A-levels are over! Yay! No more school! Or revision! Time for Netflix! All day! Unlimited time to duvet-burrito! No need to get up! Or dressed! Or do anything at all!
And therein lies the problem. What the hell am I supposed to do now? Even though I did relatively little revision, by which I mean next to none, I still had a proper purpose and something to aim towards. Now, with no exams, I’ve found myself at the beginning of a slippery slope that’s started with bed and Netflix and the fridge. It’s great for a couple of hours but then I realised that I have two months of summer before uni that I need to fill, and no way can I do that with days spent in bed rather than actually doing things. I need to find a new purpose, one that means I’ll meet people and live rather just exist.
For a lot of the summer all my friends are away and they’re all away at the same time. I can’t lie, I’m worried; I don’t like being on my own, there’s too much I don’t want to think about (probably more on that in a different post). Therefore, I’ve got to find things to do that, at the very least, get me out of the house.
I’ve just got off the phone after crying to a friend, who’s already away, about this dreadful cliff I find myself standing on the edge of, and he suggested buying cheap train tickets and just going to places for a day. I like the sound of that – there’s a lot to see and you can go quite far in a day. He also reckons writing stuff into my calendar so there are little milestones and things to look forward to is a good way to go.
(Side note: he’s going to Costa Rica to help build a school, which was a trip organised by my school, but I missed a place by one person and to be quite honest I’m pretty gutted because that is exactly the sort of thing I want to do. I want to do something like that at some point but part of the allure of the trip was that it was still partially linked to my school, and so would’ve included people I already know, even if only through passing them in corridors.)
The long and the short of it is that I need to find things to do (in London, which you’d think would be easy) where I can meet people, and I need to get back to being ok on my own. Stress.
So I’ve been lying here for the last few hours staring at my phone screen waiting for my boyfriend to reply to my messages because he’s sad and isn’t ready to talk about it yet, so I’m worrying that he’s sad and worrying that I can’t help him.
I’ve also been lying here getting deeper and deeper into my Pit Of Despair, because I was talking to my ‘brother’ today about universities, because all of a sudden we’re nearly 18 and have to think about these very Grown Up things that I for one am not nearly as ready for as I thought.
He and I have never actually sat down and had a proper conversation about unis, other than a brief ‘oh I wanna go here’ months ago before any of it was really real. But now it all suddenly is, and so we had that conversation and he’s been accepted to all of his uni choices and none of them are here in London and suddenly it’s real that he’s moving away and won’t be close by anymore and suddenly we’re Growing Up and I am SO not ready for that because we’ve never lived more than 20 minutes away from each other and we’ve known each other since we were 2 months old.
So that was rather a scary thing to realise at lunch time, and then became scarier as the day went on because all of my friends are moving away for uni to and I’m just kinda sorta… here. I’ve applied to do an Art Foundation at CSM, and at a local college, and I’d love that, but I can’t shake the feeling that I’m going to be left behind because, realistically speaking, I am well aware of the fact that my getting in would be the most amazing and unlikely stroke of luck out there, somewhat akin to being struck by lightning. 3 times.
I also can’t shake the feeling that I actually just want to be let loose and be free for a bit, travel and help people and do something meaningful.
But I am also well aware that I significantly lack the funds to do so. And the courage.
If I am being completely honest, I don’t know what I want to do. I know I don’t want to get left behind, and I know I don’t want to lose people, and I don’t want to break up with my boyfriend because I love him an absolutely ridiculous amount, and I didn’t realise it was possible to love someone as much as I do him and to lose that is a terrifying prospect.
