stronger and more confident. Every time I had to let go of the plan, of what I thought I knew and wanted, of what others expected, and get what I needed. Yes, I am referencing The Rolling Stones. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” is my unemployment comfort song.
Oh and I do not regret my choice to live in the present and make the most of my time at St Andrews, not one bit. The stories, the memories, and the community I made in St Andrews have supported me through the ups and downs. The community of St Andrews lives on. It is not confined to a place, but carried within each of us.