Comment Column Road

The Secret Diary of an Undergrad

In this week’s Secret Diary of an UndergradKatie Bennett-Davies discusses her recent marriage at the age of 21.

This summer, I did something that would horrify most of you. I got married at the ripe old age of 21! And no, I didn’t marry a sugar daddy; my groom is a debt-saddled student just like me. Most students would think we were either too dumb to realise that we’re in a rush of emotions, mistaken for long-lasting love. Others would think we are just too flippant with the institution of marriage and that, if it all goes tits over arse, we can always get divorced. Those closest to us, namely our best friends and family, would however disagree, knowing everything my new hubby and I have already been through and the kind of relationship we have as a result.

The thing about advice is that it’s ignorant to ignore everyone who disagrees with you, but it’s equally, if not more, stupid to listen to the advice of people with no wisdom. People we have met randomly or who spend little time with us were the ones who told us we were too young to get married. The people who know us best were thrilled when we got engaged. Only time will tell whether we’ve made the right choice, but when making a big decision, I think it’s best to take the wisdom of a few close confidants, rather than a general poll of those who don’t know you well.

The criticism most of us are likely to face, including from ourselves, is either that we are too young or too old. Age has never stopped those who have gone down in our history as some of the greatest people to walk the earth. Sometimes you just have to go with your gut instinct. There is always time to do over if you make a mistake. At the risk of sounding like a cheesy quote, there is no such thing as failure, if you turn your mistakes into lessons for success.

I think this a good thing to bear in mind at the beginning of a new academic year, when we are all presented with a feast of opportunities both inside and outside the Union – internships, societies, part-time jobs, volunteering; the list goes on and on. Perhaps you won’t go down in the history books, but the least we can do is make the most of our short time at university.

Bill Cosby said, “In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.” This got me thinking about people like the contestants of The Great British Bake Off. OK, I did originally think of some of the Olympians, but I think we’re all a bit sick of hearing the O-word. Anyway, in case you don’t watch GBBO, each week, the bakers are given three challenges on which they are judged. My favourite is the last one, the ‘showstopper challenge’. This is when the bakers have a chance to show off. They are given a wide-ranging brief, such as bake a pie with a crust, with which they can do whatever they want.

If I was on the show, I’d face a dilemma: either play it safe and reduce the risk of completely messing up, but also reduce the chance of winning; or be completely daring and attempt to bake an incredible masterpiece, aim to be the best and win, but also have a high chance of messing up and creating the worst excuse for a pie ever seen. I think the majority of us would attempt to do something in between the two. It would be fair to argue that you need to build up skills and experience to pull off a real show-stopping pie, but at what point do you decide, ‘sod it, I’m going to bake an amazing pie that will knock Mary Berry’s socks off’? When do we decide to stop playing the safe game?

Last summer, thousands of students graduated from Cardiff; at some point, we hope to join the names and faces too. In today’s rough economy, with so many students flooding the market, you need more than just a degree to stand out from the crowd. Graduates don’t get to pick the job they want anymore, but we can make sure we squeeze the very most we can out of all the debt we’re accumulating and give ourselves a half-decent CV after three years. That’s why I decided to do something that scared me and apply for this column over the summer. OK, it’s hardly revolutionary, but it’s sticking my head above the parapet, by putting my thoughts on paper and distributing it to Cardiff’s student population to read and pass judgement on (be kind, please). Will this be the year that you try to bake that amazing pie by joining Xpress Radio or CUTV? If someone who writes bad analogies about Mary Berry’s socks, can land herself a column, what’s to stop you getting that internship or volunteering with the homeless?

As I said at the beginning, don’t let the advice or judgement of people with no wisdom stop you. If we all only ever stuck to convention and stayed on the continuous conveyor belt of life, nothing would ever change and world-changing technology would never have been invented. Can you imagine life without… iPhones? Well, it used to exist before Apple came along and thought outside the box.

On the other hand, as my 35-year-old cousin remarked to me this week, when I began giving him love advice: what do I know? I’m talking like the old man who has seen and done everything. I’m just the 21-year-old mug who married their high-school sweetheart. Maybe my advice should be to stop taking advice from geeks who write columns…

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