Last weekend quite a few people you know headed off to university: it’s that time of year that brings about fresh starts and big changes with the colouring, and falling, of the leaves. In a sense, this feels like more of a ‘new year’ than the actual New Year. And this weekend, you’ll also be driving up north to become a university student, in a tiny car bloated with the objects that make up your life.
In one way, it’s been a long time coming. You’ve had two years out of the traditional school system and have already left your teen years behind. You tried a distance learning degree, and even completed the first year, but you knew that wasn’t what you wanted to continue doing. So I think now is the right time. I don’t think many people ever feel completely ready to go to university, everyone has their own kinds of struggles, but I think at this point in time you’re as ready as you’ll ever be.
I really hope anxiety doesn’t get too much in the way of you making the most of this. It stopped you from going to uni completely last year, so you’ve come a long way since then. I don’t want you to have to just cope with it all though, is it too much for me to hope that you enjoy your time there?
I’m not sure I have one coherent train of thought that I’d like to share with you at this stage. Big life changes aren’t really that easy to simplify. But I do have a couple of thoughts I’d like you to hold onto as you navigate your way through the first few months of university:
Study hard but try not to overwhelm yourself with pressure. Studying is not the be-all and end-all of life, and you’re going to university for more than just a degree – otherwise you could’ve just stuck with the distance learning method.
Put effort into putting yourself out there to meet new people but don’t feel like you have to be someone you’re not or put yourself in situations that aren’t what you want. Throughout all of your other educational experiences, you never actively sought out friendships, you let them come to you. This is a time to challenge that.
If, no when, you find things hard, persist and fight: you are wonderfully stubborn and I know you won’t give up easily. You can ask for help, that doesn’t make you weak.
But please, if it’s all too painful know that it’s okay to quit. Quitting something is not necessarily a bad thing – I don’t want you to feel like you’re on the verge of leaving all the time but I do think it’s important to know that it’s okay to change things if you’re unhappy.
The destruction of your mental health is not worth a degree; there are always other options. You will find a window to climb through, even if every door is locked. You don’t need to think about that now though, only if it comes to that.
Most importantly, I believe in you. I believe you can do this.
You’ve grown a lot, done a lot and been a lot since you left college over two years ago. In the 18 months you’ve had away from education, you’ve spent nearly 10 of these abroad, in 18 different countries. You made a life for yourself in Australia, spent a month in India with your mum and travelled all over the place with friends. You’ve had three different (paid) jobs: doing 50-60 hour weeks in a Sydney cafe, repetitively scooping ice cream over one summer, and learning how to care for the elderly at the hospital. You worked as an au pair in Canada and picked fruit on a farm in Hawaii, both in exchange for accommodation.
But you’ve also done plenty of things at home too. You’ve grown a blog from nothing to over 1000 followers, and written all about mental health in ways that hopefully have helped people. You’ve written poetry and learnt how to use watercolour paints, started a bullet journal and decluttered your living space. You began to run and tried out yoga and basketball. You’ve done the first year of a degree from home. You’ve made (hopefully) lifelong friends from across the world and met your boyfriend. You have even kept the plant alive that sits at the end of your bed.
You’ve had great days and shit days and everything in between. You’ve felt how truly dark emotions can be. You’ve learnt about the vulnerability of our minds and bodies, and how connected these are; you’ve learnt the physical pain and mental aggravation of being diagnosed with a chronic condition. You’ve laughed until you’ve cried and shared secrets and politics and plenty of vegan cookies. You’ve learnt more about yourself than you ever thought was possible.
Look at how much you have done. All of these things you didn’t think were feasible as a fresh-faced 18 year old. Yet here you are. I am not pointing this out so that you can brag, I just want you to see how capable you really are and how proud of you I am. You should believe in yourself.
You can do this. I’m here for you, always.
Lots of love,
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