by Emily Heppner
It’s five o’clock in the morning, and I’m wide awake, fraught with anxiety. I have a one-way ticket to Europe, a twelve-month work visa for France, few job prospects, only a handful of overseas contacts, and when it comes down to it, no plan. My plane leaves in ten hours. Curled up under my warm, soft, Toronto duvet, I can’t help but wonder whether I am ballsy or just plain nuts. This is what people do when they graduate, isn’t it? Suddenly, my vision of me living in Paris, sipping café au lait with a beautiful Frenchman named Jean-Henri gives way to one of a blonde lost in a foreign land – all alone, penniless, and begging for bread.
Of course, it is only natural to fear the unknown, and I am certainly not the only recent graduate wild-eyed about her future. With today’s precarious economy, finding any job, whether it is in France or Toronto, seems brutally unpromising. And for those of us who are working, the realities of the “grownup” work world can be daunting. Mindless tasks, indifferent coworkers or bosses, little praise, excessive snacking, boredom, and lack of vibrancy are all common features to the nine to fiver, especially when you are just starting out. You don’t need to be taking off for Europe without an itinerary to be nervous about where you are headed in life. It is just as scary to be stuck right where you are. In fact, waking up in the middle of the night in a sweat became a habit when I was working in an office this summer. The thought of spending the rest of my days in a cubicle, and the rest of my nights at home with Mom and Dad was enough to make me run screaming to the airport.
The reality is that our comforters were pulled away from us the moment we accepted our diplomas and walked across the university stage. It was then that we were stripped of our protected status as student and all the benefits that come with it, and left alone to define ourselves (believe me, there is nothing more intimidating than an empty box on a visa application labeled “Profession”). As a recent graduate, the fear of failure is more acute than ever, and I am utterly terrified of failing abroad. Of coming home early and admitting to my friends and family that I just wasn’t able to make it happen.
But perhaps I am being too hard on myself, as most graduates are who try to have their lives all figured out before they’re even really started. Perhaps a bit of failure is precisely what we need. After all, were not Gertrude Stein, Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald all considered aimless wanderers in their time? It’s time to kick off my duvet, get dressed, and get going. I have no idea what will happen or how long I will be gone, but I welcome the challenge. Who knows, Jean-Henri may even be waiting for me when I get there.