What I actually learned at university, or how to disappear completely and rediscover yourself

Many people go away to university and have a ball. “Best three years of my life” they’ll tell you, before proceeding to tell you that you’ll have a great time. There is a belief that you should love it. Sadly, I have not. There have been days during my three years, where even the most banal, everyday decisions were a great internal struggle. In this struggle, the feeling that most often emerged as the victor screamed stop. There have been many occasions where I wanted simply to stop. Stop working. Stop going to lectures. Stop university. Stop interacting. Stop leaving my room. Stop being here.

Depression makes you deeply unwell. It causes doubt. Doubt about everything you thought you understood about the person you thought you were. Countless times I gazed at myself in the mirror, and thought “who the fuck are you?”. When you look into your own eyes and see a vacant stranger, something is fundamentally wrong with your psyche. University pushed me into having an identity crisis. The person I thought I was disappeared. Nothing prepared me for it.

I wallowed in my own self-pity and blamed people around me for the better part of a year. I pushed people away. It is far easier to take your anger out on others than it is to accept that you need to change your attitude. I came to the realisation that I needed to make a change only last summer, on a trip to Bolivia and Peru. I finally wanted to get better enough to help myself. I interacted with people. I said yes to things. I looked forward to things. I enjoyed things.

For so long, I ceased to be myself. With this new attitude, I set about rediscovering and reshaping who I wanted ‘myself’ to be. As an individual, your identity is never static, it is dynamic. You are constantly in a process of becoming. So despite the fact that who you are is constantly changing, I have learned to confident and happy with who I am, and where I’m going. And, whilst university broke me into a shell of a person at times, I wouldn’t change what happened for the world. I have learnt so much about myself, and I write this in the hope that these thoughts can offer some help to whoever is reading when carrying on seems pointless.

Things I learnt

If you accept that things are constantly changing, you will be far happier. You can’t live in the past.

Accept that sometimes life is really shit. It is impossible to be happy about everything all the time. Appreciate and be happy about all the good things that come along when they do.

Nobody else other than you can ever know exactly how you feel, but this doesn’t mean they can’t help.

It is ultimately up to you to feel happy in yourself.

You have the power to shape who you want to be, what you stand for, and where you’re going.

You don’t have to be remotely intelligent to go to university, you just need to jump through hoops and have a bit of money.

So many people go to university because they either expect, or are expected to go. This is pointless. It is not your god given right to be educated. It is a privilege. Don’t go unless you want to learn.

You have access to millions of different educational resources. Learn everything you can.

University is so far removed from the real world.

University pastoral support is woefully inept.

Educate yourself on the world. Refuse to be content to coast through life without knowing things.

Don’t be afraid of having an opinion. Stand up for your beliefs.

Being pretentious and shitting on everything in a quest to be considered interesting is deeply unfulfilling.

Don’t blame your situations on other people all the time, whilst they may contribute to how you feel, the only way you’re going to be happier is to focus on yourself as an individual.

There are lots of bad people in the world.

There are some good people that make up for all the bad.

Climate change and environmental degradation caused by humans are destroying the planet. This is well known. Yet people still choose to avoid changing their actions. Don’t become a victim of cognitive dissidence. Do everything you can to preserve the Earth.

People think we live in a society where men and women are equal. We don’t. Sexism is alive and kicking, especially at university. We need Feminism and people that deride this idea are wrong and simply don’t understand the concept.

Exercise is amazing. It focuses your mind and blocks out all other distractions.

Find meaning in forms of expression. Take personal meaning in art, music, books. Write. These things can help you to interpret and understand what’s going on in your head.

When the time comes, you outgrow certain places, and certain people.

It is ingrained into us not to talk about mental health. We are taught to pursue things without addressing deep personal issues. Silence is killing people and making so many people miserable. It needs to be normalized and discussed in public, you shouldn’t feel unable to talk to anyone about how you feel. Check how your friends are doing they might need some support.

Don’t stop. Things get better.

What I actually learned at university, or how to disappear completely and rediscover yourself

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