I still remember exactly how I felt, two years ago, as I wobbled into my interview for the columnist position, with then-editor Joseph Atkinson. As I sat down for the first time in the sweaty, stuffy, busy media office, I distinctly remember asking myself what the fuck am I doing here?
I was nineteen, writing articles about the psychology behind one night stands and had never had my writing read by anyone other than my teachers and my mum. Two incredibly short, but also painfully long years later, here I am, writing my last ever column, and unsure where to go from here.
It’s incredibly sad, and I think all of us that have to leave are doing so with heavy hearts, but also with incredible pride. It hasn’t yet sunk in. We’re so busy, with exams, finals, awards and balls, the final ‘goodbye’ still seems so far off.
But, it will come. We will finish our essays, complete our exams and eventually graduate, and with that will come the inevitable identity crisis, when we realise we’ve completed the longest leg of our journey, but still don’t seem to have arrived at a destination.
So, where do we go from here? We’re not students anymore; but we’re not yet professionals either. We’re certainly not kids anymore. We cook our own meals, drive our own cars, we buy our own alcohol and even pay our own bills, but we’re not quite adults either. We don’t know how to sign off emails and we still don’t know what council tax is, or the difference between bio and non-bio detergent.
So, what are we? Graduates? What does that mean? I suppose it means we should stop picking up 10ps on the street, and doing laundry in the shower and stealing toilet rolls from restaurants. We’ll have a mountain of debt, yet be expected to now pay the adult price for a cinema ticket and pay full price for a train fare.
It’s going to be depressing, probably, for a while. We’ll move back home to discover that our bedroom has become the ‘spare room’ and our parents don’t really love us anymore because we don’t really do anything apart from eat all the food in the fridge and watch repeats of Fresh Meat and Peep Show on television. We’re not making them proud anymore and each time they mention looking for a job we start hysterically wailing and shrieking. They’re holding off retirement to avoid hanging out with us.
We’ll weep for the old days; Wednesday night drinking and free bin bags and eating without a plate and not getting told off.
We will probably try to come back to Cardiff at some point, to escape from our new-fangled, bleak existence, for a ‘girly weekend’ or a big ‘lad’s night out’. But it will be miserable.
We’ll discover that ‘our secret spot’ for cocktails is apparently not so secret, and has been discovered by a group of younger, prettier, skinnier girls and the owner is giving them the ‘special discount’ we thought was reserved just for us. Boys, you’ll visit the union again but will quickly realise that the power to pull literally anybody left you when you graduated from the uni rugby team and you are now noticeably 26 amongst a room of 18 year olds and somebody, at some point, will probably call you a paedo.
We’ll all finally crack when Abdul from Family Fish Bar no longer recognises us, or our order, and we’re being dragged away by the police crying and screaming “YOU KNOW I HAVE A LARGE SAUSAGE AND A SMALL CHIPS ABDUL! IT’S ME! DAMNIT ABDUL IT’S ME!” and we’ll be left wondering if we ever actually existed at all.
Although it looks bleak and the future is terrifying, it does, though, also mean that we’ve made it.
Ladies, gentlemen, we have arrived. Every lesson, every grade, every learning curve has led us to this moment. We completed primary school to secondary school, to sixth form or college, to university, to graduation. And this is it, the final lap, and sweet, beautiful freedom is within touching distance.
For the first time since we were mixing coloured paint and learning our alphabet, the road is not clear ahead. Some of us will travel, some will undertake a masters, and some will go back home and work for their parents. Some of us will be successful immediately, some of us will be successful in ten years, some of us will never quite become who we wanted to be, but for now, for the first time in our lives, the rest is unwritten, and that is terrifying, but refreshing.
We’re stood on the edge of the big, scary world, but some advice I was given was to keep your dreams in sight, especially once you graduate.
Amongst the overwhelming debt, crippling anxiety and questionable existence you will experience following graduation, it will be easy to forget why we did all of this.
Yes, we have £40,000 worth of debt and probably no job offers on the table, but we will be okay.
Beautiful, young, excited freshers, I am green with envy. Enjoy every godforsaken moment damnit, because one day you will be lining up twelve of “the cheapest shots available” with three of the best years of your life ahead of you, and then all before you know it you’ll be sat at your laptop with tears dripping onto your keyboard, saying goodbye to the place, and people, that have become your home over the past three years.
Maria, my incredible editor, thank you for letting me do swear words every week and for never, ever telling me my 1000-words-on-literally-nothing idea was terrible. Thank you trusting me and giving me absolute free reign every week, you are so wonderful.
To everyone on the team last year, and this year, you are beautiful, wondeful, brilliant people. Never ever stop doing BuzzFeed quizzes instead of working, never stop asking inappropriate questions to one another and never, ever stop the puns.
To the people that read this column every week, to those people who read it occasionally, and to the person reading it for the first time today; thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. It’s been a joy and a pleasure and an experience that made my university experience that much richer.
Gair Rhydd will remain close to my heart forever, and to next year’s team, and next year’s columnist, good luck. Absorb, savour and enjoy every single moment of your journey-it’s going to be wonderful.
For one last time, Helena Hanson; over and out. X