Notes on an Uncertain Future

Hi there!

My name is Ellen O’Brien and I’m one of the new student interns at the Wise ASSC blog. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some of the experiences I’ve had and the lessons I’ve learned during my time at La Trobe, as well as updating you on what’s happening around the uni!

So what do I study? Well, I’m six months shy of finishing a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science double degree, majoring in Genetics and English. (I know it’s a weird combination—my indecision puts Hamlet to shame). I probably could also have earned a PhD in Procrastination during my time here, but I’m not quite as proud of that.

Having seen many friends graduate before me, I have a rough idea of the feelings I am going to experience when it is finally my turn. There will be pride, joy and elation, as well as regret about missed opportunities and apprehension about an unknowable future. Above all, I think there will be relief. My time at university has been full of trials and tribulations, as well as unforgettable memories, growth and love, but I think I am ready to face the dreaded “real world” now, as intimidating as it seems.

Unfortunately, I think I am in the very normal position of being quite clueless about what I want to “do” with my life once I graduate, at least when it comes to a career. I know that I want something that will fulfil the usual, clichéd desires that most people have: I want a job that I find meaningful, that helps other people and that makes me happy. I don’t want a job that makes me feel like an easily replaced economic unit or a brainless automaton. Of course, a generous salary would also be nice. Needless to say, something related to science or writing makes the most sense for my degree, but I’m perfectly happy to be surprised by some unexpected calling. I suppose I need to be patient and wait for my future to reveal itself in its own time.

I have received a lot of advice about what I should do with this “one wild and precious life”, as Mary Oliver calls it. Most of this advice has been contradictory. I have been told to follow my heart, and to be pragmatic. To focus on fast-tracking my career, and to leave such worries until my 30’s. I have been told to save money like my life depends on it, and to travel the world, try new things and to live with reckless (fiscal) abandon. I know that the advice that works for one person, fails another, so I’ve managed to accept these contradictory approaches without too much anxiety.

From what I have learnt by watching my friends and peers enter the “adult” world, I can see that most people figure life out, more or less. If we have managed to stay curious and engaged through university, if we are able to think clearly and communicate effectively, then we can find our way.

I am fortunate in that I will graduate in the middle of the year. Because this is out-of-sync with the typical start times for jobs or degrees, I have been able to allocate six months following my final exams for a shameless and self-indulgent existential crisis, followed by some globe-trotting, soul-searching or Netflix-binging, depending on what my meagre savings and the vagaries of life allow. I hope that this extra time will help me to “find myself”, or at least to find greater clarity about what I want to achieve, but I know that my time at university has given me the courage, determination and self-confidence to face the challenges and mysteries that lie ahead of me, whatever they may be.

During my time at this blog, I would like to pass on some of the lessons that I have learnt across my time at La Trobe. We are all very privileged to attend a university that provides so many opportunities and experiences for its students, so I hope that I can motivate you to take full advantage of your time here, whether you are entering your final semester, or are about to start your first. This is the time for you to meet new people, try new things, embarrass yourself, surprise yourself and to start taking full advantage of being alive.

If you would like to share your stories or ideas with the Wise ASSC blog, send us an email at wiseassc@gmail.com or check out how to Write for us!