It dawned on me recently that I’ll soon be turning twenty-six. Getting older has never fazed me (I know – easy for a twenty-five-year-old to say!) and I’m certainly not going to start wasting energy reflecting on what could’ve, should’ve or might’ve been; for the most part, I’m happy, and I realise that the life I have is proportionate to the effort I’ve put into it.
For those who aren’t aware, I’m a publishing student about to embark on his fourth consecutive year of full-time study. By societal standards, I’m what’s known as a ‘dropkick’; I’m sure there are plenty out there who’d think I’m getting too old for the student lifestyle. (Certainly Tony Abbott wouldn’t approve my recent unemployment streak.) It’s a weird feeling: the period of grace twenty-somethings are afforded to flounder and find their feet is, for me, coming to an end. It’s time to lay down some roots – or at least start thinking about it.
I’m no Peter Pan or commitment-phobe, but don’t yet feel ready to think in terms of the rest of my life. (Just to be clear, this is in reference to my work life and living arrangements; I’m completely down with monogamy.) Perhaps my lingering fondness for bohemian culture is preventing me from evolving into a full-fledged adult. I like the thought of living an uncluttered, materially light existence and have romanticised living in a state of impermanence. I like having choice – or at least the illusion of it.
I have student loans, a rental lease, and am in a long-term relationship; but other than those things, I’m in no rush to fill my life with the trappings of adulthood. I’m not stupid; I understand staying put is a necessity for career advancement and for forging meaningful relationships with people. And so I’ll compromise. At the end of the day, these things are more important to me than any fleeting wanderlust. Since I’m perfectly happy with my romantic, social and creative lives, the box marked My Professional Life gets the room-for-improvement tick.
Bar some possible freelance work, it’s unlikely that I’ll meet any of my professional goals while still engaged in full-time study. There just aren’t enough hours in the day, and I’m not an especially good multi-tasker. But this doesn’t mean I can’t use this year to prepare and lay down some foundations. At this stage, the broad plan for 2015 is to secure employment within the publishing industry. (I’m tipping I could fulfil the role of hapless mailroom clerk at Penguin.) Excepting the last three years, I’ve always had full-time employment (industrial laundry supervisor was the most prestigious of my various blue-collared callings), but this extended sabbatical has me worried. I don’t pine to study forevermore, but have developed a fondness for academia. I tend to fall apart during my directionless semester breaks, so am worried about how I’ll go leaving the supportive lecturers and structured environment behind.
True to my ne’er-do-well leanings, I never had any career aspirations until quite recently. I’ve come to believe my talents are employable. However, prior to this realisation, I was content doing manual labour. It never fulfilled me, but it filled my days well enough. Hard work seemed character-defining and, y’know, having money was nice, too.
Now that I know what I want to do with my life, though, I’m terrified something beyond my control will prevent it from working out. I’m no self-saboteur, but feel, deep down, that such a turn would be penance for wasting my early twenties. I’m confident in my abilities – I feel I have the skill set and application to work as a professional editor – but publishing’s a tough industry to break into, particularly in Australia. One perfectly plausible reality is that I’ll finish studying only to end up flipping patties at McDonald’s, waiting in vain for some elusive opportunity. No disrespect to hospitality workers, but I really don’t think I can go back to that. It’s not about the salary or a fear of hard work; I just don’t think, in light of all this recent self-discovery, that I can devote my time to anything I’m less than passion about.
Many view work as a means to an end, but I want to feel challenged, valued; I want to feel that I’m playing my part in bettering society. This line of thinking smacks of naiveté, but failing to act on it could leave me with the wrong life.
The cement isn’t dry yet, and I’m especially fortunate that I’ve no serious responsibilities forcing my hand. Although the sun is beginning to set on my twenties, there’s still time to act on these adolescent notions; I can still chase my dreams, or what have you. It took awhile to find it, but editing, I believe, is my genuine calling. It would kill me not to act on it.
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A little postscript: I’ve come to realise I work best when a deadline has lit a fire under my arse. I’m no longer studying indefinitely, and this realisation is causing me to reassess my attitude. I’ve written this post out of need to organise my thoughts, (and also because I’ve developed an irrational – almost pathological – need to embarrass myself with excessively earnest posts). It’s a little late for resolutions, but I’m determined to make the most of my final year of study.
Writing this, I feel like I’m entering the final act of a Rocky film (not Rocky V, though. Ugh!). And so I pledge the following: to make every possible contact and seize every opportunity; to secure and make the most of another internship; to blog more and work on my professional image; to cast fear aside and write something longer than a short story; to submit more work.
I’m twenty-six soon and it’s time I started making some discernible progress. I’ll keep you posted on the particulars, but would love it if you, dear reader, would share some of your goals for 2014. Post them in the comments section so that we may hold each other accountable. Like an enraged Rocky wailing on Ivan Drago, let’s give complacency the middle finger and wring every fucking ounce of potential from this year.
I’m getting tingles just thinking about it.