Hello, I’m Nathan and I’m one of the newest members of the Uncovered Artistry team. I will be posting things I write and things I create to this blog for our Love. Heal. Create. campaign! So you will be hearing a lot from me! First off, I’m 21 years old, Glaswegian, and as you can see above I enjoy staring profoundly off into the horizon on quintessentially beautiful Scottish hills like a modern-day Burns… Well, at least that’s what I like to pretend I am in my own head.
In order to introduce myself I thought it would be best to submerge you in 100% of the unadulterated existential nonsense that’s going on in my brain right now. I’ve been thinking about what to post for a while, and I landed on the topic of “growing up”. I’ve been doing a little bit of that lately, or perhaps more than a little, and I’ve found it to be just as terrifying as I always feared, but I’ve also come to a lot of conclusions concerning the strange phenomena of ageing which I would like to share with you. In the spirit of healing through creativity, I thought the best way to get started writing for UA would be to share something that’s been causing me a bit of pain recently, and see where that takes us. You see, my problem is that…
I have no idea what I am going to do with the rest of my life.
Like many of the best people I know I am currently undergoing the inevitable existential crisis which accompanies the delightful experience of having studied four years at university and suddenly finding that there is a very real and terrifying world waiting for me outside the bubble of academia. For me that world involves an undignified 6am rise followed by a rushed breakfast of toast and whatever we have in the fridge before I rush to work, and a perpetual sense of “Where the hell is this going?”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a very lucky person, I love my life, but I’m also at a strange crossroads where the comfortable world of uni has fallen by the wayside and its really just all down to me to keep on doing the things I love.
When people know you’re moving on from something – whether its school, college, uni, a job, or a person – they have this irritating tendency to send an inevitable “What are you going to do now?” out of their mouth and into your brain. If you’re at all like me, this is the worst question a person can ask you. I’d much prefer it if someone asked to whop me over the head with a bag of satsumas than ask me what I’m going to do with the rest of my life. It’s an unfair question which no one can reasonably answer when they’re in that early twenties haze of trying to work out how to pay council tax at the same time as worrying whether the Dominos man judges them for ordering garlic doughballs along with that large meat feast pizza. This isn’t helped by the fact that the thing I want to do keeps changing. Me? Oh, well, last Monday all I wanted was to live in an attic and paint cubist portraits of sad looking polar bears, but this morning I decided I want to travel the world in a hot air balloon offering free hugs to terrorist leaders in the hopes that they will give peace a chance. Neither of these are actually a dreams I have, but you get the idea.
“What are you going to do now?”
I’m writing this blog because I think that dreaded question, “What are you going to do now?”, might easily be re-worded to “How are you going to grow up?” or “How are you going to get your three-kids-and-a-mortgage job?” without losing its meaning. Every time someone has asked me that question what I really heard them saying was “Grow up, Nathan.” I suppose this is some kind of response to that. I don’t want to grow up, and I don’t think anyone should. That said, I now understand why people do grow up, why they stop trying to be the person they wanted to be when they were sixteen and the world was still young, why they mumble and grumble about the people around them who dare to be that person, and why amazing people get scared into doing things they don’t want to do. I understand because I’ve recently been in danger of losing my inner child. If I sound like a raving idealistic hippy its because I am one. I’ve always cherished the part of me that still believed that I could do anything if I really wanted to, I’ve even defined myself by it, but recently I’ve had a little too many “What are you going to do now”s and not enough self-belief to answer each and every one with a smile.
As I write this I have a cat in my lap and a litany of junk on my desk, hanging above me is a plaque my mum bought for me when I started university; it has a picture of Oscar Wilde on it with the quote “We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars” underneath. I have always had it on the wall above my desk, it has been a fixture on the wall of every flat or house I’ve lived in over the past four years, and I’ve always felt slightly intimidated by the way Oscar seems to glare at me in anticipation of something brilliant. I don’t feel very well equipped to be doing brilliant things right now, and I fear I’ve disappointed him. I used to look at it and think, yes, that’s what I’m doing, I’m looking at the stars, I don’t know how I’m going to get to them or how long it will take, but its enough to be looking and wanting. Now, I’m confronted by the grim prospect of the stars jumping out of sight and leaving me staring at a vacant sky – and that scares the living hell out of me.
“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars”
The thing about university is that it can teach you how to learn, but it can’t teach you how to live. At the tender age of seventeen I really thought I had the rest of my life worked out. I would go to uni, I would study hard and get a good degree, I would become a writer, or a musician, or a journalist, or work for a publishing company, or be a teacher, a lecturer even – ok, so maybe I didn’t have it completely worked out, but I had it down to around seven options and I genuinely thought by the time my four years were up I would know which one I was going to be. It never crossed my mind that I would struggle to get a part time job, that I would be rejected from more internships than I care to admit, that my articles and stories wouldn’t get published, that I would barely be able to find the time to talk myself down from a nervous breakdown never mind write a novel. I was going to be a student and I was willing to let learning make and destroy me in equal measure. I was pretentious, I was cliche, I was boring, but I was also beautiful, inspired, and willing. That was something I thought I would never lose, but then university ended, maybe for good.
