I attended two semesters of university before calling it a day and starting a ‘proper’ job – one with an office and a monthly salary. Not only did I save myself an estimated £8,000,000 in debt, I started my career about three years before everyone else my age. This has obvious benefits, such as:
But, now I’m nearing the other side of my twenties, I’m starting to wonder if I have made A Huge Mistake.
Because uni isn’t about the degree, is it? Not entirely anyway. It’s about being thrown into a tight space with literally hundreds of new people your own age, equally as clueless and excited about life as you. It’s about trying ungodly booze combinations, exploring new ideologies (“Humanist Society? Where do I sign up!”), getting the stupid out of your system and maybe, just maybe, figuring out what the hell you want from life.
My 18 year-old self couldn’t have imagined anything more terrifying*.
Still, it hasn’t been all spreadsheets and desk drudgery for the past five years. I really love what I do for a living. I’ve met interesting people, made dozens of mistakes and become a more capable person. I can totally cook a roast dinner from scratch! And one thing is true: I’m a helluva lot more confident/brave/sure about myself now compared to when I stepped off the train at King’s Cross five years ago.
But I can’t help thinking there’s loads I’ve missed by ditching uni – formative experiences like sleeping in questionable foreign hostels, working in a sticky-floored bar or making life-long bonds forged by living in a damp-infested house with seven others. As I get older, the likelihood of living in a random European city for the summer diminishes. I got bills to pay.
I’m so grateful for all the experiences that my career has enabled me to have. I am very lucky. But the feeling that I’ve missed out on something essential and wonderful and awful persists.
*I’m an out-and-proud introvert. And when I first started uni, I took my interaction avoidance skills to the next-level. I was persistently stubborn in my resistance to making friends and generally an all-round poo bum. But that’s a story for another post.