With much of the world in ‘back to school’ mode, many new graduates may be feeling a bit lost but fear not! Reassuring words from literature and our Communications Intern, Lauren Holland.
“It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team. When the check is paid and you stay at the table. That time we did, we saw, we laughed, we felt. The hats.” – Marina Keegan, The Opposite of Loneliness
It’s always daunting to finish University, but what is more daunting than that is when you graduate and you no longer have an excuse to find yourself within the ‘uni bubble’. It’s like ripping a plaster off really, really quickly – and it’s an ache that you think will never pass (but it does, trust me).
This year, I experienced that overwhelming feeling as I stood outside the Cathedral with my mortarboard on and thought, ‘what next, Lauren?’ I wouldn’t class myself as religious – regardless of my setting, but whilst I had this internal monologue of ‘if only I’d joined this society maybe I could’ve gone into journalism or publishing’, my phone rang. It was The Reader to tell me that I had got the position as their new Communications Intern. If that phone call wasn’t great timing, then I don’t know what was. Naturally, my mum cried and I told everyone I knew. Even people I didn’t know heard the news. I couldn’t wait to start and put my English Degree, which I am immensely proud of, to good use.
I have now been interning with The Reader for around six weeks and have another ten to go. I already dread November 16 when I have to pack up my things from my desk and say my goodbyes and thank yous to everyone I have met along the way (and then, most likely, have another internal monologue of ‘no seriously, now what, Lauren?’ as I wait for the 75 bus home). But, I can safely say I’ve learnt so many new things and have met so many interesting people during my time here. It’s a great community to be a part of and I feel pretty lucky for that.
Two or three weeks ago I had my Davy meeting (The Reader‘s version of a Professional Development Plan) with my line manager, Martin. At these meetings, you discuss your aims and objectives and what you want to learn and achieve during your time at The Reader.
‘I don’t get Excel, I need to learn about it,’ ‘I loved being a part of the Anytime is Storytime event,’ and ‘I need to learn to love Shakespeare, because I feel like I’m missing out on something’ – these were some of the various topics discussed.
Also, at these meetings you take a piece of literature along with you that has some meaning to you which you read aloud and discuss why you have chosen it. It’s part of my character that I do not have one long-lasting favourite, so I chose a piece that I always read when I have a mini-existential crisis and unnecessarily pile my little world of woes on my newly-graduated shoulders.
I chose the short essay, The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan (2014). This is an essay that I always read when I don’t know what I’m doing with my life to remind me that:
‘We have these impossibly high standards and we’ll probably never live up to our perfect fantasies of our future selves.
But I feel that’s okay. We’re so young. We’re so young. We’re twenty-two years old. We have so much time. There’s this sentiment I sometimes sense, creeping in our collective conscious as we lie alone after a party, or pack up our books when we give in and go out – that it is somehow too late. That others are somehow ahead … to you I say both congratulations and you suck. For most of us, however, we’re somewhat lost in this sea of liberal arts.’ – Marina Keegan, The Opposite of Loneliness
I take solace in this.
And reading this aloud to Martin expressed everything that I had felt for a very long time– to the point that when I read this essay I forget it’s been published for everyone to see and Marina hasn’t written it for me, personally. But, that was the beauty of this task; to let Martin see a glimpse into my life and to share this moment with somebody else.
During my time at The Reader I have been grateful to attend what is at their core, Shared Reading sessions. Speaking to Martin about Keegan’s essay, regardless of it being one-on-one and not in the usual large groups, it highlighted what I have thoroughly enjoyed in those sessions: sharing your own stories and seeing how a piece of literature can draw upon so many different aspects of your life – whether they are linked to the text or not. It really does ring true when a group member once declared about Shared Reading that ‘you need it, you just don’t know you need it,’ because sharing such a personal essay with Martin and having a conversation about it proved to me how literature really can unite people. It is moments like these, that I remind myself why I studied English Literature in the first place.
Marina, a fellow graduate prior to her tragic death four days after receiving her degree at Yale, seems to speak to the people of my generation: who feel a little bit lost and ‘not quite sure what road we’re on and whether we should’ve taken it.’ It is so easy to find yourself doing something that you don’t want to, or just continuing on the road that you happen to find yourself on, even if you don’t want to be there. Finding a piece of literature where you can harbour and nestle these thoughts into is not only refreshing, but also unbelievably comforting.
And this is how I also feel about doing my internship with The Reader. Being given the opportunity to plug my energy into something which I adore and feel so passionately about, whilst collecting new skills, is something that I consider myself to be very lucky for. If you are interested in The Reader, then I could not recommend enough that you should apply for their internship programme, because, as Marina reminds us:
‘What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over. The notion that it’s too late to do anything is comical. It’s hilarious. We are graduating from college. We must not lose this sense of possibility, because in the end, it’s all we have.’ – Marina Keegan, The Opposite of Loneliness