Words by: Emilio Lanera Art by: Lauren Easter
For the last four years, university has been the main source of structure in my life. I did have other things going on in my life like work, social life, internships, and other extracurricular activities, but for the most part they all had to work around my university classes and assignments. While it was nice to have someone else organise your life for you, by the time I graduated I was ready to leave the familiar structure university offered and embark on a new journey where I had more control in deciding what I do and when I would do it. However, something I would learn very early after leaving university is that no matter how well you plan things, life still tends to get in the way.
The first thing I decided to do after graduating was to take a few months off to travel. I had always planned to travel when I had finished university, although I would ideally be somewhere a little further north of the equator. But even in these unprecedented times, I thought (maybe stupidly) that travel was still a possibility in a place like Australia where COVID-19 cases were low; that we were allowed to jump over the pond to New Zealand if we wanted. Plus, I didn’t want to jump from the rigid lifestyle of university to the rigid lifestyle of full-time work just yet.
So, making my first decision post-graduation, I decided to quit my job, move out of my sharehouse, and book my first trip to the Whitsundays all within a week. Just to clarify, when I decided all this, Victoria had just exited lockdown number four and there was no COVID-19 outbreak in NSW, so I thought I was in the clear. Fast-forward a few weeks, NSW is now regularly reporting over 100 cases a day and Melbourne is only just starting to exit our fifth lockdown. This meant I had to cancel my Whitsundays trip as well put all my other travel plans on hold.
Was it ‘optimistic’ of me to think that the politicians in this country might figure out a way to execute a proper vaccine rollout and find ways to contain this virus without going into a lockdown? Probably, but I digress.
Having to cancel my exchange to Denmark last year, I am no stranger to having to abandon travel plans but it didn’t make it any less devastating. Instead of being somewhere with warm weather, beautiful beaches and I assume, really hot surfer guys, I was stuck in a bedroom at my nonna’s place that had a lot of religious paraphernalia and photos of Italian relatives that I have never met. Without university or even a part-time job to help provide some structure and guidance on what to do I was left to my own devices.
For the first few days of lockdown I was lying on the floor in my nonna’s bedroom/mini chapel feeling unmotivated and sorry for myself. But eventually the pity party came to an end and I started to realise that my decisions to quit my job, move in with my nonna, and try to travel around Australia and New Zealand weren’t actually that terrible. I hate to be the person who is like, “look on the bright side” when the world is ending, but there were a few positive things to come out of my arguably misguided choices. I got to leave the job I hated, I’m getting to spend more time with my nonna who recently had a heart attack and needs more help around the house. I also get a chance to actively try and pursue a career in freelance writing, something I have always put off due to work and university. Even though this is not what I envisioned my life would be like straight after graduating, given the current circumstances, I was still able to decide for myself what I wanted to do with my life, which I guess is the main thing I wanted to do after I graduated all along.
An important thing to learn when you leave the safe confinement of university is that while you gain more control over how you live your life, you can’t control everything. This fifth lockdown ruining my travel plans will probably be the first of many times where I will make a plan and life will get in the way to absolutely derail it. Being stuck at home was not how I envisioned the beginning of this new chapter of my life, but if I am going to survive life outside of university, I am going to have to learn how to constantly adjust.