Around this time three years ago, I was in the last leg of year twelve. At that time, much like now, I remember thinking where on earth did this year go? But at the same time, I wasn’t worried; I knew exactly what I was doing and what I was going to do. I had applied for Psychology (Honours) but knew that my chances of getting in were slim (I did get a lot closer than I thought I would though), so I had my backup plan ready: a Bachelor of Behavioural Science, followed by applying for honours and then a PhD or Masters. Despite being a stressful year, I didn’t find year twelve nearly as bad as everyone made me think it would be because I had my life—or at least, my life plan—together. Then I got to this year.
Shortly after I started high school, my mum mentioned that she thought I’d enjoy psychology and that it would be something I’d be good at. Ever since then I had looked forward to my later high school years when I was able to choose to take that class. Just like mum said, I did enjoy it and I did well in it. Psychology was one of my all-time favourite subjects and, even before I’d started it, I’d decided I wanted to be a psychologist. But psych at uni is not the same as at high school. I mean, we covered the high school material in first year and keep covering some aspects even now in third year, but it’s not all the same. Throughout my degree, I’ve lost the passion I had for psych five years ago. There are still aspects I love, but altogether it’s difficult for me to find the motivation to actually do the work. I have never gotten the grades I got in high school for my uni psych topics; instead I receive higher grades for my major and elective topics, even though I haven’t enjoyed them either.
At the beginning of this year, I came to the realisation that I didn’t want to do a PhD. I didn’t even want to do honours. I realised that I despise thesis work. I still think being a psychologist would be awesome, but if I don’t have the passion to take the road that gets me there, then there’s no way I’ll be able to reach that goal. Right now, I’m able to empathise with the other kind of year twelves you encounter: the ones also going ‘where the hell has this year gone?’ while at the same time saying ‘what the flip am I going to do with my life?’ This whole year I’ve been stuck in an elongated quarter life crisis. I’ve never had a plan B if the psychologist thing didn’t work out, shy of quitting social life and becoming a Netflix watching, binge eating recluse (more so than I am now). Unfortunately, I’m unable to pursue this lifestyle, so instead I have been reduced to a sleep deprived, not-even-five-foot ball of stress.
Originally I had planned on looking into psych related jobs, however, now I’m not even sure I want to work in something related to my degree. But I’m finishing this year regardless. I’m so close to the end, there’s no point quitting now. Maybe a part of it is to prove that I can finish what I’ve started. And at least then I’ll have a degree. Despite this, I’ve learnt through this year that it doesn’t matter if my original plans fall through. I’ve grown up in a society that says ‘finish what you start’, and that you’ll amount to nothing if you don’t have your whole life planned out by the time you finish year twelve, and that university is the only way to get a job and succeed in life. But, slowly, this mentality is changing, because the truth is that not many people do know exactly what they’re going to do with their life after high school, and university’s not the only way to get a job and succeed, and people change.
The short, timid Tamsin that started university in 2013 is definitely not the same as the short, timid Tamsin now. I have changed a lot in the past three years in ways that are not always obvious; but one of these changes relates to where I want to end up. To be honest, I’m still not actually all that sure what I want to do with my life, but I know I want to have fun, be happy, and experience more of the world than just little Adelaide. Part of me wants to go back to university next year and study English for a few reasons; it’s a subject I’ve always loved, I only got to do two English electives in my current degree, I’m thinking I might go down the pathway of an English related career, and because coming back to university is easy. I’m not ready for a full time job yet. I’m not even ready to move out of my parents’ house. I’m not ready to pay bills, and cook dinner every night, and go to bed and get up at reasonable hours. I’m not ready to adult yet, and university is the perfect escape from that. University is limbo. It’s that middle ground where you’re a student, but you’re a grown up, people treat you with respect, but you don’t quite need to worry about full on adult life yet. University is a safe haven from the ‘real world’ and, as someone who spends the majority of her time insides pages and scenes of fiction, I’m not ready for the real world. Not just yet.
Through this year of uncertainty, I’ve learnt, however, that it doesn’t matter what others think of what I do with my life—that’s why it’s my life. So I will finish my degree and I won’t apply for honours. Instead, the day after the exam period ends, I’ll fly to Canada to work at a ski resort and when I come back in April next year, I’ll decide what I’m going to do next. And that’s okay. As a wise man once said, it does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop.
Words by Tamsin Alexander
Artwork by Benjamin Hall