Standing at the crossroads

As a final year university student, I find myself at a crossroads – hundreds of paths forking off in different directions each one offering me a different future and a different life. Spinning around with no idea what path I should venture down leads to huge feelings of confusion and uncertainty.

I know that there are directions that others want me to take – working in the public sector, social work, law, a ‘professional’ job – and some of these really appeal to me. They are solid career choices where I can map out a path of what I could be doing in 10 years’ time. They offer me a chance to really help and create meaningful change for the lives of so many people. It means that I can put into action all that I know and believe and make the world slightly better.

There are other paths I can take that are less clear, foggy, winding, but exciting. I have the option to pursue some of the things I truly love and feel passionately about – the idea that I could make a career out of my love for words and the joy I receive from writing is something that chokes me up when I think about it. Nothing makes me feel more alive than expressing my creativity on pen and paper.

Thinking of my future, there is such a surge of emotions, I can sense the trepidation in my throat, I can hear the excitement in my pulse, and I can feel the smile spreading across my face. Mostly though, I just feel anxious and stressed.

I know that whatever path I do take, I can be happy. The bonus of having such varied interests is that my life can take me in so many directions, the downside is maybe there are too many to choose from. It’s a choice that feels so permanent – and I think everyone can empathise with how scary that is.

Instead of over-analysing what career I should pursue, I have chosen to think about the kind of woman I would like to be – what characteristics I would like to see in myself in 5 years’ time.

Something I care deeply about is the way I treat other people – gender studies, feminism, and intersectionality have played a large role in my understanding of society and the power imbalances that exist within it. There will always be those who are more marginalised and those who dominate. In 5 years’ time, I would like to be the kind of person who stands up for marginalised people and can elevate their voices and their experiences to create better social understanding and equality.

Since I was very young, I have always been very independent – and often this is a strength. I work well by myself, I am happy with my own company, and I draw strength from myself without having to rely on other people. I would like to retain this independence, I don’t ever want to have to depend on somebody else, but equally I would like to be able to ask for help when I need. To be able to recognise where my limits are and that asking for support doesn’t mean you are weak. In a society where independence is so highly valued, I think support networks are often shunned.

To be able to healthily deal with the stresses of everyday life is something that is becoming more important in our culture, especially with the increase of conversations around mindfulness and meditation. It’s an undervalued skill, but one that is truly invaluable. Whether you meditate, or dance, or in my case write – being able to let go, to not get caught up in what we cannot change is vital. In all honesty, it is a skill I struggle with – but it is the thing that I would most like 26 year old me to have.

I don’t know yet what career will let me become this person, if any will, or if multiple will – but if I can make a difference, if I can help others, and if I am able to help myself, I think it will all turn out okay.

Emma Healey

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