Editor's Note: It's a limit, not a target


MUSE Editor, Jenna Luxon on avoiding post-grad plan pressure

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Image by John Husband

By Jenna Luxon

When I was learning to drive, there was a phrase my Mum would say to me over and over again; “it’s a limit, not a target.” Every time we joined a dual carriageway and I’d see that national speed limit sign, I’d instantly begin to rev the poor, tired engine of our Citroen C1 and hear those words “it’s a limit, not a target.”

It’s a piece of advice that I liberally ignored whilst learning to drive. As a learner I was always desperate to get up to the speed limit as quickly as possible, desperate not to look like a learner to all the other drivers on the road despite the L plates plastered all over my car making the fact that I was perfectly clear.

But I’ve been thinking about my Mum's words again recently. Unbeknownst to me, it seems that the autumn term of your third year at university is a time for making lots of decisions.

Every time I speak with a new group of friends, I find myself in the same conversation about master’s applications and graduate schemes, moving home or staying in York. Lots of choices, none of which I have the slightest clue how to make.

And so I panic and try to catch up with everyone else. I look into master’s programmes I don’t want to study and graduate schemes I don’t want to be on. I stress about where I’ll live, how I’ll make money, and attempt to predict which countries will be generous enough to have opened their borders to me by June.

I rev my tired third year engine and try to pretend I'm someone with a clue. Pretend I'm someone who’s as ambitious as everyone else I speak to, someone who has a plan.

And why? Because there are some imaginary people somewhere who will shake their heads and tut if I don’t leave university and instantly fall neatly into some high-flying career path?

Much like 17-year-old Jenna was convinced that all the other drivers on the roads were focused exclusively on judging her driving against the national speed limit, it seems that 21-year-old Jenna thinks that everyone’s focus is on judging her post-grad plans against some national success limit.

In the same way that drivers focusing on their own journey won’t have cared less about what the learner two cars ahead was doing, no one cares if I don’t have a postgrad plan either.

The education system instills in us this obsession with breaking our lives down into academic year chunks and ensuring that the next is always filled.

And whilst for some that structure works fine, it’s important to remember that much like driving at the speed limit, having your future meticulously planned out is the maximum you can do – it shouldn't be the expectation.

And so this week I encourage all my fellow panickers to calm down and slow down. Give yourself a break and stop getting stressed out by all the other drivers on the road.

I hope you enjoy this Edition of the Weekly Nouse and if you do one thing this week, remember to check your chests (see our Coppafeel feature)!