My friends keep saying, when I talk to them about not knowing what I really want to do, that a) it’s normal to feel like this because it’s scary and b) I actually do know what I want to do in some way because I know what I love – art.
a) I know it’s normal, and I know it’s scary, and I know everyone feels like this.
b) I do love art, but in the end you can’t make a career out of it alone, and (again if I’m being completely honest) art is amazing but I genuinely do not believe that I have enough of it inside to make anything worth looking at or paying the remotest bit of attention to because one thing that studying art so far has taught me is that all of it is a copy of something else, and originality is basically all gone, and I want to make a difference and not just blend in to a mishmash of other things and people, even if blending in provides safety.
I don’t know, I just feel more than a little bit lost rn, and as much as I keep telling myself that that’s normal and what makes things interesting blah blah blah I’m actually shit-scared because I have no idea what’s going to happen next (and not in some romanticised ‘anything could happen’ way but more in an ‘holy hell anything could happen. help’ way).
So today was one of those days where I’m uncharacteristically emotional. I hate that, because I’ve always had the mentality that crying is a sign of weakness, that emotions in general are a sign of weakness. Only in myself, though, because when other people show how they feel I think it’s pretty cool – they’re proving themselves to be alive and human and real. When it’s me, however, I hate it. As does everyone, I think.
I have exams next week, that I’m oh-so ridiculously stressed about, that don’t even really count for anything and result in grades that won’t ever make it to any official records. Because of that worry, however, I haven’t been sleeping properly and I’ve pretty much stopped eating. It’s been like this for about four days, and I feel so awful. I don’t want to go back to how I used to be, and yet all these food-related thoughts powered by extreme sleep deprivation have infiltrated my mind, or at least become more noticeable than usual.
All of that anxiety has then made it horribly easy for other unwelcome, supressed thoughts to make themselves known (again): your boyfriend doesn’t really like you; your boyfriend’s friends hate you; your boyfriend doesn’t love you (and here come all the reasons why); your friends are only there because they pity you; your grades are slipping and your school will reassess your scholarship and kick you out… I could go on but I think at this point the list would go on for far too many pages.
I should note that I know that a few of these things aren’t actually true, but on days like this the rational side of my mind manages to disappear for a few hours and leave me alone with the other side, the one that mocks and taunts and points out everything that is, and could possinly be, wrong.
I think I mentioned in a previous post that on days like this I hurt the people closest to me, and it’s true; my lovely boyfriend who I like and love and care about so much, who is also the kindest, most thoughtful, funniest and most cleverly intelligent person I’ve ever met, saw me on the stairs at the end of the day, a few very short minutes after I’d ended up crying into my friend’s shoulder in the toilets, gave me a hug and goodbye kiss and I was so close to crying again so I turned away and hot-footed it down the stairs. He laughed from behind me, at what I have no idea, but I’m so terrified that I hurt him and that was a laugh of incredulity at my awfulness. He’s honestly so amazing, and I know that if I keep doing this he’s going to leave. I’m so scared about that.
Hastily pushing that painful topic aside, I was also supposed to have dinner at a close family friend’s house this evening. I went round after school and told both them and my mum that I’d had a horrible day so couldn’t stay to eat as I needed to get to my room and calm down. I should mention that a few tears made their hated appearance around about then because, as well as the nastiness of my day, I knew that I was being rude. Something my mum’s just come home and told me in greatly exagerated detail, having left a few hours after me.
The reason I take issue with my mother sometimes is something I should probably mention and explain here; whenever I’m having a day like this, and even when I’m not, one of her seemingly favourite things to do is mimic me, putting on a ridiculous voice and flapping her arms about while twisting the things I say and intentionally making me feel guilty. She’s even admitted to the fact that emotional blackmail is something she knowingly uses on me, which is horrible because she knows exactly how bad that makes me feel.
Anyway, I’m well aware that this post has become something akin to the content found on an angsty teenager’s blog, so I should end it before it gets worse.
I’ll finish by saying that I hope no one else feels like this, but as it’s inevitable that one or a few of you do please feel more than free to leave an emoji in the comments and I’ll find a way to contact you and try and help.
