Monday, January 28, 2013

Lamentations of a Student

There comes a point in the life of every student, when a choice had to be made... 

Do I continue to pursue my passion and carry on studying, or do I just get a 'real job' and enter the world of work?

The decision is influenced by many different factors.  For most people (I speak from my circle of friends), the decision to pursue a Masters degree comes down to two factors:- Passion or a high rate of graduate unemployment.  They want to carry on studying so that they look more attractive to employers.  All common sense no doubt.  My decision to pursue a Master's degree was definitely passion, I wanted to carry on studying, I wanted to move to Finland and do this degree, I wanted it more than anything.  I've known for the last year, that starting a PhD after my Master's degree is not even a question anymore, it's a must!

After so long of scrimping, and saving, and budgeting, and denying myself nice things so that I can pursue my dream.  I had reached a point where I have everything that I need, and few things that I want. I even decided to splurge a little this weekend, and bought some pictures and some new furniture from Ikea.  Just to make my little flat (well, Solu in Finnish), feel more like home.  I bought some new speakers, a hoover and a little mini-fridge - so that I can finally keep milk and butter in my flat.   I'd even decided to buy some new clippers so I can cut my hair at home still, as my last pair are pretty much dead. 

I'd fought the battle with the British banks, won back my charges, paid some of my credit card off.  Decided to open a bank account with S-Pankki, sure it's a 100 Euro investment, but after three months of food shopping, I'd start earning money back from my shopping.  

I'd even bought myself some new Manperfume, anti-aging creme (I am that vain) and a nice bottle of wine and a tub of decent ice cream! At the start of the month, I went to IdeaPark and bought new clothes.  Not much, but just a new coat, a pair of trousers that fit and a couple of t-shirts.  My wardrobe is such a mishmash of clothes, hand-me-down, and flea-market bargains that it was nice to buy something that fits.  I don't like looking disheveled. 

I had come to terms with the fact that I'd overspent, I had even decided that it was worth it and it wasn't the end of the world as I have a job that pays the rent every month (although it might only last for a couple more months, but it's a job!).  I knew that I'd have to go back on a strict budget for the next three months, but that was ok! I could buy cheaper food, cook it up, and store it in my fridge!! I could buy bread, now that I have somewhere to store the butter and live off sandwiches!! I can buy cheaper coffee! Pop to my Aunt's place for dinner.  I didn't really mind, because my house is my home, and I have everything I need.   I'd signed up for more Finnish lessons, which set me back nearly 80 euros.  Everything seemed to be going really well.  Sure, I had been a little bit fiscally irresponsible, but it was all in the pursuit of something more.  Be it vanity, turning my solu into a home, my future, and just making my life in Tampere that little bit easier.

I've started to build up my networks in Tampere, I've been working on my LinkedIn Profile, getting recommendations from people that I had been working with to improve their conversational skills.  I had decided that come April I would start pitching the idea to more companies, working with them a few hours a week to improve the level of spoken and written English of their staff.  That would continue to pay the rent over the summer, Hell, I might even find a full time job over the summer, or another paid internship.  Anything was possible, once I'd made it through to April.    

Nothing was going to deter me from my PhD path, I'd got a great letter of recommendation from one of my Professors.  My thesis is going really well, this is what I want more than anything else. I've even put myself under a lot of pressure and stress to get the thesis completed sooner than it should be, so I can make the April deadline for Helsinki, I just couldn't wait until the October Deadline.  

Yet this morning...

I completely lost all motivation.  I decided enough was enough, I needed a full-time job, I needed money.  I couldn't take it anymore.  I had gone back to being broke after a short time of just being poor.   

All over a pair of boxer shorts.  It's funny what makes you snap. I bought a few new pairs a couple of months ago.  I put the first ones on, realised there was a big gaping hole in them.  So I threw them away.  I put on a second pair. Another hole.  Threw them away, Tried a third, guess what? Another hole...  I accidentally knocked my glasses off the table, luckily they survived, unlike the pair I had in October when I dropped a hammer on them.  I was really getting agitated now.  I still don't have insurance, I couldn't afford to replace a pair of glasses at the moment.  No matter though, as the fourth pair of boxers, were ok! I then went through 5 pairs of socks with holes in them. 

I'd completely lost it by this point.  These are simple, everyday items that I should be able to afford.  What 26 year old can't afford to buy new boxer shorts and socks!?  I started job searching in a frenzy.  Helsinki, Turku, Tampere, Stockholm, Germany, France... It didn't seem to matter where.  I'd had enough, 5 years of studying, and another 3-4 years ahead of me... What did it matter?  I felt poor, cheap and worthless.  Relying on friends for hand-me-downs and trying to make the best with what I was given. I was / am fed up!

But, I had managed to pull myself out of this hole of despair, anger and frustration.  8-9 years of studying: of struggling, of being poor, of living on what you can beg, borrow and find from other people, trying to find a job to balance with studying, waiting for birthdays and christmas with baited breath in the hope of a cheque so you can treat yourself to something... Those highs of feeling like everything is finally, and then life pulls the rug out from under you, in the form of underwear nonetheless! Just knocks you for six every now and again.

It was all worth it.
Sure, it's not easy.  There's the possibility that when I get to the end: Masters Thesis, PhD Applications, PhD Funding, PhD writing, PhD defence, finding a job ... I might not actually like teaching!  But there are a few certainties, I love studying, I love my research.  I am so happy when I've got deadlines, pressure and a mass of articles to read, and papers to write.  How many people can truly say they enjoy what they do? Suddenly, being poor doesn't seem so bad.  I have a great circle of friends who are fantastically supportive, and willing to give me their old sofa's, plates, cups, desks and pans! I'm sure this won't be the last crisis of studying, the last feelings of doubt. But at least I know I'm on the right track.  

I can't think of a place I'd rather be.

1 comment:

  1. So glad you wrote this one up! I read through it and could relate to everything. A feeling of solidarity will do wonders for your resolve. It's comforting to know that I am not the only poor student out there that doesn't know when or where they will run into their next new pair of un-holy undies :)

    Love from Louisiana.