gra-dult-hood n.

1. A stage in life between graduation and adulthood.
2. Gradulthood often involves jobs that don't fulfil a graduate's expectations.
3. A term coined during the recession.

The contradictions of Gradulthood.

The contradictions of Gradulthood, guest written by Natalie Stanton.

I’m a Gradult in every sense of the word. As I write this I am enjoying a rare day off from my two jobs. I work on average 13 days a fortnight, around 50-60 hours a week. Just to be clear, in no way am I moaning about this, and I definitely don’t expect any sympathy.

Many people in this recession-hit climate have to take a second job or juggle two jobs, and I chose to work these hours, it was my decision to have two jobs and in many ways I enjoy working. However you’ve caught me on a good day. Ask me on a day 13 of my fortnightly job cycle, serving some drunken idiot at 1am who decides to order every one of his 8 drinks separately, spends the best part of 5 minutes trying to count out his money onto the bar, and then refrains from saying please and thank you. This is all after a 9-5 day in the office…You see my problem is that my life as a Gradult is wrought with contradictions.

On a good day, I’m 22 years old and I graduated from the University of Leeds in 2009 with a 2:1 in History. I really enjoyed my degree in which I specialised in African American history. Whilst at university I worked part time during term time and full time during my vacation in two great bars. I loved every minute of my time at university, I met lots of great people from all different backgrounds, made some amazing friends and it helped me on my way to becoming an independent person – cliché? I do not regret a minute of my time there and if I could do it all again I wouldn’t change a thing.

Upon graduation the only thing I had fully decided on was that I didn’t want to move back home and live with my parents. I have been resolute in this decision. As soon as I graduated I changed my part time jobs into full time hours to fund this decision. I knew that if I moved home for even just a few weeks I could easily still be living there now. I had to work hard and budget like never before to make my pathetic £5.15 p/hr minimum wage stretch. As a consequence I became independent. It was only then that I really understood the value of money.

After deciding minimum wage wasn’t going to cut it if I wanted to do more than breath on my days off, I got a job working at Leeds Metropolitan University as an administrator in a teaching clinic, and I became a Team Leader in one of the bars that I worked in. In no way did I ever envisage this was what I would be doing a year after graduation. Nevertheless I like the contrast of my two jobs and I love the social side of working in a bar and the people I work with. I spend most of spare time socialising with friends, eating out, going to gigs, and enjoying many impromptu nights out. So what if I’m £22,000 in debt, still haven’t paid off my overdraft and I’ve maxed out my credit card…

In many ways I’m having just as much fun as I did when I was at university, except I have to be even more efficient with my time and unfortunately I can’t choose whether I go into work with a hangover like I did with the library. I am always busy and that’s the way I like it. All in all, I’m happy. I can justify my life as a Gradult and I’m in no rush to leave this lifestyle behind.

However, catch me on a bad day, when I’m suffering one of my identity crisis’s (usually about once every two months) and…

I’m 22 years old I graduated from the University of Leeds in 2009 with a pretty standard 2:1 degree in History. Studying history was not a vocational choice for me, I do not want to be a historian, I do not want to be a history teacher and I certainly do not want to be a librarian. The reason I studied History was simply because I enjoyed it and the fact that I had little in the way of a career planned out for after my graduation didn’t matter because I figured after three years of university, I’d know what I wanted to do, right? Wrong. The truth is, when I graduated I was in the same position as I was when I started my degree, I had no idea what I wanted to do as a career and I still don’t. Had I realised that the country was going to be in economic turmoil by the time I put on my graduation gown I might have thought that little bit harder about my choice of degree. I mean perhaps I should have listened to the taxi drivers when they asked me what I was going to study and upon hearing me mutter history, they each replied ‘Oh so are you going to be a History teacher then?’. Back then when I was fresh faced, eager and believed a degree was all you needed to get that now elusive dream job I would have replied with venom that a history degree was a well respected degree. It taught you important skills that future employers look for in any graduate; such as research techniques, analytical aptitude, high levels of reading and writing, the ability to collate and present information in a succinct and understandable manner and the self discipline and motivation needed for independent learning (taken directly from any Historians CV). Hit me with that question now I’d probably just nod and agree that a PGCE was probably the best option.

As for my ‘career’, when someone asks me what I do for living, or, if it’s an old friend, the casual, much more subtle but nevertheless loaded question, ‘so what are you doing with yourself these days’ (the ever dreaded question for any Gradult like me who still lacks true direction and vocation) I usually reply ‘oh I just work in a bar and at Leeds Met as a receptionist.’ I sell myself short before they even get chance to because if I get there first then it will lessen the pain and ease the fear of them silently judging me behind their pitiful smiles and nods. You see I always thought once I got my degree that I would never end up working in a bar. I even remember when I got my first bar job to help fund myself through university and I looked at the people who had degrees and were working there full time, and I hate to say it, but I judged them. Forgive me for this, I was eighteen and naive. Little did I know that I would be in the exact same position three years down the line - who was I to judge? And for that matter who is anyone to judge me.

The truth is I’m not ready to do a full time office job. I’m not ready to be living for the weekend and I’m not ready to become an adult. If someone offered me a better salary, working 9-5 in an office in a role that I had no passion for and I didn’t love, it would bore me to tears and I’d keep my two jobs. And herein lies another contradiction, why then do I feel embarrassed to pursue my career in the bar, I enjoy it, I can progress, I am progressing and I’m picking up management, business and people skills that can actually be transferable to many different careers. So I should carry on working in the bar right? Or I am just convincing myself that it’s a good idea because I’m scared that I don’t have any other ideas in the pipeline? Am I clinging on to my university lifestyle? Or am I lucky and I have unintentionally fallen into a career that I actually like but would never have chosen. Who knows? I certainly don’t and of course it will depend what day you ask me to which answer you will get because contradicting myself seems to be a big part of my life as a Gradult.

What I do know is that it seems every Gradult around me has had these bad days. Even the ones who appear to have landed dream jobs question whether it’s right for them. For the moment I’m happy regardless of the fact that I’m not doing a dream job and when I am unhappy I will do something about it. You should live for the moment, take opportunities when they are presented to you but don’t kick yourself if you aren’t doing what you thought you would be doing, or you haven’t even decided what it is you want to do with your life. There will be many people in the same situation as you and just as many pretending they love their job when really the thought of going to work every morning makes them want to claw their eyes out with a fungal infected toenail. But then again, ask me in a weeks time when I’m dealing with snooty office Christmas parties and people who want their tap water a little bit warmer...

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