On the 24th January 2018, I celebrated my twenty-second birthday. The days approaching this date were filled with a mix of emotion; whilst I appreciated that I wasn’t going to be attending line-dancing classes and applying for a bus pass any time soon, I knew that the year I turned twenty-two brought with it a lot of change that simply couldn’t be ignored. For me, twenty-two means graduating, job hunting and career planning. Twenty-two means postgraduate applications and hunts for funding. Twenty-two means moving away from Cardiff and into a flat with my boyfriend. I’ve been enrolled as a student at Cardiff University since September 2014, and the end is now in sight. But what have I learnt in the past 8,058 days on this planet?
It is very easy to overlook how quickly you mature year on year. I like to think I’m exactly the same person that as I was when I started university, but when I reflect I realise that it’s not just my alcohol tolerance that has altered. As the years pass by, our priorities change and so does our attitude. One of the most important things I’ve learnt in the past three years is how to stay true to myself. Without sounding like a High School Musical extra, I can’t stress how important it is to make sure that everything you are doing is entirely authentic. If you’re not interested in taking the drugs that your flatmates have told you that “everyone does”, then that is totally fine and you shouldn’t feel any pressure to do so. If you don’t want to go to that party, or spend time with that group of people, then don’t. I understand that this can be difficult when you’re literally placed into a house with a number of people and expected to play happy families. However, there are always likeminded people around you, and the chances are that if you think that a certain person is a bellend, there will be someone else who thinks so, too. This particular life lesson passed me by in my first year, and I largely acted in a way that I thought I should. In fact, I think I’d cringe if I had to be a fly on the wall watching myself weave through the Glam smoking area in September 2014.
What I’m trying to say is that as long as you’re not harming yourself or anyone else (I’m sounding like my Mum) you should do whatever you want to do, and not what other people think you should.
In a similar vein, I have recently learnt how important it is to broaden your mind-set. Many of our degrees teach us how to critically assess, but these skills often pass me by in real life. I have been guilty in the past of nodding my head and glazing over when particularly complex issues arise, and when pressed for my opinion I usually just replicate those found in my own echo chamber. Therefore, as of late, I have been attempting to take my own initiative, form my own opinions and research the topic at hand. Just because you read one Independent article on an issue does not mean that you are fully informed. Read widely, listen to podcasts and form your own conclusion.
However, that being said, we cannot all be experts in every field. Know that it is okay to ask for help or clarification on a topic, whether that be politics or pop culture. I’ve often felt intimidated by those I consider to be more knowledgeable than I, but have learnt how to feel confident in asking for help. You shouldn’t let anyone make you feel stupid or unworthy for failing to understand a concept, and you should equally acknowledge that you’re allowed to love the Kardashians and be interested in the latest goings-on in Westminster at the same time. Being interested in one does not eliminate the other. If you’re interested in learning about current affairs in an accessible manner, I recommend having a listen to The High Low podcast or reading Lauren Duca’s Thigh High Politics column.
There are many other things I’ve learnt over the past twenty-two years, of course. I’ve learnt that skincare can be expensive, but higher quality clothes are worth investing in. I’ve learnt that everyone should buy a diary to record everything you need to do; even if you think you can remember everything yourself (you can’t). I’ve learnt that gossip is inevitable, but you should pick your battles, know when to give your two-pennies-worth and when to walk away. Finally, and most importantly, I have come to the conclusion that Earth, Wind and Fire’s September is the best crowd-pleaser that there is. Many of you may be fooled, as I was, into believing that the crown goes to Come on Eileen, but I can assure you that you are mistaken. Next time you’re at a social event and feel the mood beginning to dip, whack that on full blast and see the mood change in front of your eyes.