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My sister’s friend has a tattoo on his forearm that simply reads: “change is good”.
It’s so simple, yet I wish I had truly believed this at 18, whilst I was dropping out of University in search of getting a ‘proper job’. Who knew that it would lead to a fresh start as a Digital Marketing Apprentice at 19, already breaking into a professional career in central London?
If anything, back when I was 18, I remember mentally torturing myself for weeks with the decision to finally end my university experience. I was clinically depressed, taking Prozac just to keep my mood level, and chronically lonely after falling out with the friends I’d started to envision a future with. “I’m meant to be having the time of my life”, I would sob into my 2:2 feedback sheet when I was expecting a 1st. The unshakeable feeling that I was a failure filled my nights of insomnia leading up to my departure. My wide-awake nightmares taunted me: “I’ll disappoint my family”, “I’ll never find a good job without a degree”, “I’ll lose all my independence when I move back home”.
It was only recently, after reading Lost Connections by Johann Hari that it finally came to me. “You aren’t a machine with broken parts. You are an animal whose needs are not being met.” Looking back, unhappiness of any degree is a sign that change is indeed good and needs to happen. My depression was primarily caused by my own perception that I’d failed, even though sometimes to move on, we must first take a few steps back.
Once you enter the workplace, the social dynamic enters a level of professionalism which was alien to me. Transitioning from university to an apprenticeship, having only worked with people of my own age, to now working in an office environment with a great variety of characters, was the biggest adjustment for me. What confused me was upholding a professional rather than casual demeanour with people you spend 40 hours a week with. However, social cultures vary greatly between companies. You learn quickly that there is immense social power in simply offering someone a cup of tea or a biscuit.
Although moving home was an inevitability of removing myself from student life, I failed to see the positive side of this change. I am extremely lucky to be blessed with a wonderful family who somehow would never be disappointed, even if I had dropped out of university a million times more.
I had become accustomed to the freedom of student life. I was doing my own laundry, cooking my own meals, walking around with new facial piercings my mother didn’t approve of, and creased clothes from using my flat’s broken iron as a door-stop. Moving home has forced me to go back into a healthy routine of going to work instead of being in a cycle of napping all day, watching Netflix and avoiding coursework. My parents were now watching me which makes me less inclined to come home at 5am after a night out. But in other ways they treat me as an adult who can make my own decisions, even if that means getting a nose piercing and dying my hair pink.
The relationship I have with myself has changed entirely and I finally feel excited for the future ahead. Having the confidence to attend job interviews (and eventually interviews for Apprenticeships) was terrifying when considering the possibility of rejection. It took meeting new people, truly believing in myself and my abilities in order to transform myself into who I am now. I would also blame myself for the people I’d left behind at University. But even at 20, I can tell you that friends come and go, and I have found that the best friends will always find a way to stay in touch.
As young adults, our lives are rich with opportunity: constantly warping and evolving before our very eyes to become the final novel entitled My Life Story. But really, what’s a story without any plot twists? Even a year later, I must commend myself on the outstanding bravery it takes to admit that your happiness is far more valuable than a degree or even the opinion of your peers. And so, change is not just “good”, it’s a beautiful and necessary part of life that shapes our personal development and futures.