When I first got to LSE, it felt like being here was exactly what I was meant to do. I felt like all of my decisions were right and this moment was the time of my life. I even wrote about it here.
I still feel like that, but Lent Term is developing on a completely different note from Michaelmas Term.
In Michaelmas Term, we were all excited about things we were doing. There was this kind of “we are on top of the world” vibe. In Lent Term it seems like the outside is catching up to us and all of the excitement comes with a little bit of desperation.
Conversations with other postgrads that used to start with “What do you think of London?” “Did you join any societies?” “How are you liking your hall?” now start with “How is your dissertation going?” “Are you staying in London after June?” “Do you know where you are going to live after your residence contract is over?”. There is also the most dreadful of the questions, the Question that Must not be Named, the Lord Voldemort of all the personal crisis and doubts about the future… “Do you know what you want to do after?”.
I hate this question. I have been effectively avoiding it since I was 15 when I was asked what I wanted to do in college. Or have I?
Let’s take a look:
When people asked me what I wanted to do after high school I would answer them with a very teenage vibe and send them away, sometimes shrugging my shoulders and screaming something witty.
I ended up choosing to study psychology and signed up for five very odd years of my life.
When people asked me what I wanted to do after I graduated in psychology, I would just be silent and say that I was still figuring it out.
I ended up taking a job in data analysis and advertising and learning a lot about who I am and what I enjoy doing.
When people asked me what I wanted to do with my career, I would vaguely say that I wanted to learn and do something relevant.
I ended up applying for a master’s degree and spending a year watching public lectures about global debates while studying how we are all turning into cyborgs.
Maybe if I think about it, I did end up finding an answer to this question every single time. And more importantly, in each of these occasions, I felt like the answer I gave would be the definite one, the 42, the single number that would transform my whole future forever. But maybe today I could turn to my 16-year-old self and say: Hey you silly thing, just answer the question because you will be asked the same thing multiple times in your life and your answer will change on every one of them. This is not the single turning point for you, it is just an answer.
So yes, the vibe right now for us postgraduates is very confusing. There is a mix of excitement with our projects, stress with what is going to happen and grief for our year here that is coming to an end.
Maybe we should just answer the question.