Suddenly I had no hope, no ambition, no drive, I didn’t even want to get out of bed. It sounds dramatic, it sounds ridiculous, and it undeniably is, but I hadn’t thought about what came next. It wasn’t right to be feeling that way and I had absolutely no right to be low. I moped around one day and I churned out CVs in an existential frenzy the next. I needed a job. With a job I would have money and with money I would be secure; I would buy the bubble back and live inside it for a while, and everything would stay the way it was. I wouldn’t need to change, I wouldn’t need to adapt, I would continue on living as if I still had a clear path to where I was going. I couldn’t see that there was no path anymore. There were no rails for me to live on and nothing to push me towards tomorrow except myself, and it scared me more than any exam I’d ever taken. I couldn’t handle it. I responded by recoiling from the world; hiding under my duvet and watching TV shows I’d seen a hundred times just because they were the same as they had always been and everything else wasn’t.
I was becoming someone that I didn’t enjoy being, and everyone could see it but me. I started applying to jobs I had no chance of getting and freaking out when I got rejected. I can’t even explain why but I completely lost faith in myself. I gave up trying because it all seemed like too much. I forgot about the songs I had wanted to write all through my exams but never had the time to finish, the stories I now had time to type up, because it was easier not to try than to try and fail. Then I realised for the first time in my life I no longer felt like a child. I was growing up, and being crushed.
The problem is that we waste our time being afraid to fail.
It was wrong to be so scared, because I’m twenty-one years old and how the hell am I supposed to know how to register with a new dentist or pay my council tax bill? I’ve never done it before. Why did I expect myself to be able to walk out of uni without a care in the world and into my dream job? Am I really that deluded? Am I really that selfish? No. I’m not. I’m just an idealist, that’s all, but thank god for that. I have no idea what I’m going to do for the rest of my life, and that’s absolutely fine. There is nothing wrong with knowing what you want and going for it, but in my opinion those kinds of people don’t exist. Even if you’re a vet student and you wanted to be a vet since you were a kid, you still have a series of choices to make as to which kind of animal you’re going to specialise in treating. If being a firefighter is your dream job, its highly probable that on your first shift you will walk in and wonder whether this is really what you wanted. If you’re a hairdresser there will come a day where you mess someone’s head up and they resentfully mumble “aye its fine” even though they’re looking at you like you just ruined the next three to four weeks of their social life. No one has it figured out; absolutely no one, and anyone who tells you they do is lying to you. There is no fail-proof plan for living life. I believe that we are all terrified of failure, but more than that we’re terrified of wasting our time. The problem is that we waste our time being afraid to fail.
That’s why its so important not to grow up. It’s so important to cling to the things that make you who you are and not to lose sight of them when they aren’t easy to hold on to. Who told us we needed to grow up in the first place? An obnoxious high school teacher, an angry parent, that girl in your class who didn’t like fart jokes, the voice in the back of your head that tells you you shouldn’t jump into the ball pit even though you really really want to – that’s who. If a person tells you to “Grow up” its because they are intimidated by someone who hasn’t quite given up on loving life yet. Life is both overwhelmingly beautiful and crushingly terrifying, but your life is yours alone. There is no reason why you shouldn’t jump into that ball pit, why you should give up painting if you love to paint or singing if you love to sing. We all have to survive, and we will all probably work shitty jobs once in a while, we will all wonder what the hell we are doing once in a while, and we will definitely fail time and time again. We will feel lost and want to give up on whatever it is we are searching for, but to give up is to grow up and to grow up is to admit that fear has defeated you. We may all be in the gutter, but so long as we are willing to look at the stars we can chase them. There are so many different lives we could possibly lead, and your life is not dictated by anyone but yourself. Its alright not to know where you are going, so long as you are going. If you feel lost, explore. I also think that they should make soft play areas for adults because we never stop wanting to jump into ball pits.
So whenever things don’t go right, or they go downright wrong, remember the kid you once were, and never, ever, submit to growing up. Everyday I’m having to re-learn the simple fact that life is what you make it, that your attitude toward it is all you can really control, and that the greatest skill you can learn is how to smile in the face of adversity. We are all artists, and we owe it to ourselves to keep on creating.
I have no idea what I am going to do with the rest of my life, and that is absolutely fine.
Love. Heal. Create.
About the guy who wrote this:
My name is Nathan Speirs. I’m 21 years old and I’m an English Graduate, after reading this post you probably have a good insight into how unsure I am about what I want to do with my life, but not what my actual life looks like.
So far it has looked like this: dogs, books, coffee, doughnuts, retail, music, guitars, sore fingers, writing, poems, artisanal notebooks, angry PE teachers, RED WINE, glasgow, hamilton, amsterdam, and a little woman called Arianna.
Apart from that, I’m interested in writing. I want to be a writer in some capacity and maybe you’re witnessing the first little footsteps in that direction. I’m very interested in fantasy fiction and I have a love for Neil Gaiman that grows stronger every day. I’m also an avid gamer and I will straight up destroy you in Dark Souls 3. I managed to pull off writing a dissertation on video games, yes, I am THAT committed.
Oh, I also work at Krispy Kreme. No. I cannot get you free doughnuts. Stop asking.