Looking back on these past months, the corona times were not so bad for me. But now that I’m writing my thesis, decisions are to be made.
For many, big decisions equal significant stress. When I completed my high school education in 2012, I felt pressure to make smart choices, something the Dutch school system and social environment had stressed for years. I think I was just thirteen when I received my first information on follow-up education. ‘These are choices that define the rest of your life, so don’t waste them,’ a teacher told me at the time. After years of this pressure, as a seventeen-year-old lad, I felt uncomfortable having to make choices. Yes, plenty of options, but what if none of these made me happy?
By choosing things that do make me happy - albeit in a roundabout way – I no longer feel stress when faced with big decisions. Having a broader spectrum of interests, and a more positive outlook on the world, I now know that there are many exciting paths to take and that decisions are not as all-defining as I thought as a boy. Decisions after my graduation? Bring it on; every path will have something to offer!
Still, there is a difference. Choices are different in times of COVID-19. The labour market and internship possibilities I was hoping for are all but obsolete. Where the number of internships offered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was as high as forty just a year ago, this is now zero! Maybe I should resume working in catering to tide me over? Not going to happen. The option of remaining a student on paper seems an increasingly viable and necessary alternative to obtain an income. Not much of a choice, but even after handing in my thesis, I will have rent to pay.
I know, I should not be complaining about this lack of decision stress. After all, I have the option of taking out a low-interest loan from the government to cover my living expenses, a luxury the majority of the world lacks. The fact that I have a reliable passport, the Dutch nationality and am white has previously added to a whole spectrum of options. Most inhabitants of countries I have visited can only dream of the travel options I had. And for Achmed, with his Middle Eastern looks, finding a side job is not as easy as for me. Stress to have the option of selecting from among several different life paths is a luxury, I have come to realise.
I hope that I will have more options to chose from in the near future and that I will then pause to consider that decision stress is a privilege.
Angelo Braam is a third-year Bachelor student of International Development Studies, who recently returned from an exchange in Jerusalem.