Thursday, 9 May 2019

University: Reflecting on Second Year

Second year? Completed it mate.

Can you believe it? It's barely been five minutes and we're already over two thirds of the way through this thing. This second chapter has definitely been another big year of personal growth. It seems to be that while I'm going through it, I don't really see the changes happen; it's only when I come out the other side that I see how much I've learned.



STORY TIME...

Much like school, university is both long and short. I feel like I've been here forever but it also feels like five minutes. As I concluded in my post about first year, uni really was the right move for me two years ago. It's tough. It pushes me to my absolute mental limits. I'm surprised I'm still sat here writing because I've probably written over 10,000 words in the last month for my finals, from essays to creative pieces. I should be knackered. Nay, I am knackered. But here I am, still loving writing anyway – thank gawd!

Living on my own this year was definitely a step up. I have absolutely no regrets, I love it. Planning out my meals. Showering at any time of day (or not lolz, and wot). Staying out late or getting up early. While I am definitely a schedule kinda gal, living by my own rules and not answering to anyone is just the best. Settling back in to a summer at home is probably going to feel a little more difficult this year.

One of the main things I focused on for second year was getting involved. At the end of last year, it was on my list of things I'd learnt so, shockingly, I took my own advice and stepped out of the confines of classes into other new experiences. I mean, I'm paying nine grand a year to be here, I might as well do more than just my degree. So, I joined societies, started a podcast with one of my besties, wrote for the uni magazine, shared some of my poetry at open mic nights and even won a prize for one of my short stories at the creative writing varsity! It's definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone but in exciting and fun ways. 10/10, would recommend.

As for work not being everything? It's a tough pill to take. I can't help that I am ultimately a perfectionist and dedicate most of my time to my work, often burrowing away into the safety of my flat for days on end. The mental stamina it takes to comprehend half of the content of my course is also incredibly demanding – as with all degree's – but it's that broadening and testing of my brain that I love about being here. Drowning in a mountain of books with my eyes glued to my laptop and my hands cramping up, not always fun. But when you come out the other side and can choose to see Disney movies in a whole new way, it's basically worth it. Luckily this year's deadlines were less frequent but still within days of each other at the end of each term. Another baptism of fire each time, but, it's done. Hopefully, my hard work pays off. It kind of already has anyway – if I've learned something that counts as a victory to me.



SO, SOME THINGS I'VE LEARNED

My work doesn't exist until it's out there. This mantra will definitely be influencing my entire summer. First year was spent picking up the tool box and practicing at the work bench. It's all well and good having that story sat on my OneDrive but until it has a reader, an audience, it's nothing. Stories are made to be shared and enjoyed. Second year has definitely helped build my confidence to finally start existing as a writer, so watch this space...

Feminism feels like an impossible mountain, but all we can do is keep climbing. Bit intense, I know. But I actually dared to tackle two essays from the feminist perspective this year and sweet lordy have my eyes been seared open. I already knew it was rough but it's an absolute minefield out there, of good and bad. Most importantly though, I'm finally starting to spot some of those nuances that go under the radar; beyond the lack of pockets on my trousers. These accepted behaviours are buried so deep into my subconscious that I'm only just starting to say HOLD UP. Some food for thought: why are pastel colours, sparkles and frills on women (aka. Taylor Swift) synonymous with weakness and 'uncool' ideologies? Also: Why is masculinity synonymous with strength, when half the time they can't even wash up a pan properly, while women are seen as the 'killjoys' for actually doing a better job. Analysing this, in film especially, has shown me how easy it is to unconsciously internalise these ideas. As a creative writer, I don't want my stories to contribute to such archaic and sexist narratives, so it feels great to take another step towards becoming (as the kids would say) woke, bish. Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk.

Don't strive for perfection, just learn. I'll probably be telling myself this until the day I die. I am a self-confessed over-achiever. Can't help it. Probably stems from some part of my childhood, but what doesn't? It's both an asset and a weakness; I work my arse off to get good grades but that tunnel vision can stop me from having time to explore other opportunities that could be just as valuable. Third year is the big one so for next year, I'm pulling that pressure for perfection down again. I just want to focus on gaining something from my work and studies that I can put to good use after graduation – that's where the real finish line is. Grades don't tell your whole story, but skills gained from mistakes and new experiences are truly valuable, and no-one ever really grew from always getting it right. Still, will that stop me from working hard? Hell nah.


So, if you're still in the thick of assignments or exam revision then, pal, I am here for you, wishing you all the luck and a final burst of motivation. Come join me on the other side when its all over and grab that well deserved pizza and glass of wine. We earned it. Just one more year to go.

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