The Apprehensive Academic
Throughout my life so far, I have always been considered by others to have real academic potential. Ever since primary school, where I achieved full marks in my maths SATs exam at 10 years old, it has always been expected that I would go on to be a high-flier and pursue an academic career, probably in a scientific industry, with a blue-chip company and would climb the ranks. Even though I have never been forced in any direction, this underlying level of expectation has always been there. When I went to college, the questions were always ‘what uni are you going to?’ or ‘what course do you want to study?’ rather than talk of other avenues to explore, such as just getting a basic job whilst you think, travelling the world or doing anything that wouldn’t necessarily immediately head towards securing a steady future. For this reason, I’ve never felt truly free. Some would say that it’s a blessing to be born with natural ability, but natural intelligence can only get you so far.
I am currently studying one of the hard sciences at the University of Manchester, and I have my first end-of-year exam in 7 days. I feel so under-prepared that I’m finding myself to be anxious and stressed all of the time, constantly worried about the uncertainty of my future, and how I’m going to fail and it is all going to be my fault. My attendance this term has been atrocious, and I’ve not felt motivated to get out of bed, let alone do work, which just exacerbates the problem. The sense of impending doom is driving me crazy, though in contrast I am actually very aware of something: If I fail, it isn’t the end of the world.
There is a book full of ways that I would love to spend my life, but I feel as though my head is stuck in the prelude, reading it over and over to try and work out how the plot is all going to unfold. The truth, however, is that I just need to read the rest of the story. One thing that I am coming to realise, albeit a little late, is that I haven’t experienced enough of the world, or discovered enough about myself, to set myself along a path that I will be committed to follow. I have no end goal. There are things that I know that I enjoy, but I have only been exposed to a snippet of what the world has to offer, all because I am living to fulfil what I believe is expected of me. It’s a hollow seed to sow, and is proving impossible to reap its rewards.
I need to stop trying to do what I see as the done thing: what others expect of me, even if their expectations are truly just the product of my insecure imagination.