You would think successfully completing a Master’s degree at a decent university, without having suffered any life-altering psychological damage, would make you feel accomplished. Maybe even a little proud. If you’ve read the title of this post (which I hope you have), it’s probably needless to mention that I don’t feel accomplished. I certainly don’t feel proud. Rather, I feel like my university just rang me to say “We are sorry to inform you that we intentionally ran over your cat. Since this must be of inconvenience to you, we would be happy to offer you a replacement cat in exchange for a mere £1,000,000 fee”.
If Future Self had told Past Self this would be the way I would feel, Past Self would have scoffed at Future Self. It’s difficult to believe that I started my MA with the intention of doing a PhD after. I wanted to be Professor “BA MA PhD” Kaiser and spend many happy days behind my tiny desk, revelling in my academic bubble. It turns out that the world of academia looks nothing like the overly romanticised, pink version that exists in my looney mind. It’s dark. It’s grey. It’s utterly bleak.
Of course, I had a few doubts about doing a Master’s. I didn’t know whether it was the right thing to do. I remember thinking it would make more sense to start looking for a job instead of accumulating even more debt. However, my relatives – most of all my parents – urged me to go through with it because “a Master’s degree is always useful to have”. I tend to believe there is a truth in that statement, but is it still true if it cripples you financially? I paid over £6000 for a 1-year Master’s degree (which may not seem like a lot to my American friends, poor sods). I only had 4 hours of class a week. I didn’t enjoy the course that much. However, it taught me a couple of things. I did not only stick with a course I so utterly despised, I also fully invested myself in it. So, it taught me determination and resilience. The programme allowed and encouraged me to do what I love most: reading and writing. It made me rediscover my love of books. I was also happy to see that I got good grades. During my undergraduate, English literature had been my Achilles tendon. In a way it was a relief to realise that I could do well in something I initally thought I sucked at. Also, I never thought I would be able to write a 15,000-word dissertation. That is something. I may sound silly but that dissertation was one of the greatest challenges of my life. (Partly because I started writing it two weeks before the deadline). All of this doesn’t even sound so horrible. Still, I feel defeated, used, abused, you name it….
Why? It seems I’m completely unemployable. The more time I spent looking for a job, the worse I feel. I feel worthless. I feel like I have no skills. I have life skills. Who doesn’t have life skills? Yes, I can tend a bar. I’ve done that several times but I didn’t go to university to be a bartender for the rest of my life. I feel lied to by all those people that told me Transferable Skills were important. They left out the “at least 1-2 years experience needed” part. If you don’t have experience, you may still get the job if you know someone who knows somebody. If you don’t know anyone, well, pardon my French but… you’re shit out of luck. There. I said it.
I have never been and I never will be the most confident person to walk the face of the earth, but I reached a new low. At least I’m confident enough to tell you that. I don’t think I have hit rock-bottom yet. It’s amazing how situations often find ways to get worse. Being unemployed wouldn’t even be so dramatic if I didn’t have to leave the UK, which has been my home for over 4 years. I’m 25 and I have to move back in with my parents. My relationship is about to turn into a long-distance relationship again after having lived with my partner for over a year. Let’s not even address that angry-looking 35,000€ debt looming over my head. I feel like I took one step forward and ten steps back. I keep thinking “du-uhh… #firstworldproblems”. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make it less painful.
I find some comfort in knowing that I am not the only one. I wish I was the only one, but I know that many of my peers are experiencing similar setbacks. There is always someone somewhere that has it better or worse. Honestly, it doesn’t matter. Although life could be better right now, I still want to live each day as it comes rather than hoping Tomorrow will be better. We already know Yesterday. We always know Today. And if that still isn’t comforting enough, Yoda would probably say “Like a Phoenix from the ashes, rise again you will”.