Dissertations, Living Alone and the Pandemic: Finding a Way to Live in the New World
This style of post is outside the typical stories you read on here, which are normally politically focused.
Don't worry! That is still the primary focus of this site, but I also want to grow this site, as I grow as a person. This is one of those 'life update' posts I tend to do, and this is the perfect time for another one. I have recently moved into a studio apartment, and have begun living alone for the first time in my life. I have also just finished my master's degree and all in a pandemic.
Now, I am left in a world where the graduate jobs are scarce. Many are asking for years of experience or based in London, which I am not quite prepared to move there as a northern girl and someone who is incredibly terrified of the tube system.
First things first! Completing my majority of my masters during lockdown and pandemic life, including the whole dissertation during this time was the hardest thing I have ever had to in my life. It wreaked havoc on my mental health, tested my motivation, and had me debating whether or not to defer it until next year when 'things will be better.' I put that in air quotes because we have no idea if it will get better, get worse, or stay the same. So I fought the bad thoughts and pushed myself to finish it now, rather than have it hanging over my head for another year.
The one thing that really helped me through it was that I documented the experience day by day on my Twitter account. I wrote about the good, the bad, and the sad. There were days I was completely unmotivated, out of focus, and had the infamous scheduled cry of September 1st. Homer Simpson here is a very accurate representation of my mental state during this time, sheer panic but still somehow carrying on.
When I finally finished the first draft, there was an immediate feeling of a weight being lifted off my shoulders. I had finally reached an end of what was an incredibly long and hard, one hundred and two days. Yep, that's how long it took me to write all 19,000 and something words of my dissertation. I took that very weekend off, and I want to say it was relaxing, but it was incredibly tiring at first. It was like my body had caught up with the lack of regulated sleep and breaks. In the last big week running up to this, I had been working five days in a row for my job, writing the dissertation at the same time, and then spent the rest of the days in the library.
Burn out was an understatement of how I felt.
Here is the final product! The day I submitted it I felt so weird, it was like this one constant I have had in my life for the last 106 days (that's how long it took me to write it) had gone. There was a feeling of relief as I have now finished the deadline I had looming over me for so long. It was bittersweet. I was proud of what I had accomplished in such a short time and under a lot of stress. I was proud of the research I had completed, raising awareness of an extremely understudied area of research.
But, it also left me with a daunting feeling, what do I do next?
For now, I can enjoy the next few days I have before I go back to working from home, and try to find a job outside of the retail sector and put my degrees to use.
Living Alone, scary! And it is! I have now been living by myself for a month, and I kid you not it was hard to start out with. Mostly because I settled in late due to holidays and trips away I had planned from the day after I moved in, it took me a while to build a routine and settle in. I am still living in the same city as the last year, but it was a different part of town and it was new and scary. Especially, because there was this weird noise in my flat for so long, which sounded like howling/wailing. It turned out to be the vents because of the windy nature of this city, a quick email, and fix later no more wailing noises and I began to sleep better. Something I learned from a video on YouTube is that the first time you sleep somewhere new, the reason why your sleep is so unsettled is because your body essentially in flight or fight mode, looking out for the potential dangers of the new environment.
I also picked the worst time to move, during the middle of a stressful deadline so everything I was feeling was heightened. But, after watching a few YouTube videos of women talking honestly about what it is like to live alone for the first time and the pros and cons, I felt a little more at ease (I will link the videos at the end). I began to give myself a little bit more structure to my day and start a new routine for myself. I can tell you now a month later that there are certain perks to living alone. You can listen to music as loud as you want, you don't have to worry about looking perfect every day and you can truly be you on your own schedule. You learn a lot about yourself, and I think it is important to do it at least once in your life because it is where you can truly get to know you.
But, like many of the videos say, when you experience the lows you experience them alone and they can be crippling. The worst night for me, was day three into my five day work week, and losing focus with my dissertation I was hitting the burn out. I hadn't gone outside in so long because I forced myself to work through all my breaks, it began to kill me and had me crying in the shower from exhaustion. This is the one time I really missed living with someone especially whilst studying because of the support you can get from your friends or family at that time. I don't usually talk about this kind of stuff when I am feeling stressed and anxious because it will usually end up in tears. Once I am better, it is easier to talk about, I feel less vulnerable.
For someone like me, who has the tendency to self-isolate when my mental health gets really bad, being alone can actually be useful, as I tend to worry more about how my low mood will affect others and it exacerbates any problems I experience. And slowly, after I finished my masters, I began doing more things for myself. Going on long walks, fun dance workouts, reading and writing more, and actually cooking proper meals for myself. I can feel my mental and physical health picking up from these small acts of 'self-care.'
I also want to make the point just because you live alone it doesn't mean you become a recluse. You still go out and do things, you still see friends and family etc, although the current world pandemic has made that a little bit different than how life used to be with work schedules changing from the move to working from home and limited social interaction from months of being in lockdown.
Some people live alone for most of their lives, some not at all, as for me? I don't think I would live alone forever because ideally, I would like to meet that special someone to spend the rest of my life with, and that would mean living with them too. But, I would also like to live with friends again, but in a proper house rather than a flat. For now, I don't know where I'll end up or what I'll be doing in the next year for certain, as I have learned from when I turned 20 a lot of things happened in my life, which I did not expect making my living situation and life very unpredictable.
So, what's the plan for the future? I can honestly say I am not entirely sure. After living in months of uncertainty in lockdown, I am learning to take each day, each week, and month at a time. Careerwise, I have plans to volunteer more this year, try to find a job where I can write more, and get involved in the industries I have studied to work in. It is incredibly daunting going into a graduate career market during a pandemic. I am worried about trying to get a new job in case I lose it as we could potentially go into a secod lockdown. Everything seems so uncertain and that worries me everyday.
Creatively, I want to build and work on my writing and grow this site. I have some exciting plans for The Amber Journals to grow it beyond just me and my words.
Thank you for being with me for the last year! And I look forward to many more.
PS: Let me know what you think of the new site :)
Twitter thread tracking my dissertation progress: https://twitter.com/saffdotcom/status/1264931566213459969?s=20
YouTube Video Links