Lost identity

I have been a student for a long time.

I didn’t come to university straight from high school, but I have been a tertiary-level student for the last decade. Yep, decade. There are a few gaps in that timeline (one semester deferred for family reasons, one semester between graduating from undergrad/Honours and starting the PhD, one year “off” the PhD to take on a full time faculty contract), but I always knew I had further study ahead, so I never quite shook the ‘student’ label or identity. For a decade, I’ve been an ‘environmental planning student’, and ‘Honours student’, or a ‘PhD student’.

And it’s been fantastic. It’s been difficult at times, and it means I’ve been living on a shoestring for basically my whole adult life, while friends, siblings, and cousins have been going on glamorous/long holidays, buying property, having children. But it has been such an immense privilege, and one I’m very grateful to have had. Despite so much stress, pain, insecurity, and poverty, I’ve enjoyed it enormously.

But a couple of weeks ago something happened, and it really hit me that this part of my life is nearing its end – for all intents and purposes, it has ended. What happened, you ask? My student travel concession card expired…for good.

And I realised that in addition to having to ration my travel (my city has some of the most expensive public transport in the world*), I’m not a student any more. I need to start thinking about myself differently. That, however, is the subject of another post. For now, I just want to say farewell, Student Nat**. It’s been great.

* Hilariously, the week my card expired was a week I was working on a paper on how the costs of public transport can affect women’s ability to access the workplace.

** Of course, I’m sure I’ll be a student again. I already know what I want to study next…but this time, I’m waiting until I’m in work and can pay my student fees upfront, because my HECS-debt is terrifying enough as it is. And it will probably be part-time, and thus less immersive.

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