Written by: Talia Parker
Photo by Markus Winkler for Pexels
The world I’m about to enter is not the one I planned for. This time in 2019, I thought I would be spoilt for choice at this point in my life: will I return for postgraduate study, will I go on holiday to Greece, will I move into the workforce? Instead, with the economy in ruins and the future uncertain, my only real option is to go back to university for my Honours year, trying to give the tumultuous job market some much-needed time to calm itself down. Thanks to COVID-19, I’ve had to reevaluate my career goals, my study plans, basically my whole life trajectory. Spending a fourth year at university was not something I banked on having to do – I have the uncomfortable sense of treading water, like I’m sitting around waiting for my life to start.
I’ve always been someone whose goals have centred around Capital A Accomplishments. A certificate or a trophy or a “good job” must be received in order to determine if I had done something good. This desperate need for external praise isn’t going to fly under our “new normal.” The adult world is cold and unappreciative at the best of times, and these are quite emphatically the worst of times. With chances shrinking and opportunities drying up like a bottle of Powerade in the Sahara, the most valuable thing you can have is a sense of your own internal worth. People aren’t going to affirm your value with an A+ or an opportunity when their own world is crumbling around them.
So, with all these lessons and this brave new world in mind, my goal for this year in both my career and academic work is to make things that I, personally, am really proud of. I need to learn to be my own arbiter of what I like, because other people’s criteria is constantly changing – it’s impossible to please everyone, but it is possible to please myself. Instead of writing the assignment I think my marker will like, I’m going to write assignments that I like, that I agree with, that fulfil me intellectually. When I go to job interviews (assuming I can get one), I’m going to ask myself, do I have a good feeling about this? What do I need out of a job, and will this give me it?
How will I go about affecting this massive change in thinking? Well, firstly, I’m going to have to stop caring what people think about me. Should be easy…right? Closer to impossible, really. After all, to function in society, you have to care about other people at least a little bit. So, I’ll focus on not letting my entire life be dictated by whether other people think I’m good at the things I like to do.
A big part of it will be creating my own opportunities, rather than waiting for people to give me one. If my chances to go places in my career are always dependent on whether other people think I deserve it, I’ll be running in place forever. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and writing jobs are rarer than diamonds in the most economically sound times – in a pandemic, they’re completely extinct. So, why sit around waiting for a chance that’s not going to come? Why not start my own website, my own zine, my own magazine? I don’t need anyone’s permission to be a writer; all I have to do is write stuff.
This year is going to be the Year of Self Confidence. Because if 2020 has taught me one thing, it’s that nothing in this world is certain. The only true constant in my life is me, and I’ve got to have my own back. I’m done waiting for my life to start; as far as I’m concerned, it starts right now.