Saorla O’Dowd is a 23-year old aspiring writer who has just graduated from Trinity College with a BA in English Literature and Drama Studies. Part-time popcorn scooper and full-time procrastinator, she enjoys fanfiction, Feminism and finding time for alliteration. She also hopes to one day receive her Hogwarts letter, as it has clearly been lost in the post.
I was never really a fan of geology. Whoever came up with the phrase “geology rocks” was a bit of a sadist, at least in my opinion; coaxing you into believing that staring at various lumps of granite is more interesting than it sounds. Still, one thing that stuck with me during that one year I studied college science – aside from all the super cool dinosaur stuff – was how the life of a star ends.
We all know what stars are – those tiny glowing balls of energy and matter you can see from your back garden, millions of light years away here on Earth. We look up at the night sky and think how beautiful they are. How very different from us mere mortals and our tiny lives.
But in reality, we’re not that dissimilar at all; stars are as alive as you and I. (Well okay, not exactly like you and I, but we’re made up of the same stuff – you see where I’m going here). And despite their putative eternal status, they don’t just stay up in the sky forever for us to stare at; they, too, must succumb to time and oblivion.
[Not to be a downer or anything, just jumping on the John Green bandwagon. Loved that movie: #YOLO etc.]
They die, just like us: a phenomenon known as a Supernova. The orb in question is pretty much sitting there in outer space, minding its own business, when suddenly BAM! its core collapses! Energy is released which shatters the star from the inside out, blowing it to smithereens, which are then flung into the surrounding area. And with a flash, something that was once so solid, so present, is gone forever.
To wind down a very rambling metaphor, that’s what graduating college has felt like for me. One big supernova. It’s been approximately 40 days since I moved back home, and I’m feeling very like Jesus in the wilderness. Since the moment I handed back my apartment keys, I have lost my roomie/confidante to emigration, returned to my job as popcorn scooper at the local cinema, and broken up with my boyfriend. In short, my life appears to have supernova-ed.
But it’s not a big deal, right? After all, nothing is set in stone (geddit?); life is a variable, not a constant. We change relationships, houses, countries; we change hairstyles and diets and cars. We tell ourselves that we’ll be fine, we can handle it. We’re creatures of habit and structure: just give us a plan and we’ll stick to it. Even if it isn’t what we really want.
Well, I don’t have a plan. Not anymore. A fact that is both liberating and terrifying with a capital T. Ever since I was four years of age there was always a plan – one which I generally had no say in: go to school every day (excepting holidays), go practically brain-dead after the Leaving Cert., and then go on to college. But now? Now I’m supposedly a grown-up and can decide grown-up stuff for myself.
I guess I do look like one; a grown-up that is. I mean, I rarely get ID’d anymore, and got called “ma’am” on the bus one day by the driver (WTF bus man – I’m only 23?). I know I’ve apparently got one of those demeanours that makes me seem much older, but since I can’t yet pass for a pensioner and snag myself a free travel pass, I’m not feeling overly positive about my supposed ‘wise’ aura. Especially as it deceives others into thinking that I know what I want to do with my life. Here’s the truth: I don’t. And I still feel like a self-conscious teenage dirtbag, baby.
After all those years of doing what I was told, of doing what everyone else was doing, I’m at a complete and utter loss. For all the knowledge that college bestowed upon me (namely that one should always have a stapler handy), it never prepared me for ‘real life’; for that fork in the road with one signpost pointing the way to where you ‘should’ go, and other to where you secretly want to. For the moment when the panic, the fear, and the questions set in:
Who am I? What should I do? But more importantly: what do other people expect me to do?
In fact, nothing in my 23-year long plan has prepared me for the reality of being me. I’ve been told many times who I should be, a person who often seems very much at odds with who I feel I really am.
Because, to tell the truth: I’m a self-deprecating, pessimistic, procrastinating perfectionist who’s still trying to please everyone.
Welcome to my Quarter Life Supernova.