Yesterday was the opening night of my A-Level Art show at a little gallery on the edge of the forest near me. It was beautiful, and pretty amazing to see mine and my class’ pieces hung on the walls of this scenically placed building.
My piece, entitled ‘A Single Moment In Time’, is a copy/ response of a collage piece by David Gores.
I’m having one of those depression days again and I feel awful.
I think it was triggered by a mixture of things, the most notable of which being that I am so goddamn paranoid… I hate it.
I worry that the slightest thing will make my boyfriend realise that I’m way less than what he deserves or could have. I worry that he doesn’t actually like me. I worry that we’re low-key because it’s not a serious thing. I mean, we talked about it and we are together but just not shouting about it, which is completely fine and yet I’m still worried… Part of that conversation was an agreement, initially brought up by him, that we can do whatever but no falling in love (which I don’t feel like talking about). This agreement was fine at the time, but over the last few weeks I’ve started wondering if that’s just what he wants because we aren’t actually serious. It’s horrible.
The thing is, I know that I don’t doubt him even if it seems like it; I doubt me because I know I’m not good enough for him.
Obviously, there’s also the whole panic about grades which I could probably eradicate by some revision, but over this past three week holiday I’ve done none. Sure, I’ve sat down with my books and all that but none of it’s stuck – I have a brain like a sieve, as I’ve probably said before.
Linked to that is the stress of university; I don’t have to apply til later this year unless I go for Oxbridge, which I don’t think I want to do. It’s just the whole future thing, I think, and the distance bit and the fact that I’ll be leaving behind everything I know. Bit scary, really.
On top of all that I’ve got strange little problems at home, and I’m just as paranoid about my friends as I am about my boyfriend, again because I can’t see why I’d be even slightly interesting to them.
All of this has come crashing down today and landed me with an awful migraine, one that came with all the symptoms of flu; in short, my depression has taken today as its day to remind me that it’s still there, as loud as ever.
I wish I could get rid of it, because I know that it’s the reason for my paranoia and anxiety and everything else, or at least I know that the three go hand in hand. I hate the fact that everyday I have to fight my own head, with my head, and that every time I wake up on and after days like today the phrase ‘won the battle, lost the war’ seems oh-so relevant.
I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. It’s like this muffler stretching over my nose and mouth and a weight on my chest that makes breathing really hard, as well as this ache in the back of my head and a mixture of guilt, anxiety, paranoia and so much else biting at something deep inside my chest. Ohmygod I hate it.
I’m currently 17, meaning that the time has come for me to seriously start looking at, and visiting, universities. Because I haven’t found any personal articles written about any universities, no blog posts or videos or anything, I figure I might as well be the first. So I hope this is useful.
EDIT: I live in London and have done my whole life, so everything regarding university is written from that perspective. The course I wish to study is Anthropology, ideally a combined course with Philosophy.
From London to Leuchars station, 10 minutes by taxi from St. Andrew’s, took about 5.5 hours by train. As I travelled with three friends this wasn’t such an awful amount of time, but alone it would be tedious to say the least. On the way back home it took longer, about 6.5 hours, which really was a long time.
St. Andrew’s town itself is, predictably, small, with a population of 20’000, of which 8’000 are university students. This size means that, as we were frequently told, the students ‘make their own fun’ as there isn’t exactly a mutlitude of clubs or pubs or the sort of social things that usually come with the idea of university.
This problem appears to be solved by the fact that students seem to visit Edinburgh, about an hour away by train, and Dundee, about half an hour away, when they choose to properly go out. Obviously, this would be an expensive night out as the cost of train tickets, admission, drinks etc. would be rather a lot, particularly for an in-debted university student (something I will come to speak about a little further on).
Despite my previous paragraph of social woe, St. Andrew’s isn’t without a night-life; the student union bar is an apparent social hub, and because the university takes over the whole town there are many places to hang out and enjoy being a student. There are also the university halls of accomodation, all with common areas and decently sized rooms with all the utilities one could require. There isn’t really a need to visit either Edinburgh or Dundee unless you want shopping malls and clubs, and the hours journey to Edinburgh isn’t actually much longer than travelling from A to B in London.
