Feel the existential fear and don’t do it anyway: Surviving third year

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Deputy Editor

The curse of being a philosophy student is that your studies bring you into contact with realities of life many are able to avoid through their degrees. After studying Jean-Paul Sartre for three years I feel somewhat comfortable on writing essays on his concepts of anxiety, bad faith and authenticity. I feel much less at ease addressing the implications of these ideas in my day-to-day life. Yes, I suppose I’ve always had radical freedom, but the reality of having to confront this feels dangerously imminent.

We’ve reached the top of the pecking order and for many of us we hold more responsibilities than we ever have before

The final year so far has been overwhelming. We’ve reached the top of the pecking order and for many of us we hold more responsibilities than we ever have before- be that in an exec committee, JCR or part-time job. Alongside this, it’s the most important year of our degree. The heavy requirements of four modules must be juggled alongside the easily-neglected dissertation. Not to mention friends, formals and Friday night Klutes- the important downtime which makes everything else tolerable.

Every extra-curricular opportunity is imbued with the weight of lasts.

Every extra-curricular opportunity is imbued with the weight of lasts. We’ve spent two years getting comfortable in this city, college, friendship group. We’ve taken it for granted and this is our last chance to enjoy it. We can’t give everything 100%, but that’s what it all seems to demand. Third year is one of balancing, compromise and acceptance that you can’t do it all.

The cherry on top of all this; one I’ve wilfully neglected, is the question of what next? This is where the existential crisis really kicks in- what was this all for? Many already know- they’ve applied to their grad schemes or sorted their placements, applied to masters courses or booked their gap year flights. For me, next year is a blank, empty space. Life in education has felt largely predetermined- university was the obvious next step. But after this, real, serious decisions can’t be avoided any more. There is no comfortable, easy next move.

We’re told to have a five year plan, to constantly work towards it, but we’re also told to live in the present.

We’re told to have a five year plan, to constantly work towards it, but we’re also told to live in the present. Maybe the reason I don’t have a plan is because I simply can’t find time to balance everything on my plate right now and confront myself with the terrifying task of figuring out what I want to do with my life, but I’m ok with that. Sure, every essay question poses an excellent distraction from the bigger questions I neglect to answer, but focussing too much energy on who I want to be runs the risk of denying the fact that I am right now.

Of course, I’ll inevitably regret leaving these plans to the last minute. It sounds like a satisfying form of procrastination, filling my empty summer and the months that lie beyond it, but it’s probably important for me, someone who’s always known what lies ahead, to feel the existential dread and not do it anyway. The future will always be clouded with uncertainty, no matter how much we try to plan our every step, but the one thing we know is that we’re here right now, so we may as well enjoy it. At least, as much as our dissertations allow.

One thought on “Feel the existential fear and don’t do it anyway: Surviving third year

  • A five year plan (or any plan, if we’re being honest) is much overrated, and is generally the preserve of the anally retentive, or those with eyes on empire building.There’s too much of the non-deterministic around in the world to think that you can navigate it all.

    Some of us never got round to a plan, and feel much the better for it, having taken the words of John Lennon to heart

    “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans”

    Reply

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