The initial euphoria of being accepted into graduate school hasn’t quite worn off, but my brief resistance to the wear and tear and general shittiness of every day life has eroded. Reality has come crashing back down in the form of some proverbial overweight bird taking a watery dump all over my head.
It’s just that, well, there’s a large gap between accepting the spot and getting there. When I applied to study abroad my junior year (a process that began in earnest the year before), I experienced much of the same anxiety, but few of the headaches that confront me now. First, I was already a student. My tuition was paid to UNC, not Sussex, and it was covered by financial aid. I even received additional grant money from merit-based scholarships, and my dad took care of my housing. No visa was required (my stay was just under 6 months), no loans had to be taken out – really, the work was all in getting an expedited passport as mine had expired and then packing. Once I got to England, my aunt and uncle picked me up, let me stay with them for a couple of days, already had a PAYG phone set up for me, and drove me to Sussex when the residence halls opened. The transition, for all intents and purposes, was pretty seamless.
What an idyllic period that was, the happiest of my life, and how I’ve longed to recreate it. But I’m not the same person I was three years ago, and my circumstances are entirely different. It scares me how much I have at stake here, how much more I have to lose not only financially, but (more importantly) mentally and emotionally if this doesn’t go through.
Going to graduate school is not a decision easily made, nor has it been one that I’ve taken lightly. As unhappy as I am with my job, I enjoy the independence of living on my own. I like making a steady income, and while no one likes to pay bills (if you do, well, there’s something wrong with you), I enjoy that I can pay my bills, that I’m maturing, that I’m embracing this so-called “adulthood”. But I make an average salary in an expensive city, and though I’ve been lucky to find a cheaper-than-usual place to live, there’s always something eating up my meager savings. Despite my dad wanting me to wait and save enough money to pay for graduate school, I don’t think that was ever going to happen for me. I did finally make him understand that going in the UK was the wiser decision because it’s ultimately much cheaper. (Not that my dad is paying for it, but I respect my dad enough to want his opinion and approval on something of this nature.) And yet even knowing that I’m doing something in my life that is carrying me forward, that is going to make me happy, doesn’t erase the fact that taking out thousands of dollars worth of loans is a huge step — with little likelihood that Social Anthropology is going to get me the type of job that will make them easier to pay off.
When it comes down to it, I know I’m making the right choice. I do not rush into things. I did a lot of research, a lot of wine-induced “soul-searching”, before even starting my applications. My life has spiralled out of control in a lot of ways the past year and a half, and I’m doing what I can to take it back. I’m trying to make myself healthier, happier, and saner, and nothing short of a huge life change can help me reach these goals. If it’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that money doesn’t buy happiness. It’s an old cliche, but I hope not everyone has to learn the way I have how true it is.
I’ve applied for my loans, which will hopefully be processed sometime in the near future, so that I can begin the next step, which is securing a visa. Once these two things are set in stone, I will be able to inform my employer, and I know that I will feel more secure in the decision I’ve made. There’s too much that could go wrong now. I hate to even say that, because if this falls through, I will be devastated. But I don’t think it will, so I find myself thinking ahead, with the smaller details. Housing, phone plans, flights. What will I do with my furniture? How will my roommates, who know but probably haven’t given it much thought, feel when I actually move out and they have to go about the process of replacing me? How will I make it?
I’m definitely excited and optimistic. Things are slowly improving for me, and I feel like I’m on the right course, finally. I just have to deal with the day-to-day frustrations (five more months of it), but it will be worth it in the end, if this all goes through. Keeping my fingers crossed.