Misled expectations and disappointment. The University experience that is sold as a social highlight reel. Those mid moments captured from a blurry night out with friends, with the inevitable next step, posting it online. It is easy to scroll and picture yourself as that girl in the photo.
“I want to have those carefree nights without structure”, I once said to myself.
People around me seemed to talk about adulthood as a negative transaction. I on the other hand was rather excited, excited by the fact that there is a little more choice, in certain areas. In school, binded together through timetabled lessons, you don’t really have a choice to choose “your people ”, although some of my closest friends are from college. The topic of University however seemed to provoke a few laughs from graduates that I had spoken to. They would respond with my questions about the University life with a singular look, that I assumed was a warm reminiscent memory of theirs.
Finding my Category: Misleading freedom of choice
I was nineteen years of age, and this was going to be a chance to truly find what was enjoyable for me, without the restraints that come with being a minor. Those candid photos of freshers nights, and mid moments fantasys. The established societies on campus that looked like a second family dynamic, and the bag that the perfect student has, with all of the books organised ever so neatly as they walk through the University doors.
I was unsure as to where I would fit into this. Which category would feel somewhat appropriate for my character? Studying Music, you may think, the tone of the degree is a little less pressured, in terms of meeting a criteria, but it wasn’t the course itself that positioned me as a slight outcast.
I am not too sure what I expected, but groups quickly formed. It seemed that depending on the genre of music you were going towards, dictated the image choices that followed. ITs fun to experiment and there was something eye opening about seeing people around me reinvent themselves through funky
haircuts and budget hair dye. Observing other people on my course trail different things was always quite an intriguing transition to watch. I did question whether I should dye my hair, a colour that may even look “ugly” to some, just to shake off the all so feminine and blank canvas version of myself.. The days and weeks following, I did consider it. I did want to rid the long hair, and perfectly plucked eyebrows, and the shaven legs that were predictably complimented by men.
The concept of image and attitude changing to fit into a group at University felt somewhat exhausting. The more I considered it, the more withdrawn I became.
I was, and still am just figuring this out.
Instead, I had and still do to this day as I take on third year, became comfortable within a self proclaimed category. Writing and documenting this identity process, pen to paper, became a daily ritual. I couldn’t navigate the social aspect of university too well, so I focused on my ability to process this new environment, in a therapeutic way. It may portray a lonely girl, but having these internal conversations made it very clear that time was quickly passing, and framing the next steps felt more appropriate.
It may be a “cutting the cord” moment from parents and guardians, for young adults to perform a subjective reckless lifestyle away from home. Bombarded with Careers advice drop in and Go Abroad schemes, It was apparent to me that those candid photos captured on a blurry night, were painfully temporary.
On reflection I recognise that I needed and still do need to work on spontaneous nights out, that can amount to something without all of the planning. Without anyone holding your hand anymore as a minor, I just wanted to retreat a little bit and get writing. I started joining music and poetry networks outside of the University grounds, and instantly felt a sense of relief. No pressure or expectation. I was able to connect with others without this lingering decision of a social group or music genre. Away from the pressures of making these three years the best of your life, I found networks that promote self discovery in an organic and non linear way.
It is okay if you do not fit into university norms, and/or find “your people ”. Equally, it’s great to find a network at University as it all consists of a lot of trial and error protocol, regardless of how you decide to shape your transition into adulthood. For my story, self discovery and growth started to take place when I acknowledged my social boundaries and the pace that I wanted to go at. We can’t find ourselves during these three years provided, but we can learn to say yes to ourselves, and no to external pressures when it’s needed.