By Jamie Lowey
One day you’re a smug 19-year-old walking into Student accommodation and then with another cliché “blink and you’ll miss it” comment made by your friends and family, it’s graduation day! The time at University really does fly.
For me, I went into Uni with a few set ideas as to what I wanted to achieve and who I wanted to become. But things have transpired in a very different way to what I imagined. I graduated feeling less certain than when I went in - to the point where I turned to my dad and told him I genuinely felt quite lost. Of course, his advice included the standard “that’s very common for someone your age in your position”. But, beyond the usual expected advice, he also advised me to take some time away as a source of clarity and to think more about what doors I want to start metaphorically closing when it comes to my future; to think about what I definitely don’t want to do rather than what I could do.
Being in New York City a year ago really inspired me. I found that even being in the middle of one of the most fast paced, busy cities had this profound ability to make you feel like you are someone. So for me, taking some time away after graduating was always the plan. Not long but 2-3 weeks away. 2-3 weeks to escape, travel and just switch off. To remind myself of that feeling I’d experienced in New York, my original idea was to go to Boston but the plans changed and Boston was traded for Toronto and the nature trails of St. Johns as my girlfriend had an international competition there. Getting off the plane immediately felt like a fresh start… Beyond the competition we had a chance to explore and immerse ourselves in this culture. The competition being there was a real gift in disguise. Each day we ventured along a different trail through stunning scenery.
On the last day, I realised that for the first time in about 2 months I hadn’t stressed about finding a new job or thinking about how I was going to start my future career. This feeling of being lost in a new culture in the middle of nowhere was refreshing. It reminded me that at 22 years old, there’s a bit more to life than just jumping on a conveyor belt of 9-5 unhappiness, all for the sake of a number in the bank. Don’t get me wrong, I know income is important but what I truly found value in, was that a slight delay in my early twenties might just lead to better decisions later – A bespoke item that has crafted their own, happier future versus another factory-made product on this 9-5 ‘normal’ work life that breaks after 3 years and needs to be replaced. Leaving St. Johns, I was relaxed and content, ready for a change of scenery and to explore a new big city, Toronto.
The focus on exploring (and food!) remained the highlight of the 5 days we stayed in Toronto. However, unlike the small town, middle of nowhere feeling of St. Johns, this was big. But for me, the difference was in the space. In London or New York City it can feel cramped and chaotic, but in Toronto there’s so much space on the street. There’s room to breathe. The city was full of pretty little streets and vibrant markets. A particular highlight was the lobster rolls! The feeling of being in the middle of such a vibrant city always has the effect of inspiring me to be productive, make things happen and get out in the world.
Being in the heart of the financial district of the city, I saw lots of ‘highfliers’ who were running from place to place, no smile on their face and a certain air of arrogance to them. Without meaning to judge, it was almost a reminder that just having money alone, at least to me, can be pretty meaningless. This was not the person I wanted to become. On the last night in Toronto we ventured over to the Toronto Islands. We got to the viewpoint just before sunset and the view was incredible. The hour we spent there, just being, talking, laughing… reminded me that sometimes the simplest of things make you the happiest.
What I truly learned in this very diverse holiday of nature and big cities, is that if you’re ever stuck in a rut or feeling lost, stepping back and getting a little change of scenery and perspective can remind you of what’s important to you. A change of location to think about what you don’t want to be or do even.
For me this trip was a little spark that motivated me to stop pressuring myself to be immediately successful and rather, to put myself out there and start doing things I enjoy whilst making useful contacts for the future. So, I now have a part time job in London and am about to organise a second part time job at home. I’m also doing occasional weeks away working for a media company that present opportunities and skills I can utilise in later life. It might sound hectic and I’m not earning that ‘highflier’ salary at the present time, but I’m working toward my goal and the jobs are all similar and based on what I’m passionate about. They’re introducing me to an array of new experiences and contacts and providing me an opportunity to build on a career that is focused around what makes me happy, not just what is going to make me richer, but likely unhappy, in the foreseeable future.