I don’t even know if “building air castles” is a proper English expression, but the German expression “Luftschlösser bauen” is a very fitting description of my life right now.
Of course, I’m probably not the only clueless 25-year-old out there, who has absolutely no idea what to do with her life. But I don’t even have the vaguest idea. So instead, I flee to hide in my shiny pretty air castles.
Let me tell you how this usually works: On Thursday, a friend of mine posts photos of her New Zealand road trip on facebook. I research everything about a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa online, and tell everyone I’ll move to New Zealand in the fall. I go to bed picturing myself eating ice cream in the harbor of Wellington.
On Friday I try to be more realistic. I mean, how I’m I supposed to move somewhere as expensive as New Zealand with 34 €uro left on my bank account? So, okay, I should be working and saving to fund my future travels first. I check every possible job search platform online only to realize that the employment market doesn’t give a damn about someone like me. No one needs an art historian, let alone one specialized in medieval art. Jobwise, I’m completely dispensable.
Well then, I can be cashier again. I’ve been working at clothing stores, supermarkets, and movie theaters for more than five years — I can handle a few more. At least the salaries in retail are better than in academia. I go to bed picturing myself arguing with weird people in front of the register while dreaming to spend my three week vacation on a beach in Greece.
On Saturday, I can’t stand thinking about my depressing job options any longer and start planning a vacation instead. I compare flight prices and read hostel reviews. I look for the ideal dates and create an amazing birthday getaway with my boyfriend Steffen in July. We are flying to Stockholm for five days, and we’ll be staying on one of those cool boat hostels. I already know what food I want to try, and what parts of the Old Town I want to see. I get super excited — until Steffen reminds me that we both have zero income or savings right now. I go to bed picturing Steffen and me strolling along Stockholm’s cobblestone streets despite knowing it is way out of reach.
On Sunday, I finally admit that all this planning is senseless as long as I don’t have any money at hand. I come to terms with working at my usual summer job starting in June. Whatever is next, I will definitely need money for it. Okay, so I’ll graduate in May, and then work till October. And then what? I research volunteering abroad programs and prepare a fictional letter of motivation to an organization in India. I go to bed thinking about how I could turn my CV into looking less university-and-part-time-job-heavy and more I-care-about-people-and-want-to-make-the-world-a-better-place-like. I fail.
On Monday, I type “art history” into a UK job search engine and hit a jackpot. St Andrews University offers a full scholarship for an art history PhD for three years. THE St Andrews university! A full scholarship! I scream, I jump. This is perfect! Then I read what they expect: Recommendation letters, academic proposals, sample writings, translated transcripts and a TOEFL English test — until March 15. I have to hand in my Master’s Thesis on March 26. I won’t manage setting up a killer application while writing my thesis. And I can’t afford the notary translations of my transcripts, or making the TOEFL test — or flying to Scotland for an interview for that matter. Nonetheless, I go to bed picturing myself walking through the medieval halls of St Andrews with old books under my arms.
This could go on and on. Each day for the last weeks I had a new idea, a new plan, and new air castle. I have researched internship visas in the US and volunteering organizations in Argentina. I have planned an itinerary for a weekend in Copenhagen and a road trip across the USA. I searched for apartments and jobs in Cologne and Zurich. I don’t go a day without checking flight prices to Spain and Turkey. I have bookmarked the application forms to become a stewardess with Lufthansa, and I also know where to find the latest STA Travel job openings.
So, what’s really next for me? Honestly, I don’t know. I only have my air castles and daydreams to hold on to.
I need these fantasies to distract myself from my lurking fear of what’s next. For now, all I can say is that I want to travel. That I want to find some kind of occupation that is fulfilling. That I don’t want almost six years of studying art history to go to waste. But other than that — I have no clue what, or where I want to be in the future. So, until I know — I’ll play princess in my air castles.
PS: If you happen to see through all my air castle confusion, and know what I should do with my life, please share!
PPS: If you’re a notorious builder of air castles too and want to found an anonymous support group with me — let me know! I’m in!
PPPS to all those who have to put up with my daily levels of crazy (especially you, Steffen): I’m sorry!