16 April 2019

Bost-Uni Plues jolts Marina Johnson back to the realities of millennial graduate life

I am looking at an empty stage with a banana with a face drawn on it, feeling stressed and emotional and totally unable to stop laughing, whilst thinking, “this is the closest thing to genius I have seen in a while”. Twice over the course of Bost-Uni Plues I was brought to the brink of tears, once though laugher and once though seeing my experiences played out on stage in front of me. Ugly Bucket are indeed serious about silliness, and the power of comedy to both teach and heal.

Bost-Uni Plues has started a conversation that I feel is important, and I want to continue having. So I wanted to add my sixpence to the discussion and pool of experiences.

Since the university fees were raised to £9,000 a year, the pressure on students has skyrocketed. The universities of our politicians and parents were places where you got drunk for three years and met your spouse. For the fee-paying generation, we are making a huge financial investment, putting ourselves in debt, before we even get started at life. All for the idea that a degree means you will be employed at the end, and you will contribute to society in a meaningful way.

This is the story we are sold.

University itself can be a real challenge. You work very hard and the expectations of your friends and family, your peers and wider society are all overwhelmingly high for graduates. In reality, in this age of austerity and bust – the children of fees are going to be the first children in a while to never achieve the economic security of their parents.

We need to deconstruct the shame, fear and failure around loneliness that the post-uni blues conjure. We are also facing the unpleasant social stigma of returning home. The figure of the adult in their parents' home is seen as the eternal failure. Yet this is the reality of most graduates. (Most but not all, and that really rubs salt in the wound.) There is a silence around the blues that stems from guilt. Graduates feel guilty about letting down their peers and wasting money.

The majority of people often are not prepared for the struggle that returning home can be. You might think going home is easy. When you have spent time away from your family, for significant chunks of time, you've changed, and so have your family. Re-adjusting to a family of changed individuals can be a real struggle, particularly if parents still see their now adult children as the kids they sent away to uni. The freedom, independence and responsibility you had can be cut away and lost. It can be an emotional rollercoaster to return home, and realise that your house with your family is not really where you feel at home anymore.

Combine this with often having to return to utterly soul destroying jobs, jobs that you had before you got a degree. Where you can feel like the last three years and all that work literally had no effect on your life. BUT OF COURSE YOU CAN’T COMPLAIN. And the cycle of suffering in silence continues.

Ugly Bucket are seeing the harsh realities of graduate experience and letting them be channeled into a show where the frustration and anger becomes comedic, but is never at all dismissed.

@noffmag / [email protected]

Image credit: Beatrice Debney