I miss first year. Specifically, I miss the feeling that everything was just starting. Second year is in many was as fantastic as the last; less partying, yes, but real friends, more work, yes, but all more interesting. But it’s no longer the beginning, and everything is pretty real.
I don’t mind that this year my marks count towards my degree – in fact, being thus motivated has made the work a little more enjoyable. I like working towards something. The problem at the moment is that I am not entirely sure what that something is. Obviously, it involves journalism, but it may also involve a masters and other frivolous things with which to avoid the fact that journalism is a notoriously hard industry to crack, or, once eventually cracked, make a decent living by.
Not that a masters degree would be frivolous, just that I would most definitely be doing one in order to improve my job prospects. I do love learning, but academia is not for me – I am currently putting off doing the references for an essay because the process inexplicably makes me want to bang my head repeatedly against a wall. I don’t even know what I would do this hypothetical masters in.
But the bigger question is, where would I do it? As I wrote here, I have long daydreamed of spending a year or two in New York, and it occurs to me that it may be easier to go away to study than to work (green cards are precious things). But even providing I got in to a university over there (a point far from guaranteed), moving continents while relying on an electric wheelchair and a team of carers would be no small task, and maybe it would be better to return to my beloved London and make life easier for myself. But then that’s never been my style.
A related concern is whether a masters degree would actually help me get this illusive job which I keep banging on about. If I were to go to the US, it would eat up two years of my life and a lot of money – and even staying here, post-grad education is eye-wateringly expensive. I know there are no guarantees in life, but some indication of whether it’s worth it would be greatly appreciated. Just so I have something to focus on.
I don’t even know where all this internal deliberating has come from. Perhaps it is born from journalism’s obsession with its own demise, and its portrayal of itself as an ivory tower, which does not inspire confidence. I know that this is what I want to do – but am I just being naïve? I am almost as determined to live in London as I am to be a writer; but to do that I really will need to be paid occasionally.
Perhaps it is also born of a culture in which we are always asked “what next?” and where success is judged by occupation. I do not have ideological objections to this (although I firmly believe in other measures of achievement) but I am starting to feel the pressure. I know that I don’t write often enough, and I would like to be published more, yet I also have essays to do and notes to take and any free time I do have I would prefer to devote to my friends and not the keyboard. I am beginning to sympathise with those who bemoan the limited number of hours in a day.
In an ideal world, it would be nice to come to university just for the pleasure of learning. With a degree now costing a whopping £27,000, however, that is simply unrealistic. So I will work hard, write more, put inordinate amounts of effort into finding work experience and internships, and – because I will be graduating in 17 short months – enjoy being with my wonderful friends as much as possible. I don’t know what is coming next, but whatever it is, I’ll be ready when I get there. Bring it on.