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Just over a year after graduation, it's safe to say that I'm not where I thought I would be, but I think I'm where I need to be.
Stepping into university, we all have an expectation of what it will be like. We will have the time of our lives, make fast friends, finally get to study our passion, and at the end of it all exit on a high note and waltz into the perfect job, knowing that despite the crippling debt it was worth it all the while. And, for the lucky few, this might well be the case.
But what happens to the rest of us?
I studied Film Production at university and graduated in July 2016. The film industry is notoriously competitive, and getting your foot in the proverbial door really is all about "who you know." So despite all my hard work studying at a London film school with an excellent reputation, I strolled straight out of the graduation hall into a coffee shop job. (Literally, I began working as a barista just three days after graduating).
Of course, I didn't want to make caramel lattes as a long term career, but I told myself it was just a temporary solution to pay the rent. If I kept on freelancing on the side and applying for starter positions, I'd soon enough land that Big Job that sets the ball rolling and the rest would be history. In reality; I was £1,300 overdrawn, working a physically and mentally taxing day job for minimum wage, just about making my rent but feeding myself on instant noodles and leftover coffee shop pastries, all while wrestling through a particularly rough bout of depression.
Needless to say, it wasn't what I'd hoped post-grad life to be.
London was taking more from me than I was getting out of it, and my mum asked me if I wanted to move back home. And so I did. Soon after, I came across an article titled something along the lines of "Why you should move back home after graduation" - and it infuriated me. It was written as if moving back home was the cool new thing to do, like a reverse gap year. I hadn't made this choice because I wanted to or because it was trendy, but because I had no other option. At the time, it felt a little like I was throwing in the towel on my career and my own independence. But in hindsight, I can say now that it was undoubtedly the right decision for me
However, I consider myself very lucky that I have family who can support me whilst I'm getting back on my feet and finding my bearings. My mum has been invaluable. Moving back home has given me the freedom to relax and has taken away the urgent edge of finding freelance work. Yes, I'm still a barista, but living at home has eliminated my London living expenses and allowed me to actually make some headway on my overdraft. I may still be overdrawn, but not half as much as I used to be, and that's a little win in my books. The freelance work is slowly but surely trickling in, and I know that I'm on the right track.
A few months ago, I spoke to a woman who had been working in the TV industry for most of her life. She told me that as a post-graduate, I can expect to be working as a runner (that's the bottom rung of the film and TV ladder) for up to three years after graduation. At first, I was a little disheartened, but then her words sunk in. By all accounts, I am right on target, and I suddenly felt awash with relief and a renewed sense of determination. I knew then that everything was going to be just fine.
And so, to my fellow post-grads out there who may be feeling a little lost or disheartened, all I can offer is this:
You may not be where you want to be right now, but you are where you need to be.