You turn 18, you get a job, then you die
Mikey takes a look back on how changing his mindset diverted him away from a life he didn’t want
When you turn 18, you’re legally allowed to drink alcohol, vote, and get a tattoo you’ll eventually regret. It’s also the age most of us are trying to form a plan for what we want to do with our lives. The last thing you want to hear after buying your first pint is the constant bombardment of questions from family members (“…so you’re 18 now, when are you gonna get a real job… are you going to university? Have you got a mortgage for a house yet… have you thought about pension plans… when are you going to retire…”) and pretty much immediately you have to decide where you want to go after completing sixth form. Whether you end up at university or in a full-time job, there will eventually be a lingering thought: “Have I made a huge mistake? Or was this the best decision of my life?” In my case, it was a bit of both.
Whether you end up at university or in a full-time job, there will eventually be a lingering thought: “Have I made a huge mistake? Or was this the best decision of my life?” In my case, it was a bit of both.
All through my school years I knew I wanted to get into the creative industries – more specifically, into scriptwriting. I would dabble in different aspects of drama, one minute wanting to be an actor, the next a writer. Studying drama at A-Level also verified that I wanted a career in the industry, and straight away wanted to go to university to pursue my dream. But this ambition didn’t come without its downsides. I was constantly reminded by friends and family that I’d be £9,000 a year in debt just so I can recite Shakespeare. I also had parents who weren’t initially keen on the idea of me going to University. While they were supportive of my writing, they encouraged me to pursue a full time job in a comfortable field of work. This was a very confusing time for me, and trying to weigh out the options only caused more stress. All of a sudden, A-Level Results day approached, and I got below average grades. It made me feel as if university was no longer an option, and that I had to go into full time employment. Two days after results day, I had an interview for an apprenticeship at a personal injury firm and was immediately on the 9 to 5 grind.
Two days after results day, I had an interview for an apprenticeship at a personal injury firm and was immediately on the 9 to 5 grind. In a short space of time, the goals I had set myself completely changed.
In a short space of time, the goals I had set myself completely changed. At the start of 2015, my main aim was to write a play, hoping that I would get into a good Uni that would accommodate my passion. Suddenly, I scrapped all of these aims in order to focus on one objective: to finish an apprenticeship I didn’t like, so I could pursue a career I didn’t want. The next 365 days revolved around this fancy, cushy office job. From 9 to 5 Monday to Friday, I’d follow the same routine of taking in calls from clients, filing papers, meeting deadlines, attending meetings, making coffees, and staring blankly at a computer for long periods of time. In my spare time I would watch TV, go to the gym, or drink with friends. I abandoned any passion for writing and watching classic films, and never put any pressure on myself to do anything but focus on working as a Paralegal. Funnily enough, for someone who only focused on work and not on other pursuits, I thought I was happy. I compared myself to my friends, most of which were attended university or unsure of their career prospects, and felt that I was in a much more secure position than them.
I thought I was happy. I compared myself to my friends, most of which were attended university or unsure of their career prospects, and felt that I was in a much more secure position than them.
It was in the final month of my apprenticeship that this feigned feeling of contentment begun to fade. Whilst I was earning a good wage, the workplace was taking its toll on my mental health. I started to feel like I was trapped in this small office space for 40 hours a week, with the constant tapping of keys, followed by the occasional cough. As my friends started to move away from my town, my social life became non-existent. I began to understand the existential dread of a dull office environment that you see in films like Office Space or Fight Club. I was permanently drained of creativity, and the spare time I had would revolve around eating, sleeping, and preparing for the grind again tomorrow. The feelings of mental exhaustion and anxiety eventually came to a culmination, when I had breakdown on the day I signed my annual contract. I felt like I was stuck here forever.
Whilst I kept most of my anguish to myself, I was inspired by the advocacy on social media for Men’s Mental Health Awareness that encourages men to speak out about their issues. It was what I needed to reveal how I was feeling to my family and work colleagues and tell them that I was not okay. Their love and support made me realise that having money or a stable job really isn’t worth it if you’re not happy. Whilst the work experience was beneficial, I finally admitted to myself that this was not what I wanted to do with my life, and instead wanted to move to a completely different city and follow a more creative path. After careful thought, I decided to apply for University to study English Literature, and I haven’t looked back since.
If you’re not certain about what you’re going to do post-education, always remember that your decision is NOT final. Whether you go to university or do an apprenticeship, if you decide you’re not happy, change it.
The beginning of adulthood is a confusing and scary time for many young people. After leaving compulsory education, we’re expected to independently find our career path straight away. I felt pressurised into taking the safe option of employment due to the fear that I would disappoint people if I decided to take a less secure path. If you’re not certain about what you’re going to do post-education, always remember that your decision is NOT final. Whether you go to university or do an apprenticeship, if you decide you’re not happy, change it. Do something different. It’s not worth the risk of having a mental breakdown at the ripe age of 19.
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