Standing still at crossroads

Just as my social media profiles bluntly assert, I am an individual aged 24 coming from Romania, I am very much into books and cultural products in general, like to travel a lot, but most importantly for networks and their critical mass and even for me when trying to position myself on a map of professional and personal evolution, I am a graduate student, a social scientist-to-be.

Generally, I am ambitious and self-motivated to do things well and to outperform myself, to learn fast and faster. I have always been in the top 5% of my class, but mostly as a result of conformity and self-discipline. I always, unconsciously, knew I have to get somewhere. Which is why I tend to compare myself with who I was at a certain point in my past and with others in order to keep a record of where I am on the road to …? And that precisely is my dilemma: on the road to what? 

After obtaining a BA in Communication and PR I started to analyze what I had been doing those years and what was it that I wanted to do next.  Once you graduate from university, people expect you to jump right into the market. It turned out the field simply did not suit me, for reasons it would take too long to enumerate here.  I figured a large part of my problem would be solved if I could just find what I really liked. So I decided, based on my extra-curricular activity, the fact that I was always being recruited by professors to work on projects, as well as based on the role models I have that I want to be a researcher, preferably an academic one, in political science. I learned how to analyze and integrate social data, I went to conferences, got in touch with scientific communities, wrote a nice MA thesis, but to be able to, for example, find out the calculus of voting, it takes decades and you risk of ending up being mediocre.  Anyway, embarking on that means I would have to get a PhD, start writing seriously and most importantly, publish! But like probably most things in life, I find out this is damn hard. Especially if your standard for achievement is so high not even your professors meet it. So go find other models and an educational system that can push you where you think you want to be pushed. But that means calculating chances of getting in a prestigious university, competing with other people who in your mind are much brighter than you, and leaving behind other intimate aspirations. That is where I am now, attempting to make a decision: either being nothing but a professional with all my engines on and what I call home – the people I love, my hobbies and a comfortable life in which I perform little less than expected.

In the meantime, I try to get around this using intermediate channels – voluntary work, internships – and building other types of experiences and relationships with work. But none of them are long term, so it is still me who has to decide eventually. No matter how adulthood will turn out, I hope my transition will be a worthy one, but as seen through my own eyes and not the lens of a society based on all sorts of criteria – status, money etc.  My criteria at present is peacefulness of mind – a satisfactory balance between what I could have done and what I eventually did, with all compromises and regrets involved. Why aiming for that result? Because my mind wanders too much, I feel like I have to factor in all sorts of variables – personal aspirations, family background, societal context, opportunities, skills and experience I already accumulated and would not want to throw off the window for the UNKNOWN… and that for me is the sweetness and sourness of transition. But at a certain point in life what I want is to only keep the sweetness and let go of sourness.

Finally, I think this writing exercise is challenging because it requires introspection. Nonetheless, its effects can be highly rewarding because once you are done with it (the writing, that is, not the rest of it) you feel like you can officially begin to look for wonderful resources to help you learn how to make choices. I am here to do just that.

– UPDATE 1 year and a half later: I’m 26 and things look a little better. I realised I want to live in Cluj and I am no longer at crossroads… Managed to yank myself out of a lot of anxiety and smile a little more. My standards are a little more precious and I’m less competitive when it comes to meeting standards that I can’t really say are brewed within. 

Getting inspired for my own share your ryde

Hello Noemi, 
yesterday I was writing my mission report on "Share your Ryde" and as I was getting deeper and deeper into my life's story I ended up writing similar things to yours. 
I am 25 years old and I am still at the crossroads of my life. I want to be successful on everything I am doing but as I am "multitasker" by nature I want to do a ton of things. I get excited on everything new and then when it passes the "WooWOO" feeling, I am back again on the way for something else. Sometimes I realised that I never was good at answering precisely the "what do you want to do when grow up?"... I was (and still am) keeping giving blurry answers.. Fortunately I grew up in an environment which always supports me in all of my decisions: My mother keeps telling me that if you want to be fully up to date, something which is useful especially for our studies (Communication, PR and advertising), you need to read (and try) everything that falls on your hands, from stupid advertising leaflets for blankets to shipping brokers' magazines. I think this helps a lot to keep your eyes and your ears open to everything comes up.. 
At the end, not being yet fully decided makes us more aware and open to new opportunities which is sooo exciting! You will never know what the next day will bring ;) 

Communication and pr - what a pain in the back

Hey Chara,

Now I’m super curious to read your story!!

So you’re actually using this Communication and PR stuff… I didn’t think I would when I graduated, but now I see it keeps on sticking :slight_smile: which is not a bad thing. especially if you’re a dynamic person and always wanting to stay informed, like you seem to be, it can fit like a glove. I hope I’ll get over my ambivalency towards the field, probably when I’ll know exactly what my job/profession is and what I’m best good at. otherwise I find it’s just bits of information which can be manipulated. But the science behind it, now that’s a challenge!

keep in touch, let me know if you need help posting your ryde!


It’s like reading about my own ride

Hi Noemi,

Your story has so many echoes of my own.  I’m in the final year of my PhD, hoping for some sort of a career in research - academic, ideally - but increasingly realising that these opportunities are few and far between and, as a result, hugely competitive.  I’ve packed so much into my years of postgraduate study - publishing papers, appearing at conferences, putting on workshops - as well as research-related work outside but allied to academia, that I’d like to think I’m pretty darn employable.  But that’s no good if the opportunities in my field just aren’t there - and that’s more the root of my anxiety.  The fact that, with the best will in the world, I can’t make a funding body earmark a load of money for the kind of projects I want to do.  So, I’m trying to learn to make peace with the fact that these things are somewhat in the hands of fate.

In the meantime, since (financial) security is a pretty big consideration, I’m opening my mind to other careers that might bring satisfaction in other ways - that use skills that I developed between my undergraduate and postgraduate years and that have mostly lain dormant since.  I’m about to head to a careers fair (run by people I used to work for - in fact, in 2004 I was running this event!), armed with a stack of business cards to go and find out about the world of publishing.  Maybe I’ll decide publishing isn’t for me.  But maybe I’ll get talking to someone who offers a snippet of advice that opens a door to an opportunity I would never have thought of.

From one social researcher to another, I wish you all the very best on your ryde. :slight_smile: