You may disagree. But this is what I think.
Today I have been listening to this thing that Spotify has done which is where they make a playlist of all your most listened to songs in 2016. Obviously 2016 has been a ridiculously shit year and I have not been immune to this AT ALL. I listen to music a lot, so all the songs on this playlist have some kind of significance to me or remind me of a specific part of the year, or a person, or emotion. I remember how I felt when I discovered each of these songs and played them on repeat for whatever reason. Previously I might have felt pained to listen to some of these songs, but today I am approaching them with a “you live and you learn” attitude. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I have absolutely no regrets, but I’ve sort of made peace with the fact that I have been a shitty person and equally, some people have been shitty to me. I think it’s the right time to share this story because I have been thinking about it a lot in the last few days, doing little drafts in my head. I’m sure it will all spill out randomly though. I don’t expect a lot of people to read to the end, or to read it at all, this is more of a therapuetic exercise for me. Also, the internet people have taught us that it is nice to share intimate personal details of our lives with complete random strangers. I have left out specifics and some details of course, because I’m not trying to have a go at anyone or be overly personal. But you can get the general gist of the story. I’m also writing this for people who may be in the same situation as me, and are feeling a bit lost, or people who are about to graduate, so you can sort of know what to expect. Anyway. Here goes.
One thing I want to start by saying is, I took uni completely for granted. Those 3 years, despite having some drastically awful moments, were also the most amazing times and I completely didn’t realise how incredible they were. It was without a doubt, the best time of my life on the whole. When I left, I was grieving. Really, truly grieving. The only thing I wanted was to be able to go back to first year and do it all again. But just like any sort of grieving process, it does get easier. This is a warning for people still at uni. You’re so set on finishing, graduating, completing your exams, that it really hits you when it’s actually done and gone. There is no next stage from here. The next stage is basically have a job for 60 years and then die. Fun. Do not take your student years for granted! Anyway, back to the story.
When I started uni, I had a plan for what would happen when I graduated. I would make a great group of friends, move in with them, start dating someone amazing in maybe second year who had their own place, then by the end of third year we would love each other enough that I would just move into their place when I graduated and I would never have to pay a deposit or anything and it would all be perfect, then I would be a published author and get married and it would all be super amazing and I would have one of those machine things that makes freshly squeezed orange juice.
By second year, my expectations got lower. I hadn’t met anyone who was a good candidate for this co-habitation plan and couldn’t see anyone coming my way, as I had already got to know everyone on my course, my friend’s courses and people in halls. I decided instead that as long as I finished with a first (yeah fucking right, I thought) and had a great flat to live in with my friends, it would all be okay. I would work out the money side of it later. Just use my last student loan to get a house right? Yeah, I thought that was probably a genuinely solid idea.
At the end of third year, things were even more different. I was ready to move on from uni life, because it seemed like I had lost most of the people I cared about by being a prat, and I was done with the big city lifestyle. I had done some stupid things over the years and some horrible things had happened to me and people I loved. Basically everything was completely different to how it was when I started, good in some ways and bad in others. There was one thing that was going to plan though, I had found a flat and was moving in with my boyfriend, someone I actually knew really well and didn’t meet on Tinder. It felt like we both wanted the same things and it was the perfect situation. There were a few snags in the plan, however. We had originally made plans to move in together as friends, and then started dating. Once we had the flat, it was like a 12 month contract on our relationship. On our second date we were browsing for Ikea furniture. It was a lot of pressure on something that could go so horribly wrong. The second issue was that I was in love with somebody else, and everybody fucking knew it by this time. I had to fight a really, really difficult battle between my heart and my mind. I had this life all planned out ready for me, just like I had always wanted. But my heart was telling me it wasn’t right. So I had to make the tough decision of trying to follow what I really wanted instead. It was like a movie, where the girl makes the right decision, even if it’s the hardest option, and runs back to her true love to live happily ever after. Obviously, life doesn’t work like that.
So my big graduation dream actually ended in me living in a (actually ridiculously fucking cheap for somewhere so beautiful) big terrace house in Wimbledon, above a fancy japanese restaurant, with a child that wasn’t mine, an almost daily group of random visitors that had no interest in talking to me and a huge pile of old PhD research notes on the landing that PISSED ME OFF every time I got out of bed and went downstairs in the morning. I wanted to just throw them all out the window into the bin of leftover sushi in the alleyway. It might seem like a little thing but it honestly got on my tits EVERY DAMN DAY. Anyway. It wasn’t a fairytale ending for me.
If anything, rather than being self assured that I had made the right decision with this whole heart over head thing, I felt more lost and alone than ever. Looking back on it now, I’m pretty sure that for reasons I actually was suffering from PTSD, but didn’t realise it at the time. It seems pretty obvious now. I hated myself, had constant flashbacks whether awake or in dreams, and it’s only recently that I have been able to fall asleep in a silent room without the TV or radio on, previously too scared to lie in silence in case all the terrible thoughts flooded into my head again. I hated myself so much that I didn’t even want to do anything for my 21st birthday. I didn’t want anyone to acknowledge that I was alive, or celebrate my life, because I felt like I didn’t deserve one at all. I also felt like a complete waste of space because I was working from home part time, with nothing else to fill my life with, I was in so much debt and basically felt like a freeloader. I changed my mind about what I wanted in life so often that it frustrated me to the point of tears on more than one occasion. I thought I wanted to do a masters, then the next day I would change my mind. I thought I wanted to work on getting more freelance clients for my writing business, then the next day I would be applying for publishing jobs in central London. I think it was a combination of my mental state and the fact that I had just graduated, but I felt like I hadn’t done anything at all with my life. I was constantly comparing myself to other people who I thought had done more than me by the time they were 21. But COMPARISON IS THE THIEF OF JOY. You will ALWAYS find someone who you think is better than you. Always. It’s a pointless endeavour.
I dreaded my graduation. After it was over I cried sad, sad, tears. I was genuinely distraught because I felt like after three years I had achieved nothing at all from it and now it was all over with no more desperate chance to cling to it like I could still make a difference to my time there. The fact that I had walked away with a first class honours degree and the highest mark for my final piece in the whole fucking year meant literally nothing to me. I felt like I was a cheat, a fraud and that I didn’t deserve it. I had people who said that to me too. I had people say that I hadn’t earned it, that I used my sexuality and my body and my manipulative personality to be able to achieve that result. But I also said that to myself too. It wasn’t until I finally received my certificate a few weeks ago (my first one got lost in the house move) that I sort of took some pride in what I had done. Which when you think about it, shows just how sexist life is, and how fucking sad that all was.
I want to say that I have moved on a bit from that place now, because time heals all wounds, as they say. Apart from the scar above my eye that will mean I never have perfect winged eyeliner. But hey ho.
I guess what I want people to take from this is, graduation hit me hard. I don’t know what other people are feeling because I am not them and I am not Queenie from Fantastic Beasts, but I’m guessing there are a lot of people in the same boat as me, because there usually is. I just want to say that you’re not alone in how you are feeling, and that it will get easier with time as you find your feet. I also want to point out to people in their final year at uni that I got a really high final grade and I don’t give two monkeys about it. It’s not worth getting stressed over. It’s a piece of paper, and it isn’t who you are. No one thing ever is.