The views expressed in this article are the author’s and are not necessarily the views of the partners.
To the class of 2020,
I don’t know where to start. I don’t know if there is a start to this. Three months ago, none of us would have ever thought we’d reach a juncture where our present would come to a halt and our future would become this uncertain. Ignorance would have been truly bliss, three months ago.
Exams are uncertain, so are their modes. Some of you might be leaving the cities you had come to for college, while others might be lamenting over the cancelled plans that you and your friends had put together for the last months. Convocations aren’t happening, refunds might not get processed. There’s a “might” attached to every possible existing academic and professional thing right now. I check all these boxes too. These situations make us realise how sometimes, no logic, reasoning, solutions can solve certain problems.
Even though all of you might be facing diverse and unique academic and career problems, we all stand united in the face of the repercussions this pandemic will bring in our careers and lives.
Your courses were going to be over in a month’s time. You might have started polishing your resumes, curating those cover letters, figuring out the contacts of your choice of firms, companies and organisations, sending those emails with a prayer and a pinch of belief, and waiting with bated breath on their replies. While some of you had planned to begin the search after college ends too, now everyone is sailing in the same boat.
The economy is going into a recession; companies are laying off employees; there is a hiring freeze at least until the next few months; add to that, the cut-throat competition for a marginal number of seats. It is causing a wave of anxiety, uncertainty, raising questions on your self-esteem and the jazz, I know. I know.
You toiled hard. You had been working on your applications since September, some even July. You drafted and edited, and re-edited, “and repeated” that Statement of Purpose, burnt the midnight oil for that essay, checked up on your referees twice a day, took the effort of compiling so, so many documents, all the while already being crippled with anxiety, fear and doubts about missing the deadline or whether you’ll get through your dream college or not.
I know the waiting process was worse. You literally learnt what patience feels like when you waited on your universities’ replies for three months, and then you got in. It was a dream you had harboured for so long, the exposure you had so earnestly wished for, all of it came shattering down. I know. It took a virus to reduce more than half a year of effort to a mash of uncertainty and sadness.
And now when you are torn between taking that loan or lamenting that scholarship getting cancelled for the year, or deferring, a lot of colleges are putting deferrals on hold, with no accountability, putting this big, bold question mark next to the ‘what next’. I know. I know because I am one of you.
Had you planned to take a quick break before you decided on your immediate future after college? Or had you already got an offer letter from your dream organisation and are now worried if that job will be sustained? Were you one of those who were unsure if you want to continue in the same profession and wanted some time to figure it out?
I know it sucks. I know you might suddenly be getting major pangs of doubt whether you should take that break. I know you might be confused, clouded with uncertainty if you can even afford to take that break to figure out an alternative career path. You might be getting the urge to rush into the cycle, float yourself in the competition, apply for jobs in any and all fields of interest, just so you don’t lose out on a year. I know.
And neither do I. This capitalistic idea of productivity has caged our whims, bottled our spirits on the chances we wanted to take, and chained our aspirations on the leaps we wanted to make.
Our mental health is paying the worst price right now. My most recent breakdown was yesterday, and it took me a two-hour conversation with a friend to come out of the vacuum. But, if we don’t take the reins in our hands, it might get a little difficult? I don’t think I have the agency to distribute advice but I can share some options that I’m personally considering to breathe amidst this outburst of toxicity.
We might have to wait for a few months to get that job, but sooner or later, we all mostly will. The time we have to navigate is those few months. Learn an instrument, maybe? You know what they say about there being no better catharsis than music. Maybe, instead of doing a course that would help you ‘upskill‘ and ‘remain productive’, take up a course relating to a hobby: planting, architecture or religion? Rewatch that l(o to the power n) ng series? Have that extra slice of cake? Okay, that doesn’t really help, but I had to. Let no guilty pleasure make you feel guilty. You’re not sitting and waiting by your own choice.
I know you’ll read all of this in a lot of posts; I am no different, I’m sharing what my friends, family and I, myself, keep telling me. But what I have realised is that ‘a nudge or a push’ might make the difference. After a month of numerous mild nudges, I did start reading Bell Hooks’Feminist Theory: From Margin to Centre. It’s a come and go phase; today, you might feel like doing something productive, tomorrow you might not want to get out of the bed. Let yourself free. With so much steaming pressure on your head right now, you’re allowed to do what ‘you’ want to do. You do you, friend.
Academically, we’re all creating a teeny weeny part of history. The future might look at us with kindness and love. The thing about being a part of history is that you get to make it. You get to own and disown your choices. You get to not be bogged down by any precedent or ideal choice you would have been expected to make in ‘usual circumstances’. That’s a win.
Remember, we are all meritorious. Because we are battling not just a pandemic, but also the uncertainty looming over our immediate careers that seem to be dangling by a thread. And it takes a great deal of merit to be able to take a disaster in your stride and manage to stay afloat in the tempest. This year, let no societal and professional ‘evaluations’ chain you. Be massively, and I’m underplaying it but massively, kind to yourself.
To all who say that this is romanticisation, be kind to explain to them the difference between romanticisation and coping mechanisms. The sole point of this piece is acknowledgement. I just want to acknowledge you, your fears, your doubts, your anxiety and your breakdowns, because I’m having all of them too. After all, I’m just a student of this batch of 2020.