When I think back to my summer, I see colours. Blue skies, turquoise seas, lush green, paired with saffron from the glowing sun in Europe and a smudge of brown from Glastonbury mud. I felt like I was beginning to get my own palette of the world and painting a picture of what it had to offer.
Whereas now I feel like those colours have dimmed. Life has returned to ordinary beige. Don't get me wrong, I'm content to be living back at home, I have a job that's close to home, with lovely colleagues, and the work kind of relates to my degree. I can't complain and wouldn't think to.
However, the 9 to 5 way of life got me thinking and worrying about life in general. When so much of the day is dedicated to work, and in the evenings I found myself too tired to do little else apart from curling up on the sofa to read, I caught myself pining for the travels of summer or the spontaneity of university nights out.
I was taught to believe university was a middle step for the "real world" but it didn't prepare me for this. Lectures, deadlines and time spent in the library are just not the same as a solid week of work with a two day weekend.
But it wasn't just adjusting to 9-5 life and missing university life which caused an uneasy feeling in my stomach.
It was the realisation that 9-5 is pretty much it until retirement.
I sat down in the evenings and could see my life stretch out before me. No waves of blue or splashes of saffron this time: just office life, weekends and potentially a holiday here or there. Grey was the only colour that sprung to mind.
I found it absolutely terrifying that so much of our lives are dedicated to work. Add up the hours spent sleeping and working and how much time have you got left for everything else? The thought made me feel like my heart was in the middle of two hands in an arm wrestling match.
I was brought up with self-employed parents so didn't see this working life style growing up. Pair this with being told by school, books, television shows and films that I can be special, I can do what I want to do if I try hard enough, to follow my dreams, and let's not forget the classic:
"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars."
I was in the mind-set that I had to dream big and by following my heart, I would know how to achieve it.
In my head, 9 to 5 work just didn't slot in to that. As much as I am grateful for my job and care about the work I do, so much so my hands start to shake if I do something wrong and I over analyse if I make the slightest mistake, I couldn't shake the worry of being stuck in various 9 to 5 work. Was it really for me? What comes next? Do I have other options to consider?
I recently read an article and soon after a quote which helped to soothe the tidal wave of panic that crashed through my system on a daily basis about working life.
Rather than telling me to shoot for the moon, follow my dreams, or that I'm a special snowflake bound for success, it gave me something realistic. A lifebelt I could cling on to in my sea of worries.
"Nothing will fuck up your twenties more than thinking you're supposed to have your shit together."
It was blunt but the dreary picture of the future I had painted myself snapped back like I had just clicked the button of a tape measure. I found myself not thinking in terms of years and the daunting rungs of the career ladder. (Well, ok, sometimes I still do. Especially after a long day work where I feel like I could have done better and question why on earth they hired me in the first place.)
Rather than paint my life with the faded colours of holidays or a stretching expanse of grey, I find myself not really creating a colour at all. Instead I see a path. Sometimes clouds of doubt overcast it, sometimes blinding panic blocks it out completely. But I know it's there.
I am on the first step of what hopefully will be an adventurous journey, one worth telling to a friend and hopefully worth a blog post or two. I am lucky in many ways, and especially in the sense I know what I want to do - write for a living. Not change the world, not be a princess, not sing songs with forest animals. I just want to write for a living. Sorry Disney.
I know I can't plan the journey, nor can I see the big picture right now. But that's ok. I need to keep reassuring myself: I'm 21, adjusting to my first job and trying to write as I go along. I'm not shooting for the moon. I'm just going to drink my tea, keep my feet on the path and explore my options until I feel like I'm in the right place. It may not be the fairy-tale world of following my heart, but with this mind set I definitely feel more ready to take on the real word.