"I don't think that being a strong person is about ignoring your emotions and fighting your feelings. Putting on a brave face doesn't mean you're a brave person. That's why everybody in my life knows everything that I'm going through. I can't hide anything from them. People need to realise that being open isn't the same as being weak."

- Taylor Swift

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

keepin' it real

Now Playing: Work by Iggy Azalea (Valley Girls giving blowjobs for Louboutins, what you call that? Head over heels?)

I'm not going to lie, I'm having an existential crisis.

Anyone who tells you they didn't have the OH MY FUCKING GOD WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE nervous breakdown at some point in their mid twenties has amnesia or is a liar; and I'm having that, right now. I really...don't know what I'm doing.

School was just an endless drudge to graduation. Even my undergrad was just an endless drudge to graduation, because I come from a family and I live in a world where a bachelor's degree means diddly squat and will do diddly squat for you in the Real World. But now, as an honours student, the torture is very much voluntary. Or is it?

I left a life behind, in Perth. It was a quiet, suburban, secure life of homey comforts and hometown boys. A couple of my friends went down that path, and I wish them well; and half of me wonders if I should have joined them. There's a lot of security in knowing you'll get a job when you graduate and you'll have someone to come home to. I don't have that. And I wonder sometimes if I'll ever have that. I left that kind of security behind, because I found it suffocating, like clothes that just don't fit you. I remember the last day, in Perth, knowing that things weren't going to be the same again, and it was scary; part of me just wanted to get a degree in a field where there was a labour shortage and date boys who can find your house without a GPS. But part of me had always, always wanted to leave and never look back, and that's the path I took. Growing up isn't always about making the right choices, or even having choices that are necessarily better than others. Going through one door means closing others and sometimes when I am sad and lonely and overwhelmed I start to think about what's behind all those doors I locked.

But at the same time, I really didn't feel like I had much of a choice, coming here. I finished my degree in early November; I spent three months doing absolutely nothing. I had a job that provided, at best, pocket money. There's no career for arts graduates like me, at least not in Perth, at least without a bit more work. Graduation, for the baby boomers, for the people who burned our earth to the ground whilst wagging our fingers at us, because we've never had it so good, was the end. For me, it was the end of childhood, the end of knowing what I was doing, and the beginning of...what? Joining the Centrelink queue?

Now I wake up every day with more work than I could ever possibly finish. I've become a hermit; for the first time in my life I've become that idiot locked in her room all day, every day, reading. My friends message me once a fortnight or so to check that I'm still alive.

To be clear, I have a *very* cushy life. My parents are paying my fees and I have a nice room on campus. I'm doing what I love and although this week I had to not buy chicken because I spent all my money on books, I'm doing okay. But after this, what next? I can't stay in lovely, but tiny apartments on university campuses, paying rather than getting paid to study, for the rest of my life, at my parents' expense. I've never really worried about money, and I still don't, but it used to be that if you went down this path eventually you would be secure; the reason my mother was adamant my sister and I would be educated was so we'd have security in life. But now, we are both college graduates and although we have gone down different paths it is not just difficult in the character-building sense of the term, but completely dim. My work is important. It is valuable. People who have the jobs that I want to have always recognised my talents. But talent isn't enough in this world, anymore.

Sometimes uncertainty stretches before me like the ocean. It's not enough now to have a bachelor's, or a master's, or even a PhD. Our parents and grandparents didn't live in a world where you can get a doctorate and end up a taxi driver; but we do. Not just in academia, but in almost every industry young people are struggling. We are being priced out of jobs, of getting a house, of starting a family with any degree of security. In some ways, I'm here, as a student, when I could be getting a job, because I have nowhere else to go. My generous parents will pay for me to move interstate and study, but they won't pay for me to sit at home and stare at the ceiling, which is what I'd be doing in Perth. And after all this study, and after all this money, will I have anything to show for it? I left one uni because it was pinching pennies and now I've moved to the most prestigious university in the country and I still don't know if good marks are going to save me. My mother came to Australia as a very poor international student; but I don't think it ever occurred to her that failure could still happen even if she didn't actually fail anything.

Our generation is spoiled, sure. We take things like running water and having an internet connection and not dying of dysentery for granted. But whilst my grandmothers could never dream of going to university because of, you know, poverty and the patriarchy, I couldn't dream of paying for university without my parents' financial assistance, because university isn't as simple as getting in to whatever moneymaking empire was down the road - sometimes you're like me, exiled from your hometown because your uni decides that actually giving you an education is no longer financially viable, in spite of the exorbitant fees we have to pay. There are not many people who have parents who can foot the bill for a sudden change of address; things that are becoming increasingly necessary in this day and age. It's not enough to have a university degree, because people who have barely passed high school also have university degrees. I think it was really telling that, when I tried to apply for Youth Allowance, my eligibility was judged on my parents' wealth; whether or not my parents were willing to share that wealth with me. We live in a world where we're constantly badgering young people to stop freeloading, but then we're put through a system where we're judged not by what we have, but who were apparently freeloading on. It makes no goddamn sense.

I now live less than 10 minutes away from parliament, from the fat cats who make these rules. And I imagine, as a baby boomer, it's easy to think that young people today have it so good. But we don't live in the 'started from the bottom now we here' world of yesteryear. Hard work and an unfailing spirit just isn't enough. Soon, hopefully, I will be one of the most educated people at any point in history. It means a lot to me that I live in a time and place where a queer woman of colour can receive a decent education. But what will I have to show for it?

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