The smell of pumpkin spice fills our collective nostrils and the crunch of leaves sounds beneath our feet. It’s beginning to feel a lot like autumn – a time to look back on how we are doing so far. This has been an up and down year for me – things seem to either go wildly right or wildly wrong with no option for anything in between.
In times where things go wrong, and in the words of the prophets of our generation Nickelback, “when it is the bottom of the ninth and you are never gunna win”, you might feel tempted to look back on what made you happy in the past and tend to replicate it. A lot of people make big declarative statements about doing something new, and how this is their time… And then inevitably fall back to doing the same things as before, like shagging their ex and regretting it the next morning.
And that’s the rut we fall into. We drop a message about what we are up to into the flat group chat, and no one looks at it with any surprise. When you say that you are busy doing x or y or Andy from flat 2, no one so much as blinks. We all too easily do exactly what is expected of us.
There is a culture at university – one that I entirely buy into – that to be the perfect university student you need to do lots of activities, be an active member of all the societies, and generally strive for the fulfilling ideal. You need to do things you love, enjoy them all the time, and win consistently. We are supposed to be the people that lead our teams to victory by day and to the lash by night, somehow coming out of it all with a first.
The student ideal, the dream push to be the best you can be: in the last week it is something I have struggled with a lot, because I worry that this is a lie pushed upon us. Recently I have felt bored with what I have been doing. I get sick of this nonsense, feeling pushed to do as much as I can, and to be the best at it.
Listen up bitches, Charlie has a story to tell you.
I hate running but I am trying to do it anyway. Running was something I used to do, and then quit to pick up smoking because I make great life decisions (sorry mum). I’m talking genuine trainers to the tarmac, park run on a Saturday. Not running away from my problems, which seems to be my main form of exercise nowadays.
And I did enjoy it. I liked the fact I was bad at it, and I like that same fact now. I am genuinely shit at running; I have the worst lung capacity. However, I do love that I struggle up every hill. Of course, I really don’t want to at the time. But when I have finally done it, I get a sense of accomplishment.
Radio presenting at our sister station Xpress Radio was the thing I sold my soul to in first year. It was exciting, and live, and I had never done it before. I was afraid that I could get everything wrong, somehow accidentally push a button that would set the whole studio on fire (why they still keep that button I have no idea). But even now I feel like I am just going through the same mediocre methods minute by minute, and not having the fun that I once did. I still screw up, though not as much, but I don’t innovate anymore.
But that isn’t allowed in the perfect ideal of a university student. We shouldn’t struggle, because everyone has a degree and the job market is competitive, or at least that is what we are told. We have to have the perfect set of society requirements, committee experience, and a first class degree. Therefore, screw ups are just not allowed.
Liam Ketcher, our one and only Editor-in-Chief here at Gair Rhydd, talks a lot about the idea that when you go to university you learn more about yourself and who you are as a person, thank you do about your degree. You spend your time learning about bills, and tax, and how to strawpedo a VK in 3.2 seconds, and less about Durkheim’s theories of society. Unless of course you are a medic – in which case, I hope for all of our sake that you are paying attention!
Sometimes we need challenge, sometimes we need a little bit of the familar, and always we need a balance of the two. Don’t buy into this perfect ideal. it doesn’t exist. You don’t have to be on all the committees and win Tab BNOC of the Year, and you are allowed to fail. I actively encourage you in the next week to go out and fail. I want you to go out and screw something up because you tried it for the first time. I want you to scream at the world and watch it scream back for a bit, and I want you to learn something.
Let me know how it goes.
How do you feel your own fulfilment at university? Need advice of your own? You just have to #AskAtYourOwnRisk