Last week I faced my fear of starting back at university part time.
Like really sucked.
I cried nearly every day. Everything that could go wrong seemed to do so. I had my student card confiscated because I’m ‘not a proper student’ and therefore couldn’t get into any libraries or buildings, let alone take books out or use any resources that I actually need whilst being back. Anxieties found cracks and came creeping back in. I simply hadn’t considered the tidal wave of emotions that coming back to university would bring, along with whatever other petty worries I had about my personal life.
Usually when I have a challenge to deal with, I power through and deal with the emotional response later. It felt like the entire week was just a continual emotional response. Everything set me off and I couldn’t really be myself because my head was just so full of crap. Every day I had to resist the urge to just get back on a train and give up.
After an entire week in London, I finally got to head home on Saturday morning and went straight to work. I am one of those annoying people who is lucky enough to love their job. I feel safe at work, surrounded by an incredible bunch of people who all genuinely care about one another. I marched in at 1pm with wet hair and smelling of every Lush product I own (the results of an attempt to cheer myself up with a hurried shower).
‘How was London, Em?!’
‘Honestly? Fucking shit.’
*Insert barrage of hugs and kind words (and insults at the right people too)*
Even at the end of my shift I couldn’t see how the week had been anything but an utter disaster. I’d decided I wasn’t going to go back, because why would I want to be anywhere but the place I felt secure and loved? Which is actually a bit of a breakthrough for me, because I have never EVER considered myself a home bird before. But there I was, never EVER wanting to leave the comfort of my home town EVER again.
I made sure to walk home, because walking helps me clear my head, and treated myself to loads of my favourite foods (garlic bread, sweet chilli prawns, a jar of dairy free pesto, pita chips that taste like pizza and percy pigs). I put on my PJs, built myself a little comfort food fort and began to process.
My first realisation was how completely exhausted and emotionally drained I was. Often it’s all too easy to forget how much effect our emotions have on our physical responses, just as much as the mental ones. I had spent a week facing highly-charged emotional situation after highly-charged emotional situation and not really stopped to consider why that might have taken its toll on me. Emotionally, I’d run a marathon. That’s going to make for some pretty sucky thoughts and cause a lot of difficulty in sifting through the bad stuff.
And it wasn’t an easy task. I was literally tired for the entire weekend, achieving little aside from working, eating and snuggling. I’d realised I needed to slow the hell down and not rush myself so much.
In time I managed to see some good things. For starters, the academics weren’t a problem at all. I felt totally at ease in my Spanish class and I even got to contribute in my German film class, which I chose on a whim despite never having studied film before. Not everyone was shitty to me. In fact, a lot of people were great. I saw so many lovely faces, some who I hadn’t caught up with for over a year. I had hot chocolates and talks and dinners with people who I share genuine mutual love and affection with. I even found an amazing bookshop to go and hide in when I’m feeling that everything is a little too much.
I learned a lot too. I learned that what I thought were my limits, in fact are not. I learned who my real friends are (a cliché statement if I ever heard one, but clichés do come from somewhere). I learned that actually, the only person I really have to prove anything to is myself. That was the most important one.
It was a heavy week, to say the least, but with a little space I was able to muster up the courage to come back and try it all again. This time being much better equipped to deal with what might get thrown my way. AND I’m going to take things a little more slowly. Throwing yourself in the deep end without armbands on before you’ve learned to swim again isn’t the best idea. So I’ve planned lots of meals with friends and brought nice things to do for the time I have alone. I also intend to write more too. It seems that whenever I get overwhelmed emotionally, my writing takes a back seat, even though it’s one of the best ways for me to process things.
So roll on week two. Everything deserves to be given a second chance.