Finished Uni – Now What?

I have finished my degree! Had my last exam on Thursday, spent Friday packing, and Saturday travelling home. It’s so lovely to be home. So lovely.

As students will be finishing uni up and down the country and facing the transition into ‘the real world’, we all have to come up with some kind of answer to the question ‘What are you going to do now?’

It is a bit of learning curve. For the past 21 years, we have been buffeted from pre-school to primary school to secondary school, and then perhaps to A-Levels, and those of us finishing degrees, on to uni. It almost feels as though we have been blindly stumbling along a pre-planned path, and now we’ve reached the end of that path and have to figure out how we’re going to pay the bills and put food on the table. It is a slightly daunting prospect.

For some students, the inevitable will be delayed by embarking on a Masters degree. Masters undoubtedly make you more employable. They also cost a lot. Others will get a job. Others will travel. Some will go on and use their degree to begin education in a different area. I have friends going on to Medical School and Vet School. Others will volunteer, or go into internships. Some will get jobs that are related to their sector of preference. Some will get jobs that are utterly unrelated because of a need for money. Some will get married. The issue of funding is relevant to all these. With government grants and loans no longer and option, the money has to come from somewhere.

Everyone is also faced again with the slightly odd situation of people with whom you have become very good friends, and shared formative experiences with, will all disperse to various corners of the country, and sometimes, various corners of the world. Having spent three years together in a small town (in my case), suddenly you will never see some of them again. It is a slightly dizzying prospect, a time of huge change. Three years tucked up in a little insular world of studying, partying, lectures, exams, essays, trying to wrangle finding a house and living together, which sometimes goes well, and sometimes not, forming new relationships, some of which may last a lifetime, and suddenly we are flung, blinking, into the chaos that is the world, with all of its crowds, it’s rushing, a whirlwind of decisions to make, numerous balls to juggle with.

Everything is about to change.

Are you ready?

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A date has been set…ish.

Been meaning to write this blog post for ages. Of course I would finally get round to it the evening before my first final exam at university. I suppose I ought to be going over my references again at this point. Most of the information is in my head but trying to make references – names, dates, studies – stick is more difficult than you’d expect, and I’m slightly frazzled because I have yet to either look up, or remember, any of what are known as ‘outside reading’ – references you can slip in that you didn’t cover in lectures. Maybe that is my job for after I’ve written this post. 2 for each of 5 topics shouldn’t ought to be too hard to find, or remember, but again, you’d be surprised. Due to various slightly devastating events I have to do immensely well in tomorrow’s exam to do well in the module.

Anyway. I have had braces for 3 years, and 1 month precisely (today being 6th May 2014). 3 years is a long time to have wire glued to your teeth. And believe me, it hurts. Not 24/7. Mostly it’s fine. But the wire doesn’t just sit there. It tugs your teeth about in your mouth, straightens them, neatens them. So every time you have the wire adjusted, it is accompanied by horrible aching at every touch to your teeth, for several days.

And then of course, having metal rubbing against the inside of your mouth is not a lot of fun, and tends to cause many ulcers. These, too, are particularly prevalent in the first few days and weeks after an adjustment, until the inside of your cheeks harden off, as it were (they don’t literally harden. They just toughen against the irritation). This causes something of a double whammy – achy teeth and a sore mouth. And I’ve had these braces for three years.

The reason I have braces? My bottom jaw is too far forward, and my top jaw too far back, as seen here:

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This does not necessarily cause huge medical issues. But it does make eating flat things difficult, and it looks horrible. I have no cheekbones (apart from having a flat face anyway) and my bottom jaw and lip stick out much too far. Most people I encounter exclaim that they haven’t noticed. Whether they are just being polite or not, I can never quite work out. But whatever other people think – I hate it. And I’ve been waiting for the operation for ages. I thought it was going to be last summer, but that was miscommunication with the hospital. Then I thought it would be this summer. But my teeth are not ready, there is no slot, etc etc.

I had my wisdom teeth out in preparation last April. And this April, I saw the surgeon again, and finally got a date set. Sort of. It’s very provisional, and unfortunately my surgeon has a promotion, and will be leaving, so it depends on the replacement as to whether it will happen on that date. But it should be sometime in November.

This makes things rather awkward. Last week I was accepted onto the Masters programme I had applied for at this university. So if everything goes ahead as planned I’m going to have to have some serious talks with the professor. The reason for it being November, and not, say, December, which would minimise time missed and give me time to recover over Christmas, is that on the Masters programme, a field trip to Kenya is scheduled for early January, and I need substantial time after the operation to recover and be ready for this.

I will need 6 weeks of taking it easy. 2 weeks of heavily taking it easy. They will breaking my bottom jaw and taking a bit out, breaking my top jaw and moving it all forward. 6 metal plates. They are also going to remove a strip from my top jaw, so that when I smile, less gum is visible, and this here doesn’t happen.

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I will go in on a Friday morning, spend Friday night in what is Intensive Care in everything but the name, with specialised nurses who are specifically trained. Then I should go home on the Saturday, bar any complications. But as you can imagine, with a broken jaw, I won’t be able to eat properly. Liquid food, soft food, anything that doesn’t need chewing, that will be the order of the day. The surgeon warned me to expect to lose 10% of my body weight. This and the enforced diet will leave me with little energy, and so… go out in the morning? Spend the afternoon asleep on the settee. I think I may have to prepare a stack of films and boxsets.

But even though I am 3 years+ into my orthognathic surgery journey, I thought I’d develop this blog into sort of tracking what happens, as we near the business end of the journey, and things start happening. For a long time now I’ve just been going to and fro to the hospital whilst they change this wire and adjust that module to make my teeth straighter. Not the easiest, when I’m at university 6 hours away from the hospital I’m having my treatment at, and I have appointments mostly every 6-8 weeks. But I’ve got through. Anyway, I shall be updating now after appointments (and in between, if I have other things to say. I won’t strictly be blogging about hospitals). I hope that people who are about to begin the process, or are in the same shoes as me, find it. I guess that’s what I’m aiming for with this. Because let’s be honest, when I started the process, easily 4 or 5 years ago, I was given a DVD to watch, to help me understand what to expect. It had interviews on with people that had gone through it. And the one that has always stuck in my mind is this one woman, who said, of waking up from the jaw surgery:

“I woke up, and I felt like my face had been run over by a steam roller”

I won’t lie. That’s…not the most reassuring thing I could have heard. Maybe it’s true, I don’t know. I’ll have to wait and see.