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When did they teach us how to live?

Updated: Oct 24, 2020

It hit me when my mum suggested I apply for a jobseeker’s allowance. I graduated (it’s almost official!) and I don’t have a full-time job. I no longer fall under the promising occupation "student” on visas and government forms. I turned 21. I think this is the point in life where people get their shit together.

And yet, after spending most of our lives in formal education, we were never taught how to live it. University was like the safe and comfortable kiddie pool of the world, where your friends were always around and you had access to rubber ducks and lunchtime bongs.

Now you're suddenly setting sail in the ocean without ever having learnt how to steer a ship. In between the chapters "status discrepancy theory" and "dyadic level of analysis", we skipped the one "this is how to live" - because that wasn't in the syllabus.

I spent 17 years in school, just to be handed a paper as evidence of my commitment. And here I am, in the wide open ocean, awkwardly learning how to adjust the sails.

“Congratulations on your bit of success, we can’t wait to see what you do next…” - AJR

Your twenties are generally classified as the decade of “figuring it out”. Because I think that’s exactly what most of use are doing at this point. It isn’t the first time that happens. High school was extremely confusing. You transformed from a child into a teenager. And that was scary enough without all the high school drama and homework that came along with it.

But while becoming a teenager is an agonizingly obvious experience, with parents saying “it’s just this phase” to justify our adolescent behaviour, turning into an adult happens on the down-low. It’s something we all go through, but can’t exactly put a finger on. It’s a journey of becoming fully independent and taking on new responsibilities. And you’re left on your own to figure that out.

On the topic of jobs, I am genuinely amazed at how most of my former classmates managed to find something they at least partially enjoy. During a pandemic! Some of us have had part-time jobs throughout university and built their resume. Some have been applying for internships and full-time jobs when they were nearing graduation. Some are lucky and get to work in their family business.

I am personally doing a lot of freelance writing, so that’s what I’m calling myself. A writer. But that doesn’t take away the fact that I had no clue how become the proud owner of a VAT number. And that I had to ask my employer how to make my first invoice. And that I am still, mainly, living off my student loan.

On top of taxes and laundry – things you just kind of figure out on the way – we are not taught how to actually live life. I moved out after high school, so I quickly faced the reality of groceries, cooking and cleaning. And that’s tough enough when your main focus is university. I can imagine it only gets tougher when you’re working a 40-hour a week job.

Despite life being hard, no on teaches you about the important things. No one can tell you how to find what you love, what your passions and talents are, and how you can make your reality a pleasant one. Not any amount of self-help books and gurus can shape the life you want to live. But nevertheless, we all give it a go.

Because someone has to hold your hand while you step onto the slippery territory of adulthood. Ironically enough, this period is often where you realise your parents are only human themselves. No matter how much we love to keep looking up to them, we start seeing that - unlike we previously imagined - even our life-givers might not have all the answers.

So I gave it all a good think and came to the conclusion that I don’t want to do something I don’t want to do. I cannot possibly imagine myself sitting behind a desk for eight hours per day, performing tasks for someone I barely know and hardly care about just because it needs to happen. Just because I need an income.

While I thought about my dream job – what I want to be when I grow up – I realised: I just want to live for a living.

I will not end this on a utopian note like that. I have high hopes, but I am realistic. I love working, as long as I genuinely enjoy what I’m doing. So I’m not giving in to the ginormous iGaming industry in Malta, where I could relatively easily land a well-paying job. I’m just taking the time to figure out how I can do what I love and be able to pay my rent. I'll keep you posted.



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