October was an intense month; I think anyone who has just started university will agree with that. It’s had a lot of ups and downs and has generally felt very confusing – it’s like the rug is constantly being pulled out from underneath me and I’m not sure if my feet will ever actually be touching solid ground. Bearing this context in mind, I thought the best way to approach October’s roundup post would be to focus on the positive things that have happened, rather than trying to condense all the emotions of the month into one chaotic assortment…
At school I was always the kid hiding a furious blush behind a curtain of hair, desperately hoping not to be noticed. Whenever a teacher threw a question out into the room like a knife-edged boomerang, I became painfully aware of the chair jamming into my spine as I attempted to disappear into the plastic. In short, some school days felt like being led to slaughter (in front of a cheering crowd). So not too pleasant, really.
I’m not saying I hated everything about school, I actually liked plenty of things about it. But I did find it extremely difficult to be part of a group and to interact with people I didn’t already know very well. Understandably, when I left college at 18, I did not want to go to university; I took a bit of time out of education to figure things out and, perhaps naively, hoped I would be able to fully overcome these awful feelings.
September has been a pretty intense month for me. From going on several holidays to starting university, September has flipflopped through the full extent of emotions and has been chiseled by change. Attentive readers will perhaps have noticed this already: this is the first time my posting schedule has been so sporadic and scattered since starting my blog all the way back in November. A lot of things have happened in the last 30 days, and so I thought I’d split this Reflections post into sections. I, for one, am definitely in need of a little clarity and simplification.
I kicked off September in the best way possible – sleeping in a field. Well, sleeping in a tent in a field. I spent that first weekend of the month strolling through falling leaves in the late summer sunshine of the New Forest and it was wonderful. I think that spending time in nature, and living in a tent, both allow yourself to feel grounded and to dedicate time to appreciating the little things in life. For example, when you’re camping, cooking takes three times as long as it does at home – but that’s okay, because it gives you perspective.
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.
For many young people in the UK, today is results day – long-awaited and much-anticipated, futures are potentially steered in totally unforseen ways because of the letters that appear from within those envelopes on this notorious Thursday. Dreams, and hearts, are seemingly made or broken.
The amount of pressure put on eighteen year olds, by themselves and perhaps also the adults in their lives, can be immense. The idea that this is your one shot at having a ‘successful’ life, that grades are the be all and end all. The thought that time is running out and if you’re not on the starting line for the marathon that is conventional adult life (uni, working your way up some kind of career ladder, finding ‘the one’, moving into a flat and then a house with a mortgage, having a couple of kids, etc.) then you’re going to be left choking on the dust of everyone else’s victories.
once i licked my finger
and held it to the wind
in the hope that its direction
would give me an idea of where to go
but i am not the wind
Some of you may know I’ve been studying with the Open University, a distance learning institution, since October last year. I’ve been enjoying it a lot, but I’m not totally happy with every aspect of it, and last weekend I decided to apply for physical university, which, if I decide to go, would start this autumn. I wanted to write a post about why I might change to traditional uni, but that post wasn’t making much sense without the context to explain why I started studying with the OU in the first place.