Hi agony aunt, I am a fourth year currently struggling with my diss. I have to get special circumstances and the whole process feels stressful. I feel like everyone around me especially my female friends are doing better than me with their dissertations. I have not even started planning for the future because I can’t focus on anything else but graduating while they are constantly talking about internships and jobs and travelling plans. I am starting to resent my best friends for being more put together and get competitive when they are talking about life updates, how do I stop being jealous of them? Am I being a horrible friend?
When you’re a fourth year there is no avoiding the “what’s next?” and “how’s the diss coming along?” questions. Everybody and their mum wants to know what your next move is. What I realise is people really don’t expect a specific answer, rather just looking for another conversation. This particular conversation is just on a topic that is viewed as a make or break achievement for those finishing uni, inviting an instant repulsive reaction. I think you need to take a step back from all the chatter around you. You having to get special circumstances means you’re in a different playing field compared to peers. It doesn’t make you less competent, it just means that your capacity or ability to do work now is limited by something out of your control, something you are trying to navigate. Figuring that out and meeting uni deadlines is plenty for one person. Now is the time to be gentle with yourself.
I identify as a fourth year dreading how quickly the life/career intersection is coming up and spent many sleepless nights wondering if I will ever figure it out. I have learnt that the more you obsess over what lies ahead, the easier it is to let that fear paralyse you in taking the next step. Take time out to figure out your priorities at this moment, you don’t have to do it all at once. What needs immediate attention? What can wait for a week or so? Think about the support you need from yourself right now, only you know what your best looks like.
We are warned about peer pressure. However, in academia it is viewed as something motivational. I don’t think you’re being a horrible friend at all, just a confused one. We are taught to compete from a young age but uni is a place where no two people have identical circumstances. Your friends don’t go through what you go through. If your focus is to graduate, that in itself is a massive feat you signed up for. I wonder if most of your friends are female because we are taught to be more competitive around women. I would introspect why you feel threatened by your female friends especially, is there a bias/notion you might be projecting? Regardless of gender, it’s common for people to be vocal about their achievements/goals/routines to feel validated. I think you should, in honest conversation, open up to your friends about your current situation and anxieties. I think we both know you are happy for your best friends, that it’s not them but the larger looming uncertainty that you resent.
Something very common for final years is viewing uni ending as a big catastrophe. While it is true that a good chunk of life as we know will change, it doesn’t take away all the growth you’ve had as a person, lessons learnt, friends made, routines formed and broken. You have accomplished and pulled through so much already! That is not going to just stop. Opportunities come and go constantly, find the window that suits best, perhaps a time where you feel relatively less anxious about your diss, and use that time to explore options to apply yourself in, in the near future. It is important to sustain yourself in this final run. You have the time to see it all through, trust me you do.
Do you have an agony you’d like answering? Submit here.