Call Me:

Here is your receipt, and change, and have a nice day!” I tried my best to make the last bit sound somewhat genuine, my voice becoming embarrassingly high-pitched in the process. As the older woman smiled and walked away, I childishly reassured myself that she hadn’t noticed. Here I was, on my first day of a lowly sales job, terrified of messing up, and another victim of the biggest scam of the 21st century.

Like a generation of leprechauns chasing the ever-evasive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, I, like many others was lured into the false promises of the education system. Through policies designed to prepare us for a future which those designing them didn’t have the slightest clue about, we were made to jump through hoops and over hurdles with the idea that every step somehow guaranteed success. At university I remember getting annoyed with my mother during one of her customary phone calls a month before my exams. “It’s just this one month” she would say, “If you just work hard now and get the grades then you’re set for life.” It annoyed me because I knew it wasn’t true, but more so, because I so desperately wanted to believe it was.

As a matter of fact I did get excellent grades at university, and on graduation day as people around me congratulated each other, and my mother looked on proudly, my mind was already rejecting the illusion of success that I’d been chasing all my adult life. It was a charade, I realized. Something designed to give us one last ego boost, a glamorous act of damage limitation providing us with a coat of armour, just before our dreams were ravaged by the world outside. By the time I walked out with the belief that almost two decades of work culminated in this very moment, (handing us a piece of paper which would act as a key to all the world), the mantra had already changed. Degrees were now ubiquitous, and relevant experience was what mattered. Congratulations. We were officially part of the herd.

Days turn into weeks and weeks into months as the scramble for jobs is in full flow and the increasingly frustrating catch-22 situation of work and relevant experience threatens to send one over the edge. Slowly but surely however, that strain chips away at your belief and ambition to the point that you start believing in the failure that is your life. Ever more courses and ever more certifications are suggested as you start applying to jobs that you would never have considered a year ago, and there is nothing more depressing than getting rejected by something you feel you are overqualified for. Of course many have since proceeded to mock the apparently ‘entitled’ beliefs of our generation, painting us with the generalized paintbrush of overambitious narcissists; laziness and a knack for taking things for granted. They ignore the fact that there is degree inflation, that there are students holding Masters degrees slogging away in bars, warehouses, and cleaning jobs just to make ends meet, and that full-time unpaid internships equate to modern-day slavery.

 With youth unemployment reaching new highs, we are a generation that was made to forsake our love for knowledge in the pursuit of a regimented but seemingly success-guaranteeing system, but that system has let us down. I understand my inherent naivety for believing in a distant utopia, but I resent the passion-killing society we have become where in the spirit of capitalism, every individual has essentially become little more than a commodity. This is not a rant against education, because I truly believe knowledge is powerful. I only disagree with its narrow application for short-term goals catering to industry-specific requirements. Having recently found some of my old art work which had long since been sidelined for more ‘job-worthy’ pursuits, I decided to start again if only for myself. Many of us might have lost the will to educate ourselves beyond specified coursework, but it is never too late to start. It is time we stopped defining ourselves by our work, our status, or our tax bracket and instead by what we love and are passionate about. It’s time to be happy again, with what we truly are, rather than the way society defines us.

The Nation’s Call Me column is an anonymous piece of writing, where writers can  relate deeply personal stories.

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