I'm not happy that I didn't have a plan for leaving college. However, it did provide me with the benefit of having to think about it, without the added stress of exams to prepare for. Here's how this has worked out for me as I face the dreaded future.
1. I was able to choose a Masters course to apply for without panicking. When I panic about something and don't talk to people about it, I can sometimes shut down. I should have spoken up during my Leaving Cert about how unprepared I felt for it, and the result of not doing that was not being able to focus on actually studying. Which obviously only made things worse.
With the time to think outside of the walls of college, I was able to find a course that (1) interested me, (2) had career prospects, (3) would benefit me more directly on a personal basis than the courses I had considered this time last year and (4) feels like good value for money.
I was going to try do a Creative Writing Masters. I wasn't entirely sure where, but it was on my mind. However, I don't feel like the courses would have been appropriate for me. I was already at the point of looking at publishing as a business. I needed to continue learning about the various aspects of what it meant to be a writer; focusing solely on the craft, for a whole year, for a large sum of money, suddenly didn't feel right.
2. I was able to think of what I could do as (a) a back-up in case I didn't get into the course or (b) a career following the completion of my course.
I've already spoken about it briefly at various points over the past few months, but I want to work in publishing. Since publishing jobs are so hard to come by, I figured a good alternative would be to set up my own publishing house.
I've thought it through on so many levels, and I think it's still a viable option. It was something I wanted to do before leaving college, and since then I've grown to understand it on a much greater level. I've refined ideas, established new ones, and focused on what makes sense in terms of what to publish and how to produce the necessary effects towards making the business a success.
I've been reading widely, paying attention to how other businesses are run, and looking at various aspects of the process of setting up a publishing house, and I think - given the time to put things together - I could have the ball rolling on it within six months.
That's not a timeline based on research: that's my goal. It could take longer, but I have to create a deadline of some description, or nothing would happen. (Just to clarify: I'm not actually starting this process yet. It will be 2015, at the very least, before you actually see the publishing house being set up properly. There's still a lot for me to do before I get to the point of setting up a business.)
3. I've been able to define my own abilities more clearly. It's one thing to put on a play in college that sells out. (That happened. That was awesome. We raised a lot of money for charity in the process.) It's another thing to be able to call yourself a marketing expert. Basically, since I left college I've been looking at what I can do and what I know, and working on developing both the areas I feel I'm strongest at, and the ones I feel need more work that are relevant to what I want to do with my life.
I've never had this much time to address my strengths and weaknesses before. Ever. I've been able to read different books on different topics, and put different things into practice. I've been reading up on various aspects of writing and business, and I'm working on a plan for publishing that will see my area of expertise expanding.
I don't want to just write about writing. That was never the plan. But it's better to spend time focusing on this one thing for a while, before moving on to also write about another thing. Not only do I need the time to research and develop a plan, I need the time to get my voice out there as a writer on a specific topic.
Those three things have been massively influential in helping me face the future more positively. I'm not worried about the coming months and years. Sure, the economy is still poor. Sure, I'm still only working part-time on minimum wage. But I have a better idea now of what I want from life, influenced by creative and critical thinking rather than an undue amount of stress and worry.
I've been able to figure out the future a little more clearly, and it doesn't seem quite so dreaded any more.