I started writing this during a very boring period this summer just after I’d finished my second year. I stumbled across it, unfinished, and thought its relevance to how I and many like me are feeling now we’re half way through our last year at university made it worth finishing! So here is a little insight into my thoughts on a period in my life that has changed me and the way I see this world!
It has just turned July. It is summer, my second year is done, and I am broke and bored. Every day is the same. I fill in part time job applications with as much enthusiasm as I can muster (not much), I flick through sub par American crime drama after sub par American crime drama on Amazon Prime, I eat hummus, and I check my bank balance. £-97.45. Great.
Of course this narrative is nothing new. Students, complaining all year about how hard that essay on Foucault was, get to the end of their year and suddenly find themselves pining for the silent section of the library, the dusty books, the fag breaks. The student loan. And I am no different.
Approaching the end of my A-Levels I had no idea the direction that my life should take. Endlessly skipping school to attend open days, wandering around campuses, listening to subject talks, somehow simultaneously underwhelmed and overwhelmed. The enormity of the decisions I had to take becoming ever clearer, coupled with my inability to make them made for a testing time.
It is well documented that our choices and experiences in life have a lasting effect on us. Some leave scars, some heal them, and some, I believe, help turn you into the person you were always going to be. That, for me, is Sociology.
Don’t get me wrong, there have been many times when I have sat, colossal reading pack in front of me, and questioned not only my judgment, but my sanity too. “Why would you do this to yourself” I mutter. These waves of self doubt and existential crises were no doubt brought on thanks to the likes of Judith Butler – sometimes she may as well have been writing in a dead language for all the sense it made to me, Weber – I’m still not entirely sure about his stance on bureaucracy – I must have blacked out during that 9am lecture – and so on. But there was always something bigger, something more important, I felt, about what I was studying, it was a feeling that has gotten me through the three-hour exams, the endless essays, reading lists and those early starts. It was the feeling that no matter how confusing or abstract what I was trying to get my head around was, the fact remained that everything I was reading had been written to try and help us make sense of the world around us, and to provide a way of making it a better place.
I have no idea if I will be able to live my life fully according to the beliefs and philosophies that sociology has granted me. Hell, I don’t even know if my career will even remotely relate to what I have devoted three years of my life to (scary thought). But I’ve decided that that’s okay. Sociology has gifted me with a strong sense of what is right and what is unquestionably wrong. It has also taught me that sometimes, there is a grey area amidst the two, and it’s okay to acknowledge this. I believe in the basic goodness of people, I believe in true and realized equality, I believe that just because things appear fixed and immovable, it does not mean they are.
Today, when I look out at the world, often my gut reaction is despair, fear and cynicism. It’s easy to be cynical – to give up on the world, detach yourself from it, as if refusing to acknowledge your place in the world somehow prevents you from getting hurt by it. But it doesn’t. So I say we might as well form beliefs, opinions, we might as well argue and debate with each other, disagree furiously or agree whole-heartedly. Stand and fight for those beliefs, guard them with all your might. Let no one tell you that as you age the passion of youth dies away. Passion, strength and morality relate in no way to how many years you have walked this earth.
I hope that with age, rather than a fading of the strength of my beliefs, what comes is a greater and deeper understanding of the complexities of their lived realities; an understanding that it is okay to not live by them every single day if you can’t manage it. That it is okay to have your beliefs shaken up, shifted and reimagined by another’s words. The ultimate lesson Sociology has taught to me is that to have opinions and beliefs, for me, is vital – it helps to define me, my place in the world, it guides my choices, actions and the ways in which I treat anyone I meet; but as well as this, and even more significant is that it has taught me that having my beliefs, actions and opinions questioned and challenged every day, either by the world around me or the people I share it with is even more important if I’m to be the best possible version of myself.