University is a peculiar experience – at the start, it feels like such a vast space of time, your fingertips never being able to clutch the end and say: ‘Here, this is where it will stop’. When you arrive in your final year, your hands are pushed up against The End and a timer always sits on your shoulder, ticking away the sands of time until you’re finished. The door your mind marked The Future, once distorted with distance, is now within your grasp. The curtains are closing, and the lights are turning down. So, we find ourselves asking the question – do we stay or do we go?
The post-period of university is daunting, terrifying and exhilarating. For some, it can feel like now their lives will begin, no longer suffering from the academic format and craving freedom to do what they want. For others, it’s missing a step walking down stairs, the drop of fear in the unknown. But what’s the strangest thing I’ve found in my last year, is how much it feels like the end of high school. There is the knowledge, clear as day, of your friends going their separate ways. And you will, too. This space in which I’ve cultivated a new self for my life, one I created through my time here, is going to go through another change. There is no stability in our lives, the way we may fancy it to be. Things continue to change the same way we continue to age. For some, this is a good thing. For others, it can feel as though they’re leaving the place they made a home, for the first time.
I’m one of those people who have made a home here, living hundreds of miles away from my family, my friends and my life when I was 18. And there’s still the feeling of change now, the same way I felt when my parents left me alone in halls to start my time at university. There’s fear. I’d be lying if I said there’s no fear when you’re finishing your degree, and anyone who says they aren’t even the slightest bit scared probably haven’t left the comforts of their high school lives just yet.
Like many, I’ve toyed with the idea of a Masters. It feels like a cushion, especially if I was to take one at Strath. I’d have another year here, in the familiar and with tutors I’m familiar with. I wouldn’t leave the comfort of academia yet, or my beloved Telegraph. But I don’t want to do a Masters because it would mean keeping this life for a little longer, it doesn’t feel right. The tussle between staying or going reminds me of my life back in high school, when on a whim I decided to change my course and go to Strathclyde. I completely changed the direction of my life, both physically (I was to go to Aberdeen) and academically (I was to study fashion, rather than English Lit and Journalism). Do I stay or do I go? How much do I want to change?
I’m a person who has fingers in many pies, ideas of projects and careers I could carve out. I can’t pick just one – I want them all. I want to do a lot of things, throughout the period of my life. It’s the struggle of picking the first step that’s stopping me from diving right in. What if I make a mistake? It’s the security I’m ultimately craving. A level of stability I’ve grown used to these past four years. And I don’t know when I will have that stability again, because the world feels like it’s constantly changing, and culture is shifting back and forth. The landscape of journalism is evolving, while costs are being cut. This is the period of a new age; to make a first step is deciding where I want to go.
To be a writer is to make peace with this instability in your life. It’s how good art is created, through restlessness. Through itchy feet, which brought me here in the first place. I could say, as clichés go, ‘make the most of it’. I think we both know how those words will be received. Instead, I urge you (and myself) to continue to have itchy feet and strive to stay away from comfort craved because of fear of the unknown. And with that, my time is up. There’s a curtain coming down, a chapter closing.
By Lou Ramsay