Today I finally did it. I opened up Gmail and started writing that dreaded email to my professor, telling her that I’ve decided to drop out. I had to make several pauses and look at the words I was typing down. I’ve managed to take the wrong path in life – again. How did this happen? Just a few months ago I was overly excited about this programme. I sat in front of this very same professor during the admission interview and went on and on about how I really wanted to become an archivist. I was leaving the room so excited that she had to pull me back down to Earth and remind me that not everyone will be accepted, no matter how much they want it. But I had no doubt I would be accepted. I aced the interview, like I almost always do. A few weeks later I got accepted and I was so incredibly proud of myself. I told everyone about it. Finally I had found my thing and I was gonna become something! An archivist! “What’s that?” people asked. “Well I’m gonna sit in an office or an archive and sort documents, kind of…”. It sounds so strange to me now. Archiving? What the hell was I thinking?
I was thinking that what I need is a somewhat easy job that pays me enough to not have to worry about money, and where I wouldn’t have to rely on my creativity too much. I would lie if I told you that the decision to drop out was easy, despite the fact that underneath I knew all along. Just scrolling down this blog and reading about how I came up with the idea of applying to this University programme makes it pretty obvious that I had doubts long before I even applied, but I chose to ignore them. The first few weeks of school I had panic attacks on my way there, every single day, but I chose to supress them. I told myself that it was because I had just stopped taking my medication, that it was a lot of new things to take in and a new environment. But as the weeks went by I realised that it’s not about that. I like the atmosphere at school. I like my professors. I like my classmates. I loved the conversations we had outside of the classroom about stress, purpose and life in general, but I had no interest in the subjects taught in class, except for the political and philosophical aspects of it.
“[…] one day you wake up and realise that you are angry and sad and frustrated over a job you didn’t even want in the first place.”
An archive is a cultural institution alongside museums and libraries that have been the same for a very long time. The idea that I could make a change and develop this cultural institution into something more interesting and sustainable is what kept me going. But after some time I realised that the idea that I alone could be a breath of fresh air in this institution and somehow manage to change things up is extremely far-fetched. Especially since it’s an administrative job where every decision goes through someone higher up the ladder that most of the time has no real understanding of the work you’re doing, which leads to frustration and ultimately resentment. Then one day you wake up and realise that you are angry and sad and frustrated over a job you didn’t even want in the first place. And it’s not that I don’t think I could do it, it’s the realisation that I don’t want to.
I feel extremely priviledged and self-centered when I tell people about my decision. Like I think I’m better than everyone else for wanting to pursuit something bigger. Well I’m here to tell you that I’m not. I do think that I’m capable of more than sorting and handling documents, but in no way do I think I’m better than my classmates or people who do other kinds of honest work. We’re all good at different things, and we’re all interested in different things. But the bottom line is that if we want to help people, which I believe should be the core of every profession, we need to pick a profession we are excited about. I am certain that my classmates will become great at what they do because they enjoy the history, the books and the aspect of helping people find the information they need.
“Nobody remembers the teachers that were, at most, okay at teaching.”
Not everyone can love their job, but I never want to become so unhappy with what I do that it affects other people negatively. For example I’ve had teachers in the past that so clearly weren’t happy with their job that it affected the students, making us less motivated. Sure, you can pick a profession you’re not particularly passionated about and be mediocre at it, but how is that helping anyone? Nobody remembers the teachers that were, at most, okay at teaching. We remember the good ones, the ones that inspired us to become better, the ones who saw our needs and had them met. We notice the bus drivers who greets every single passenger with a smile and a hello. We remember the doctors who make us feel taken care of. We smile at the enthusiastic tour guide, the barista who made a smiley face in your coffee and the shop owner who was so passionate about what they were selling that it rubbed off on you.
I haven’t quite figured out what it is I’m passionate about yet, but now I know it’s not archiving. At least that’s something.