Student life feels somewhat nomadic. I’ve just about settled down somewhere, and suddenly everything’s packed back into boxes and I’m in another city, trying to work out how to rearrange the furniture so that this term, I don’t have to move my harp out of the way every time I need to do … well, anything.
So here I am: back in Cambridge, with the furniture now in its third arrangement since I arrived in October (only two things, the bed and the very heavy, somewhat antique set of drawers, have been left as they are). I’m sure that by the time I leave this place none of it will be where it started, and that thought amuses me. I’m finally beginning to feel like this space is how i want it to be, although it’s not nearly colourful enough.
Actually, that’s something I’m constantly aware of — how colourful my room at home is compared to this one. I have yellow walls covered in photographs, posters, and bookshelves full of children’s books, which tend to have bright covers. There are ornaments on shelves, tickets from shows I’ve been to stuck to the wardrobe door, a mind map for a novel from a couple of years ago on the inside of the wardrobe. But I’m not allowed to use blutack here, and it’s seriously limiting my attempts to make this place colourful.
Oh well. I’ll get there in the end.
For those who are observing my university life from afar and aren’t subject to desperate messages in the midst of essay crises or other difficulties, it might be difficult to gauge how I’m actually getting on. The truth is, I found last term incredibly difficult. Living in a new place, away from my family, is difficult enough with good health, and my physical and mental health were both poor for most of the term. Add to that finding the subject itself incredibly hard, and you’ve got a recipe for a large number of crying sessions and a strong desire to go home for the holidays and not come back.
Before I went to uni I was fed the narrative that while it’s hard work, it’s going to be the best time of your life. Everybody seemed to be having such a great time, at least from what they put on Facebook, which is the danger of social media, really. I’m bizarrely honest and open on my Facebook, and I still don’t convey everything that’s going on, so there’s no reason to expect that everyone else is. Even so, I sort of felt obliged to tell people I was having a good time despite spending 80% of time wishing I was at home.
But I didn’t go home and not come back, because I’m here. And I thought I should tell you this because for all I know, there are a dozen of you reading this who have been in exactly the same position. The world expects this to be the best time of our lives — so it seems sort of hard to admit that it’s not.
I persuaded myself to come back partly because I didn’t much feel like staying at home doing nothing, but also by giving myself non-work reasons to spend time in Cambridge. I got a part in the ballet show that’s in February, so I had to come back for that. I’m going to an event about ‘fairytales for grownups’ at the end of January with a friend, which I’m really looking forward to. The Newnham College gardens are a lovely place to walk without having to go a long distance.
And I made myself promises:
Each week, I’ll try to read at least one book purely for my own enjoyment. Light-hearted fiction, poetry etc — things that aren’t work, aren’t difficult, are fun.
I’ll get up earlier so that I don’t have to rush my mornings, and if the weather’s tolerable, go for a quick walk in the gardens first thing to wake myself up. Then I can try and get some writing done before I go to lectures, if that’s what I want to do.
I’ll try and make sure I spend some time socialising every day that I don’t have a society of some sort, so that I don’t spend too much time on my own.
And I’ll do my best to look after my health.
So I have six kinds of tea, some hot chocolate, cake, biscuits, crisps; I’ve got a bowl full of satsumas and a carton of apple and raspberry juice that I’m only slightly allergic to so can probably keep drinking; I’ve got blankets and a TARDIS quilt cover and a collection of soft toys and marbles to play with when I’m stressed or over-stimulated and a plastic stress toy to fiddle with in lectures so that I don’t crack my knuckles so much. I have bubble wrap to pop when I need to take out my frustration on something and I have a bag full of chocolate supplies.
I’m determined to make this term better than last term so that when people ask me how I’m getting on, I can give them an honest answer without feeling like I’m going to worry them or discourage them (in the case of those who are applying for uni at the moment). So that I get to the end of it and I’m almost sorry to leave.
And that’s not going to start with work or lectures but with me, and my own personal happiness. So that’s what I’m working on.