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I set out to write a completely different article – something about Australian politics? University elections? And yet there has been something nagging me for quite a while now that seems to have resurfaced these past couple of days, this time packing more heat and bigger boxing gloves.
I think I’m having an existential crisis.
I am a twenty-four year old. I’m currently in my fourth year of university studying government and international relations. Recently, I have performed as a feature poet at several poetry events around Brisbane. I’ve just broken into the theatre scene, and right now should probably be practicing for my second show next month. My novel has been accepted for publication. I have a job interview tomorrow. Yet all of these things worry me. Quite a lot.
When I was in primary school, I decided I was going to be a pilot when I grew up. At thirteen, I was diagnosed with epilepsy, which not only made me miss the grade eight school camp, but also made me rethink my goals at quite a young age. I had always wanted to be a pilot. I adored films about planes, and even got excited watching Air Crash Investigations, as I was able to learn how a plane actually worked. I loved the military. My friends at school were all determined to get into the army, or air force, and it seemed the most natural thing in the world for me to, as well. Then I learned I couldn’t drive a car. And I couldn’t fly a plane. And I could never work in any field in the Australian Military because my neurological disorder made me a liability.
I decided to apply for university for an arts degree, since I had no idea what I was doing with myself. I knew I loved literature and poetry – yet I didn’t know what that meant at the time. I wasn’t accepted. When I was eighteen, I left home and became involved in an abusive relationship. I felt lost because I didn’t know what my life’s purpose was. So became a recluse; I rarely left the house, didn’t see my family, and became permanently stoned. My only happiness came from the Anne Rice books my boyfriend would buy me from the second hand bookshop down the road. I volunteered for the Red Cross, and I got a job in a bookshop, however I was fired for being late too many times. I was ‘unreliable.’
I had always loved to write, yet I aspired to be more than just an author. There was so much more I had to do. When I left my boyfriend and moved back in with my parents, I re-applied for university, this time for a fashion degree. My grandfather had worked in fashion, and my father and I excitedly stayed up late talking about what a fabulous life I would lead as a designer. I wasn’t accepted into the program. It was at this point that I started to crack. I couldn’t drive, so many employers didn’t bother to interview me. I went to Sydney and interned with my aunt in her travel agency. I hated getting up before the sun, yet I felt so empowered in my clickity heels and my collared shirts. Sure, I couldn’t make coffee, which didn’t win me any brownie points, however I enjoyed doing something different with myself.
When I went home, I decided I hated travel agencies. At twenty-one, I was accepted into a business degree at university. While I loved my politics class, I chose to major in human resources, as I hoped I could get an administration job in the air force. Then I fell pregnant. Due to complications with my epilepsy medication, my body had rejected the contraceptive pill, and I gave birth to a beautiful daughter in December 2012. I had stayed at university while pregnant, and passed three of my four classes. After she was born, I took a semester off and then returned, determined to finish my degree and finally make a life for myself. Then I failed my economics class, and my statistics class, and my accounting class, and eventually when it came time to graduate, I was not one of the lucky many to begin their life. I volunteered at a jazz club, and did a summer internship in human resources at a company I had no desire to work in when I graduated. Suddenly, I realised that politics was my true passion. After three years of study in human resources, I transferred into a bachelor of international relations and public policy.
Suddenly university was exciting. I realised political science was the degree I should have done all those years ago. I found myself evolving as a person. I became a pescatarian (thanks Morrissey!), I had several short stories published in an anthology, and a magazine. I became enveloped by the Brisbane poetry scene, and have been a feature poet at several events. I was accepted for a theatre performance, and it went so well I was invited to perform again. I finally wrote the novel I’ve been trying to write since I was fifteen – and it’s getting published. My daughter is almost three, and I’ve been teaching her Japanese. It’s amazing.
Yet I still don’t know who I am. My partner and I decided to separate. I fear I am too adventurous. And it’s true – I want to work overseas, I want to travel by myself around Australia, I want to be the best version of myself I can possibly be for my daughter, yet I don’t know what that is, or how to get there. I can’t drive a car, I can’t fly a plane, I’m still at university, and I have no idea what to do with my degree when I finish. Maybe I’ll be a political journalist? Maybe I’ll run a bookstore? Maybe I’ll just become a theatre junkie and continue to do performances until I’m old and decrepit with ten thousand cats?
I’m worried that I’m getting too old. The theme of my poetry set was ‘Eternal Youth’, and at 24, I was the oldest feature poet there. I know how utterly ridiculous that sounds, yet it sent my head spinning. What am I actually doing with myself? Why can’t I sustain relationships? Why do I feel so awkward taking my daughter to birthday parties when all the mothers gossip about their fantastic jobs and husbands and houses?
I know why. I’m a human being and I am not satisfied with complacency. I had a job interview today for a position I only applied for because I still don’t have my dream career. I question the very foundation of my life, what it means to exist, and I’m always doing as many things as I possibly can without cracking. I think perhaps I could be a political journalist, but maybe that I’m too old now to appear ‘fresh’ and ‘exciting.’ I think perhaps I could be policy writer, maybe a political researcher, or – and this is crazy – a politician! Frankly, I’d like to retain my soul, but the options suddenly seem endless, and I’m terrified. Never have I been as unsure as to who or what I want to be until now.
But I know that 24 is a perfect age to have an existential crisis. It gives me many things to write about, and that’s ok. It just means I’ll have lots of exiting stories to tell my daughter when we both grow up.