Avril brought nine photos to the interview to illustrate different phases during which she had felt stuck and with little scope to create a satisfying life. Avril’s experience of crisis was associated primarily with not knowing what occupation would be both enjoyable to her and fulfil standards of success and achievement as judged by the people around her.
Perceived standards and unfulfilled expectations
Avril narrated a story of how she saw her life compared to others. She appeared to judge herself in terms of other people’s apparent achievements and to accept these as the standard of successful adulthood. Her experience of crisis started at graduation as represented in the first photo on her timeline.
“I did my foundation degree and before that I knew that’s exactly what I’m going to do. That’s all sorted. But then after that I didn’t really know what course to choose for uni so I chose like a very general course, and that was a problem because then I graduated with like no specific qualifications. S-o then I couldn’t get a job to do with my degree because it was- I wasn’t specialised in anything really. So I graduated. I got my degree but then it’s kind of useless.”
Avril chose a broad degree expecting that, by the third year, it would focus on something specific. However, this did not happen and she decided to take time before making any future decisions, hoping that this would help her make the right career choice. The next photo represents how she travelled as a way of coping with her perceived lack of direction.
After returning from her trip, Avril found herself in the same place and still did not know exactly she wanted to pursue for her future.
“So I went from job-to-job again deciding what I want to do with myself and this is like still kind of where I am at the minute. It does feel like a bit more panicky though ‘cos everyone- all my friends are getting married, buying houses, having babies, and I’m just like kind of where I am. I am now where I am just back then as well.”
Avril expressed concern about where her life was going and, when comparing herself to others, felt that she was lagging behind.
“…the things that my friends are doing at the moment that make me feel really panicky. Like this is my friend who moved to New Zealand. She got married and then they’ve just had this house built and like all my friends seem to be having babies at the moment and this is just like- like one of my gay couple friends and they’ve had a baby as well and it’s just like ‘Oh my god. Even my gay friends are having babies’…”
Becoming and knowing oneself
While Avril compared herself to others whom she perceived as representing standards of success, she portrayed herself stuck in a job that provided no scope for progress and left her feeling as if she were in a cul-de-sac.
“With my job- so this one’s a bit like a dead-end to me. This job- there’s- like I can’t really progress much more. I could become an office manager but I don’t like managing people so this is the only next step up to my job. So it’s kind of this is it and now that I’m getting bored of this it’s kind of like the end of the road. And then I just feel like maybe if I went back to doing something to do with my degree I might like hold my attention for a bit longer. So this is the picture from when we were travelling but I was just like this is how I feel with my job at the minute. Like it’s a prison. Like there’s no change. It’s just like here I am. That’s it.”
In the last photo on her timeline, Avril shared her source of inspiration through which she was developing courage to change direction and work towards a satisfactory future.
“Like since I met [boyfriend] we just like joined like an international group and this is one of the reasons why I’m thinking about going back to uni to do a Masters because pretty much everybody in this group is in like doing a PhD or they’ve got really good jobs like a surgeon and everyone’s like studying as well. So this is like everyone’s like making themselves better educated. So they’ve been like influence to me to go back to uni. Yeah I think like other people I’m like- judge like my life I guess mostly on other people and just like- yeah- they’ve kind of inspire you. If you’re hanging out with people who are just like happy doing boring jobs then you’re like kind of happy doing boring jobs. But then if you meet people that are like inspire you a bit more it makes you want to do more things.”
With the help of her photos, Avril communicate what success meant to her and where she was in comparison to others. The perceived gap between her present and desired situation made her feel stuck and to experience crisis through being unable to picture herself navigating into a satisfactory adulthood. However, other people could also be a source of inspiration to change direction and courage to follow her desire.