Meeting people would be easy; of course the size of the university means that the student body forms a close-knit community, and the fact that you can walk from one end of town to the other in 25 minutes means that you’re always in close proximity to friends, and other people full-stop.
According to Which? University, St. Andrew’s has the overall student satisfaction rate of 89%, nearly matching those of Russel Group Universities such as Cambridge (90%), Oxford (91%), and Durham (90%). This means that the whole small-town thing clearly isn’t a problem.
Perhaps now would be the time to talk about the aformentioned small-town; St. Andrew’s is located on the East Coast of Scotland, with beautiful architecture and beaches, the biggest of which being West Sands Beach, a huge stretch of flat sand with rock pools and shells and all the charm of a picturesque, if chilly, coastline.
The beach is an area of town that most everyone mentioned at some point, as was the ruined castle, the rich history, and the abundent traditions.
The main street, Market Street, is just a normal long, cobblestoned road with all the shops you would need; New Look, Phase Eight and H&M to fulfill high-street fashion needs, Superdrug and Boots, Subway, Nandos and lots of little coffee shops and independent restaurants, the ones we tried having served delicious meals with lovely staff.
Parallel with Market Street is North Street, where the admission ‘block’ of the university can be found. Just like Market Street, North is cobbled and lined with beautifully designed buildings, a theme that runs throughout the town.
Now, I think the time has come to discuss the debt issue; as St. Andrew’s is a Scottish university 1/3 of the student body is made up of Scottish students who don’t have to pay to attend. EU students also have discounted fees, I think, so together that’s a substantial percentage of the students who have no or less debt than those from England and Wales. This means that they would have extra spending money compared to, certainly, me and people in my position. This would also explain how they would manage to go into Edinburgh and Dundee for a night out. I can’t pretend that this financial issue doesn’t worry me slightly, but I don’t think it would be as noticeable as I think I’m making it out to be.
Courses-wise, St. Andrew’s manages to strike a middle ground between the English university system, where students pick a course or a joint course meaning that at most they can study two subjects, and the American college system, where breadth is valued more so students study a range of subjects. St. Andrew’s is much like the American system for the first two years of one’s course in that students study three or four subjects and then cut it down to two in-depth ones in the last two years, like the English system does from the start. Personally, I like this method of teaching as it would mean that I could study Anthropology, Philosophy and Film all at once for the first two years, and so even if I didn’t get a degree in it I would have some kind of a background in film, the industry I wish to go into.
The students and professors that we met were lovely – very welcoming and easy to talk to, as well as happy to discuss their worries before attending the university.
All in all, I found St. Andrew’s to be an absolutely lovely university and town, and highly expect to be applying there later this year. My only real worry is that, for me, it’s a very long way from home and, since I’ve only ever known London, my entire life is here. Of course, the finance side of things worries me too, but there are plenty of scholarships and bursaries to apply for and really money-worries will crop up with all universities, as is the nature of higher education.
I hope this little post has been educational and helpful, and if you wish to know any more about my visit to the university feel more than welcome to drop me a comment.
I’m not going to even begin to attempt to hide the fact that I am rubbish when it comes to revision; for my GCSEs I read my English texts the night before each exam, barely picked up a Maths textbook, didn’t even try to try with French, winged Latin, flunked History, glanced maybe twice at my sciences, and tried a bit (the most) with Art. Obviously, it showed in my grades which were, predictably, nowehere near what I know I could’ve achieved.
I think my problem is, and it’s the same for many people, that I was ridiculously clever in primary school; I was that kid who could ace a test in a few minutes and would always move onto the extension work. Because of that I was praised so much so that when I moved to secondary and found myself at a more average level I floundered around, terrified at the prospect of not being top but unable to work to get back there because I’d never needed to try before and so had no idea how to try.
