Accidental Advice

Smile – You’re on camera!

Who is the Truman behind the show?

With the hustle and bustle of freshers week, things got a bit crazy on the day to day. By day 3 of fairs, I found myself crashed out in the media office, lazing in a chair to catch my breath. A friend of mine – bundle of energy in a person – swiftly informs me to smile, because “your outfit is never complete without a smile!”

This statement has kind of stuck with me all week. I love student media, and sometimes I like to pretend that life is a tv show, and here I am stuck centre stage. The supporting cast comes and goes, the location changes, and we age season on season. And throughout the university arc I feel this constant pressure to put on my costume of a smile and continue to work through the script I don’t agree with.

Who is the Truman behind the show, is a question I ask whenever I see those overly positive people on campus. Are people genuinely that happy all the time? I have a constant issue with the very premise of this sitcom smiles and cliche of the perfect student. Sometimes I am sad, worn out, tired, and sometimes I need to vent, and sometimes I don’t feel like putting on my smile and getting on with the day. It is talked about a lot, a common piece of advice given to first year students, to not pretend to be someone you are not. This is inevitably a trap we all fall into, where you tentatively sip during a round of ‘Never Have I Ever’ and frantically try to come up with an exotic story to make you more intriguing to these new friends, these new screens to watch different perceptions of ourselves through.

In a way, it’s almost a vain exercise. A competition to put on the best wardrobe change, and make yourself be the real belle of the ball. University can feel like a competition and I know much like everyone I fell sway to it. I tried the whole pretending to be cool, and trying to fit in with everyone for over a year, and it didn’t work well for me in the long run. The more I took off the outfit (side note: I’m not going to go for the obvious indecent exposure joke, stop giggling you cretins) and wore my face without a smile when it needed to be, or with it when I wanted to wear it. It has no longer become a forced nature.

News Editor and Mental Health Officer George Watkins tends to point out the statistics at this point, how 75 percent of all adult mental health issues are diagnosed by the age of 24, but that doesn’t seem like the right thing to point out now. Whilst yes, a lot of the time if you are suffering from depression you may try to hide it and pretend all things are okay, and that isn’t okay because there are always people around and the best thing to do is talk about it.

If it is depression that you need to be worried about, there are always services around, and you shouldn’t feel any shame about. Call Nightline, call the Samaritans, call your mum, and book an appointment with a doctor. Try medication, try counselling, and apply for extenuating circumstances if that is what you need to do.

But that isn’t really my sentiment for today, being sad isn’t the same as having depression (no matter what your otherwise very impressive tumblr following will tell you), and yet it is still okay to express your sadness. Get mad! Scream at the world, tear your hair out, wallow in despair for a day, as long as you remember that at the end of the scene, when you have put in the performance you wanted, you still have to get up, and do the next scene. And the next one after that. And the one after that on and on.

Whilst I am saying be yourself, remember that there is still an end moral and curtain call to your little soap of a life, and that means even if you wear the sad clown costume, or the angry reds, you still have to get up and go through the motions, and still act out your scene. You just don’t need to pretend that isn’t who you really are! Wear the smile when it is needed, but sometimes wear black, crash out in the comfy chair of the media office, and keep going.

At the end of the day, dear reader, if nothing else I know you can do it. I hate getting out of bed every day (mostly because my room is really cold and I have poor circulation), I feel sometimes like putting on my smile and pretending that I’m in a family friendly rom-com, not a drama, not a slice of life documentary arrogantly narrated by a director sociologist about the life of a boring student columnist, but this happy go lucky on the up and up again kind of show. That is never healthy for me. I know that, you know that, we all do deep down.

Don’t fake it for the haters, wear what you want (unless what you want to wear involves light up trainers and you are over the age of 13), be it a smile or a frown. University is a time to work out who you are, and to not hide away. But time for me to stop writing, the music has started up again and it’s time to get back to the stage, and act this out a little more.

How is it in the spotlight for you? Remember, if you ever want any advice you just have to #AskAtYourOwnRisk

Photo: CODYody (via Flickr)