University: the best three years of your life. Except when it’s not. It’s no secret that I struggled at university – you can read more about that here – and despite graduating with a snazzy certificate from one of the best uni’s in the country with a degree in Law and Anthropology, I still felt as though I’d failed. I blame that almost solely on the pressure and the expectation that your time at university will be the absolute peak of your existence. You’ll leave with best friends for life and three years worth of memories (mainly centred around getting drunk on £1 shots in the student union) that you can whip out at dinner parties until you’re grey and wrinkly. Yeah sure, an education is nice and all, but have you ever tried drinking a pint out of a shoe whilst an already-receding nineteen year old called Gary shouts ‘down it freshaaaaaar!‘? Truth be told, my experience couldn’t be further removed and I’m a little bit jealous.
In its self, the notion that the best years of your life will be over by the ripe old age of twenty one or twenty two is a bit depressing. I understand the sentiment though; for a weird limbo period you’re an adult without the responsibilities of one. Nobody really minds if you live out of your overdraft because you’re out every night of the week or if your staple meal is 60p chicken super noodles. It’s kind of expected that you won’t have your shit together. Maybe that was my problem: I did have my shit together, perhaps a little too much. Having spent a year working fifty hours a week, paying rent, saving into an ISA and separating my whites from my darks and my colours, I really struggled with the lack of structure and routine. More so, I struggled with being surrounded by people who could study advanced maths, but didn’t know how to make scrambled egg. For many, university is the time in their lives that they grow up and I noticed that change massively in a few friends from first year to the end of third year. I was already a grown up, and I felt really, really boring.
I quickly lost my sense of self and of purpose and spiralled into a depression, allowing a cloud of blackness and overwhelming anxiety to take over my existence. It was really shit and whilst I was lucky to have a good GP, my university was particularly crap at providing any support. My attendance slipped and although I pulled it together in time for exams, the entirety of my registers for the three years reads a bit like a missing persons file. I learnt to get into my own rhythm and it went something like this: attend the bare minimum, study the bare minimum and finally work really fucking hard for a few weeks of the year, fuelled by a cocktail of Red Bull and Pro Plus and the determination to at least make the experience worth it on on paper. The best three years, my arse.
I didn’t really have any pals which in part was my own fault because the above lifestyle wasn’t particularly conducive to making friends. However I also felt as though when I did put myself out there I really struggled to find my people. I craved the girl gang I’d never had at secondary school (more on that here), or a big group of pals to go out with on a Thursday night but I just couldn’t find them. In hindsight, I chose the wrong university in that sense and I think if I’d gone elsewhere I’d probably have a different story to tell. There seems to be something a bit different about going to uni in London and it’s something I’ve heard echoed from several others, whether they graduated recently or over a decade ago. Really, you’re just another person living in the capital. Where other cities are more geared towards students, London is rather unforgiving. Most of the universities are not campus based so it’s very easy to quickly become detached.
Regardless of what your university experience looks like – and I hope it isn’t much like mine – it’s totally okay if actually, it wasn’t the best three years of your life. The overriding pressure to be having a really fucking fantastic time can be almost suffocating. I spent a lot of time feeling like (prozac aside!) there was clearly something wrong with me. I figured that it must be my own fault that I didn’t particularly connect with my cohort or leave with friends for life; I must have done something wrong, been wrong, put them off some how. Even now, it’t not a period I massively enjoy talking about because I don’t have the stories to tell, and the handful that I do feel a bit fraudulent because they were few and far between.
I don’t regret the three years I spent at university; education aside, I learnt a lot about myself. I left with a fully functioning business and more money in my bank account than I joined with, which almost certainly wouldn’t have happened had I been too busy chugging sweaty gym trainer beer. It is hard to shake that feeling that I did it wrong though. If you did have a wonderful time at uni then I am genuinely happy for you. If, like me, you walked across that graduation stage with mixed feelings (relief, mainly) after what definitely wasn’t the best three years of your life then I want you to know you’re not alone and you probably didn’t do anything wrong either.
Shop the Look