Now, at A-Levels, I’m still in that position. I’m average, perhaps even a tad below it now, and I’m still lost when it comes to studying. It’s not that I haven’t asked for help, it’s just that my brain is rather like a sieve now.
Obviously, this is a realisation that has caused me no end of grief because, hell, the exams I have coming up are ones whose grades are given to my prospective universities, so to say that they’re a big deal is on a whole other level of understatement.
Right now, I’m sitting at my desk having just got up from lying on the floor scrolling through Buzzfeed quizzes and articles on ‘How To Motivate Yourself To Revise’. Shouldn’t the fact that if I don’t study I won’t go to university be motivation enough? You’d think so.
So I suppose the point of this little post is to say to all those other people in the same state as me that you’re not alone! But that that’s not a reason to stay the way we are, because really we won’t get anywhere by Googling motivational inspiration.
Really, I think we need to set ourselves a goal, an achievable one that’s just far enough away that we’ve got to actually try to reach it. For me, that’s getting into a good university so I can move out. For you it might be the same, or different, but whatever it is, focus on it because if you’re anything like me you’ll be kicking yourself in a few months if you didn’t try for it.
So good luck, my fellow perfectionist procrastinators, I know you can do it.
I had a Plan. It was simple, something I really wanted and so pretty much had my heart set on.
Then I did my GCSEs and for some reason got it into my head that I didn’t need to study because I’d ‘got this’.
Needless to say, I hadn’t ‘got this’ at all – far from it. I collected my final grades on results day and was bummed to see just how wrongly ‘got this’ described my situation. I hadn’t done badly really, but I knew that I could’ve done better… Hell, I could’ve aced those exams if I’d studied and I knew it.
However, I just managed to keep my place at the sixth form I really wanted to go to and so I was off, with visions of this Plan clearly pinned in front of me and my regrets over my grades shoved at the back of my mind to be confronted at a later date, preferably when my Plan had materialised and I could laugh over them.
This method of hiding from the sad truth rather than facing it and deciding where to go from there meant that it was only at 2am, when I was lying awake contemplating existence, that I’d allow myself to even begin to consider a Plan B… On some level I think I’d still managed to fool myself into thinking that everything would work out fine and that I’d still ‘got this’ and my Plan would still go, well, as planned.
Of course, this couldn’t possibly be the case so I began to very tremulously think about what else I could do if these grades proved to be the be all and, most likely, end all of my Plan.I let myself begin to dwell on other ideas and, before I knew it, my Plan had effectively gone out the window and been replaced by a horrible feeling of complete self-doubt. Even so, I refused to acknowledge that I was falling and so kept on going, spinning into a plan-less void of anxiety over a future that could still be on track if I hadn’t been so bigheaded back last summer.
However, today I had a meeting with my housemaster at school. It was a little soul-destroying and I came out feeling like I’d been hit by a few trucks and run over by a bus. I’d been told that the grades I’d achieved at GCSE really would influence my future, and not in a positive way in regards to my Plan, the thing that I suddenly felt slipping through my sudden, frantic grip. But, after a bout of teary panic, I decided that I could turn this around.
Yes, I wish my plan could still be a Plan.
Yes, I wish I’d studied and thought everything through properly.
Yes, I wish I’d thought of a Plan B earlier on and avoided all of this.
But I didn’t.
And that’s ok, because instead I got the kick in the teeth I needed to make me go home and consider six questions I should have thought about a long time ago:
What do I really love in life?
So far, what’ve I done that I’m proud of?
If I didn’t care at all what anyone thought, what would I do?
If my life was completely limitless and I could have and do whatever I wanted, what would I have and what would I do?
If I had a billion pounds, what would I do?
Who do I admire most in life and why?
Perhaps they seem silly, but they helped me.
I don’t have a Plan anymore, but I have plans.
I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.