I’ve been cagey about how I was feeling about coming back to university and planned to talk a bit about why in Wednesday’s post, but it was such an awful day I couldn’t bring myself to write the scheduled goals and plans post – mostly because, I realised, my only goal at the moment is to make it to the end of term in one piece. Over the Easter holiday I became more and more anxious about returning to York this term, to the point of suffering panic attacks when I thought about it too much. But the holidays ended, and all of a sudden I had no choice but to pack up all my things and come back last Sunday, where I sat on my bed for a full hour wishing I’d never got in the car that morning. I’m not going to lie: it’s been a hard week.
Contrary to my assumptions, Monday was fairly good. I spent some time getting organised in my bullet journal to feel more on top of things prior to my lecture, after which I met up with Becca and we went into town. When my parents dropped me off, my mum had accidentally left behind her handbag containing her purse and phone and I couldn’t get hold of them until they’d made the four-hour journey home, so we headed to the post office first. Becca packaged up Mum’s phone within in an inch of its life (I honestly didn’t know how she was going to get past the wall of gaffer tape) and we managed to get it handed in ten minutes before the last pickup for delivery so it could arrive the next day.
After all that excitement we headed to Brew & Brownie on Museum Street; I’ve heard a lot of good things about this little place and it definitely didn’t disappoint. Our cakes and coffee were gorgeous and we talked and talked until closing time, and then on the bus all the way back to campus. This has been the absolute saving grace this week: knowing I have people all around me here who are happy and willing to support and talk things through, people who understand first-hand what it feels like to be lonely and lost whilst everyone assumes you’re having ‘the time of your life’. People like Alice, who found me on Facebook after reading a few blogposts (hi, lovely!); we’ve met up twice this week including a trip to town for coffee and cake in Crumbs and a spot of shopping and always have more to talk about.
Academically things have gone well this week, which I did expect; it’s always there that I feel most comfortable. This term I’m studying a poetry module and a class called The Big Book, which will spend four weeks looking at Charles Dickens’ incredible Our Mutual Friend. At the end we’ll be assessed by group presentations, and thankfully I’ve got two wonderful groups largely made up of close friends, which is really reassuring. I’m hoping that the process of producing these presentations should actually be quite good fun; it’s great to be working with people I feel comfortable with, and will be a great opportunity to get to know everyone better, too.
Here’s the thing: I am incredibly lucky. The academic opportunities available to me here are incredible and unending. I feel unfathomably grateful for the friends I’ve found here, and I think that many of them will become long-lasting friendships throughout and even after university. On paper, I’m making the most of this experience and having a wonderful time.
But on Wednesday I woke up late feeling utterly defeated by the world. My head was pounding for no real reason and just sitting up seemed to take every ounce of effort I had – not because I was physically unwell, but because I wanted to be absolutely anywhere but here. It was an awful day, full of stress and panic and not really getting anything done. Thursday was a slight improvement and I started to get a little more on top of my work, but it’s this instability and uncertainty of university life – not knowing how I’m going to feel one day to the next, and not feeling in control of that – that is so draining and difficult for me.
To take off some of the stress I’ve been forced to cut out a work experience scheme I was selected for, as this will allow me to go home for a fortnight in the middle of term after exams, and I’ve taken to timetabling entire days. I don’t like doing this as it feels too controlling and obsessive, but if it’s the only thing which keeps me stable here I’ll happily do it every single day until I leave. Making these decisions have improved things and I’ve had a productive and useful weekend, and there are a few things planned for the coming weeks which I can look forward to.
This isn’t really where I want to be right now. But what I’m coming to understand is that I want to want to be here. I want to enjoy my time here, to have those life-changing experiences that university is always credited for. I know in my heart that I belong here, that this is the right place for me – if I can just work out how to feel secure while I’m here. And right now I don’t really know what else I can do.
This week I’ve been…
Reading: Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens. I’m a bit behind with it but I’m nearly at the end, and it’s been the perfect thing to get lost in this week when everything else has been too hard.
Listening to: Two years ago I played a concert with the Norfolk County Youth Orchestra accompanying internationally acclaimed pianist Stephen Hough in the lesser-known Dvorak Piano Concerto. It remains the single most extraordinary musical experience of my life, and this month he released his recording of the concerto with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Andris Nelson. It’s been wonderful to revisit this amazing piece, and think back to that concert.
How’s your week been? What have you been reading, watching and listening to? What are your plans for the coming week?
Let’s have a conversation – comment below!