The International Writers Magazine

Lauren Almey

y God the world can frighten me these days. I mean it’s always been a tad scary of course- when I was very young and tomboyish I was afraid of bras, when I was a teenager I was scared that no-one would ever truly know and love me for who I really was (as most teenagers probably are without realising)...

I was scared when I drove down a motorway for the first time and was horrendously unsettled when I went to bed in student halls under the first moon of my university life. I was worried that I wouldn’t clinch the degree result I finally graduated with, and I remain terrified that I’m simply not a good enough writer to forge a career for myself somewhere within that mightily competitive industry.

Outside of my habitual narcissism, I’m afraid for the future of a planet upon which countries bicker about the building of weapons powerful enough to obliterate us all, and of more and more unstable minds going undiscovered, existing within families, and then one day propelling their hosts towards the schoolhouses of isolated communities to execute children in front of one another. My mum is scared that I will vote Conservative at the next general election, because I often exclaim how I’m warming to David Cameron in comparison to Tony ‘War-Mongering’ Blair. I generally worry, alongside millions of others I am sure, that the world being built around us by those in power is a structure without humanity, and that in a few generations’ time we will all inherently hate one another, and then someone will push a button and solve the whole problem under the conclusive umbrella of a mushroom cloud.

But, my God, it is the most ridiculous, self-destructive thing to live in a state of fear, however inconspicuously. Being afraid is natural, hmm, it’s a defence mechanism with some pros for some people I’m sure, but like jealousy and frustration, it seems to me to be one of the most useless emotions in the frontal lobe’s back catalogue. The root of the problem with being afraid is that it can cripple you, and keep you on your knees in a shitty life of acceptance and acquiescence and restriction, or so it seems to me since taking part in the osmosis of Student Bubble to Real World.

Maybe these are words that can only be spoken by a slightly cocky young graduate relatively unscarred by adult living or real problems, but I am aiming to acknowledge what is scary out here without letting it mar my life. An impossible task? Maybe. But to try, is that impossible? Never. And I steadfastly refuse to stop trying.

When I first made the financially-necessary Move Back Home, I wasn’t scared so much as I was wary and despondent, as well as excited. Leaving university brought such a mixture of emotion, being home seemed to initially be about coping with loss whilst expecting gain.

I concluded that it was a very lonely thing to be a graduate, having to step back into a world that is simultaneously awfully familiar and irreversibly changed. You have to get the balance right between what you were, what you now are and what you want to become, and it seemed dangerously easy to lose sight of the latter in the real world. At first it seemed to be trying to strip me of that at every turn, as if it wanted me to forget what I’d worked for and just accept that life was now a grind without freedoms I’d grown to cherish; I was turned down for job after job, because I was either overqualified or inexperienced depending on the employer’s view of higher education, the only job I could get was totally unlinked to my ambitions (and continues to pay extremely badly!), and the public transport system remains determined to make the distance between myself and my boyfriend a harder obstacle for us to conquer than it really is.

As the weeks went by, it became apparent to me that there was a lot more for a graduate to be scared of than for an undergraduate- the Student Bubble encased me in a protection and lavished upon me freedoms that I couldn’t replicate now that it had expelled me. I started to worry about the length of time I would have to stay in my current job, and whether or not things with my friends would ever fall into place again, and whether or not I could hack being away from my boyfriend when I was used to unrestricted access, and whether or not I should bother with this whole writing lark when I didn’t finish work til 6pm and it was just so much more tempting to sit on the sofa all night and watch television til it was bed time…

But I was lucky. Before the completely unoriginal, tiresome worries had piled up so high that I was smothered and sapped of the remaining bit of graduate exuberance left in me, I was saved, and am now here championing a resolution for everyone to acknowledge that life is unequivocally daunting but not necessarily overbearing, that there are things to be scared of, of course, but not ruled by.

And what was my saving grace, exactly? The epiphany happened as I sat in my car, parked at the local train station, tears running down my face because my boyfriend had just caught his umpteenth train back home. I was upset because I knew I was going to miss him, yes, but the real reason I was actually crying was because I was frightened. I was frightened of how we had to now live our lives, I was frightened of what was to come, of what might never be, of what was possible.

And the minute I realised I was afraid of possibilities, the very things I’d gone to university to grasp, I knew enough was enough. I knew that I was letting my fears overpower everything, they were overriding all sense of logic and confidence, cancelling out the things that I knew and replacing them with "what if what if what if?" Screw what if, I told myself in the rear view mirror as I wiped my blotchy face and snotty nose (thank God the boyfriend had long gone at that point), I am sick of my attitude being moulded by the things that go wrong in life.

Knowing what might happen isn’t the same as being afraid. Giving up trying to keep good things going or make good things happen is, in my book, the worst relinquishment to Big Bad Scary Life that any graduate can make, and will age you quicker than the passing of time. Back home, here, as I adjust to my new lifestyle, I see more people who don’t do what they want because they are scared to alter their lives than I have ever come into contact with, and I don’t know if this is just my hometown or if it’s just adulthood. But I tell you what, I am not now seeing it as inevitable to become like that, I am not being that crying little girl at the steering wheel week after week, I want to be the woman who puts her foot down on the pedal so that she can get to her fella’s house that little bit quicker on a Friday night. Real life is going to have to put up one hell of a fight if it wants to take that from me any time soon, and so I beg and plead here that every graduate, every person who reads this at whatever stage they are at in their lives, that they do the same as I am doing now and at least try to see the wood for the trees. It really isn’t that bad once you step back and look at it.
© Lauren Almey December 2006

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