By Giles Chan
When they opened the barnyard doors out of high school, I decided to pursue a career in film by studying Media and Communications at ECU. It was designed as a three-year degree – but I packed my bags and left in two. I didn’t feel like I was in the right place. Now, I find myself at UWA beginning an abbreviated two-year degree in English and Literary Studies. Even though it’s everything I want, I find myself asking… why? This educational detour could be the start of something fresh, but it might just as easily mark the beginning of the end.
As per the words of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis – change of speed, change of style, change of scene with no regrets! That was the hope I had for myself – like killing a bad habit. It’s been rather exciting studying something new. Monotony becomes intrigue in this pedagogical transition which breathes new life into an otherwise stagnant curriculum of labour. More importantly, however, this shift feels in line with who I am now that I’m older and who I think I want to be by the end of my studies. If I could, I would spit on my younger self for his tertiary study plans and also tell him to drink more water.
I’ve always thought, and perhaps many would agree, that at the age of eighteen at which we leave high school for university we are not yet sure what direction to take our lives in. And so there are people like me who decide that they picked the wrong path and choose to turn around and go a different way. Maybe the time I spent between then and now helped me to mature and ripen from a young green banana who felt lost in the world into a wise golden banana who now delivers sage advice in magazine articles? Or maybe not?
One might take a wholly different approach to changing degrees. Where did those two years go? I am two years older, but I’ve ended up where I began and everyone I know is already ten steps ahead of me. They’ve joined clubs, gained valuable experience, figured out where the most secluded campus nap spots are – we didn’t even have clubs to join at ECU (although we did have myriad places to lie down and sleep). A parasitic anxiety begins to offer up questions of doubt about making such a bold decision as deserting one institution to begin again at another. I start to fear that this might have been a poor move and that I’ve thrown myself into a checkmate in a game of chess that I’m playing against myself – as if Franz Kafka is pulling my strings.
Feeling like you don’t know where to go next is frightening and changing your area of study feels like stumbling around in the dark. But perhaps this is the crawl that precedes the walk. The caterpillar that morphs into the butterfly. The early bird who gets the worm? Søren Kierkegaard said, ‘if anyone on the verge of action should judge himself according to the outcome, he would never begin’. Or, more succinctly, ‘fuck it’ as the youth say. I have no regrets about going to ECU. I met a lot of people, and now I’ll meet even more people. You can’t be sure that you’re in the wrong degree until you’ve been in it, much like a pair of shoes, or the Soviet Union, and in the end it’s much like a glass half-full or a glass half-empty situation so the only thing you can really do about it is pour it down the sink or drink it.
Giles enjoys long walks from his living room to the bed.