I spend a lot of time on late night trains and buses. Something strange happens almost every time I find myself on public transport after midnight.
I usually end up having a sober, open conversation with a total stranger, whose name I don't even know. Perhaps it's down to how often travel at odd hours. Perhaps something in my face screams out 'FREE THERAPIST.' Either way, I don't mind because, despite my introversion, I like talking to new people. Or rather, letting them talk me.
Even odder are the common themes in these conversations. They follow a similar template. Someone starts talking to me. I am wary, answering in monosyllables and crossing my fingers that they're not crazy. After a few minutes, it becomes clear they aren't and we fall into conversation. First, there's the small talk; journeys and destinations, delays and the weather.
Then the talk always turns to a topic which is universal: how much they hate their job. It's such a crucial topic which they appear desperate to discuss. Perhaps all the more so for being with someone who knows nothing, other than what they choose to share.
Recently this happened twice on my way home at midnight. I sat down on the train and within minutes, a guy was telling me about his loathed job as a builder. He had left the military two years earlier due to injuries and hated it. After showing me a sample of his scar collection, he talked of horrific things he had seen. But despite everything, he said again and again that he couldn't wait to return in a few months. His eyes lit up when he discussed it.
I got off the train and on a bus, where the same thing happened with the driver. He told me he worked night shifts and spent his days trading stocks. He was trying to save up enough to quit his job and train as a special operations police officer.
It makes sense that this happens. Most people hate their job. Most people talk about it non-stop. I dare say those who hate their 9-5, allude to it more than those who love it do.
Here's why I'm finding it particularly poignant.
I'm at the uncomfortable crossroads which everyone no doubt experiences at my age. A month into my 3-year degree, I freak out daily at the thought of this being permanent. 3 years is not forever, but I am finding it hard to drum into my head that adulthood has struck. I'm a legal adult now, I've moved out and I'm not going back to my parents’ house, aside from to visit.
Adulthood is not quite what I expected. As a kid, I looked forward in particular to having the sugary cereal I was never allowed once I left home. Coco chocolate coated granola, and galore. But now I’m unable to eat gluten or sugar for medical reasons, so I'm back on the oatmeal I used to hate. It’s my own version, though, and it’s delicious- gluten free oats, hemp seeds, buckwheat, raisins, white mulberries, 5 spice, cinnamon, and almond milk. Still, I sometimes look at the sugary cereal in supermarkets and my inner child throws a tantrum. Take it as a metaphor.
That is the extent to which I have processed what adulthood feels like. Ask me again in a year and maybe I'll have some deep insights about emptying hoovers.
My degree (English language and Literature) is going to shape the rest of my life and sometimes I want to run from that perceived confinement. A big part of me loves the lean startup model. Sometimes I fantasise about quitting university and just focusing on my own work. I dream of that sort of lifestyle of having no option but to creating to survive. I want to be the purple cow.
My biggest fear is of unfulfilling work. Days structured by someone else spent bored and stressed. was bad enough. The thought of being a replaceable, irrelevant employee sounds even worse than being a replaceable, irrelevant secondary school pupil was.
The fulfilment which university doesn't yet fully provide is coming from blogging. Where this site is going, I can't say. I just care a lot about it. Writing has moved from a side project to the central component of my life.
It's what I think of all day long. I thrive on all night writing marathons, the rush of being up at 5 am to finish off a post by the 6 am , of typing until I fall asleep with my face on the desk for an hour or so, waking up and continuing. Each new race to complete a post is a sort of thrill. It’s crucial for me to stick to a self-enforced publishing schedule. That's new post of at least 500 words with original pictures, every 3 days. So far, I have always managed it and you are now reading my 50th post in 5 months.
My life follows a rhythm. One day I plan and research, the next I outline, draft and proof, the next I publish. Rinse and repeat without pausing. It's a delightful hamster wheel of finding ideas, articulating them and forming something coherent. This creates an uncomfortable tension between my university work and content creation.
Prioritising is hard. I'm paying thousands of pounds to study and I'll admit that I often see blogging as more important. It's vital because this is how I shape my writing style, my discipline, and ability to create. So I don't go out clubbing or partying, I don't watch Netflix, I don't trawl Facebook or Tumblr. I put my blinkers on and work.
No matter how strong the urge to listen to conventional, crappy wisdom and run off after my so-called passion, I am going to stay put and get my degree. We'll see how it goes.
I don't have a specific question for the end of this post, I'd just like to hear your thoughts on this. Have you ever felt something similar? How did you handle it? Let me know in the comments and let's talk.
P.S. If you enjoy this site, consider taking a look at my Patreon page.