It’s a funny thing to be somewhere in your early twenties and have an absolute idea as to what and where you want to be once you’re a fully-fledged “adult”. Rare, even. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done my fair share of floundering, of choosing between career paths and sacrificing spontaneous ideas for more sensible ones. I never intended on “wasting time” as my parents called it, but in that entire period (a year and a half, to be exact) I spent rediscovering myself, I learnt things no university lecture room could’ve taught me.
Balance between knowledge and experience is what puts people ahead. It’s what secures a person’s confidence, having experienced something before they now understand whether it’s worth following or not. I experienced uncertainty, something I hadn’t really experimented with before, and it was terrifying. A year and a half ago, university was proving difficult to enjoy and stay on top of whilst working 35-40 hour weeks simply to pay rent and buy groceries. Eventually, the two worlds collided and I was forced to choose one over the other. I chose work, naturally, as survival takes first place over education. For brief context, I don’t receive any money from my parents nor the government, therefore what I earn myself is all I have to my name. And, oddly enough (now that I look back on it), convincing myself that it was okay to step back and look after myself was more difficult than it ought to have been.
Personally, I blame high school for these high expectations and demands that we set ourselves. From Year 10 onwards, we’re forced to think about what career paths we want to invest in once we graduate. Fifteen year-old me wanted to be a ground-breaking journalist who brought down governments and exposed universal secrets to the public, whereas twenty-one year old me would be quite happy with any form of office job as long as I can drink coffee as often as I want and can leave somewhere around 5pm. Priorities change inevitably and usually at the most inconvenient times, and after doing one year of journalism at university I realised fifteen year-old me was a dreamer who acted on whims and never properly thought about anything before committing herself to it. I became unsure, and hesitant, and confused. I was unsure of myself, unsure of my own wants, unsure of what to do next. I was watching my friends continue on with their degrees nonplussed; I was watching other friends quit their degrees and buy one-way tickets to the other side of the world. I admired both, and felt myself to fall into this strange, grey middle ground where I wanted to do both of these things but couldn’t for the life of me decide which was best. Journalism had been a disappointment. People suggested I become an English teacher instead. People suggested I toughen up and just finish my degree. People suggested I become an academic. A girl who I proofread an assignment for once suggested I become an editor. This particular suggestion caused me to stop. I’d never even thought of it before. At the time I was eighteen and depressed because the plan fifteen year-old me had plotted had gone to shit. I was feeling lost, but the idea of trying my hand at editing was new and exciting. I decided to give it a go, and promptly switched my degree concentrations to English.
The point is, I still don’t know if I’m doing the right thing. At the moment, getting into publishing feels right, so that’s something. That being said, studying journalism also felt right, and so did giving up university temporarily for work. I got bored with the latter, missed the mental stimulation, despised the never-ending manual labour and seemingly endless 10-14 hour shifts. People told me I didn’t belong behind a bar. People told me I should go back. Co-workers told me I’m too smart for pouring schooners and restocking fridges. People told me the only reason I hate my job is because I know it’s not what I want. I’d laughed at that, because it implied I did know what I wanted. When I told them I didn’t know at all, they looked at me very seriously and said things similar to “Yes you do”, or “You know you don’t want to stay here”. I thought about those words, and decided all were true. I knew I wanted to do something where I would be paid for the thing I love doing most– writing– which in turn proved my aspirations lay beyond barwork or anything ordinary. I took the helm of Deadwords alongside Chris because all we know is that we’re passionate about the power words can have on minds young and old, and believe that true literary talent lies closer to home than some may realise. We’ve received emails from eager high school students, reserved academics, parents– all with stories to tell. It’s fascinating. It’s fascinating knowing we’ve provided these people with a platform to express some of their innermost thoughts and even simple, fleeting observations. I don’t know if choosing publishing over journalism helped contribute to Deadwords’ slow, but growing success. I don’t know if the website will even be around in another few years or so. I don’t know anything, actually, except that I was unsure once, and for quite a long time, and plenty of wondrous things have come of it.
It is okay to be unsure. It is okay to stop and take a step back from whatever it is you’re doing, especially if you don’t feel like what you’re doing is what you want to be doing. It’s okay to be wrong in your assumptions, in your plans for the future. It is okay to think “Hmmm, maybe this sucks after all” and consequently toss whatever you’ve been working on out the window to start anew. Would I be bold enough to claim I know what I’m doing now? Sure, to an extent. I know I’m back at university. I know I’m going to finish my English degree. I know what’s important. What I don’t know is what’ll happen when I’m 25, or even in a few months when I’m 22, or even twenty minutes from now (I can guess I’ll probably be waiting for the kettle to boil, though). What I’ve learnt since leaving home and doing all the things I never expected myself to ever do is that being your own best friend, as in having complete and utter faith in yourself and supporting all of your own desires for change or emotional impulses, is the best thing you can do. Sounds cliche and overly positive, I know, but that’s because it is. If you want to quit your job, weigh the pros and cons, and commit. If you don’t think you want to study at university anymore, weigh the pros and cons, and commit. Don’t half-arse anything. Nobody likes a half-arsed job. That’s the one standard you should set for yourself, above anything else. All or nothing. You either absolutely bloody love your current situation or there are some things you’d like to change up. So, weigh the pros and cons, and commit. Too often I’ve seen people stuck in situations that they haven’t an idea on how to manage– they find the idea of taking a step back as a form of “defeat”, and blindly continue onwards into an even deeper hole. I’m not sure how this attitude came about, perhaps human beings have always thought this way. What I do know is that it’s not a crime to look after yourself, it’s not a crime to take a time-out every once in a while, and it’s not a crime to change.
It is absolutely okay to not know what you’re doing. In truth, that’s half the fun. You don’t have to necessarily take my words to heart, but if you’ve found yourself a little stuck lately, or unsure of how to progress, award yourself a lil’ self-love and be amazed at where it might take you.
— Lauren xoxo