I am terrified 2.0

NotesA few weeks ago, I finished my undergraduate studies. While I was studying, I was constantly plagued by a niggling feeling of anxiety, quietly terrified that I would fail everything at this final point. Yesterday I found out my results and now I know for sure that I definitely passed everything and that I technically have a degree now (graduation is in December!). I thought once reaching this point all the stress and anxiety would go away, but instead it’s been replaced with a listless feeling of not knowing what on earth I’m doing.

One of my first posts on here “I am terrified” was about how scared I was about starting university. Now I’m finished, I am still terrified. I feel almost like finishing uni means I’m losing a part of my identity. I’ve always done well in an academic environment, and I think I’m scared that it’s the only environment I can succeed in.

While feeling all this, I am also excited about the future. Next year I’m running away to live in Canada with the person I love, and I’m so excited to finally be doing something different. Til then though, I’m still in NZ, still living at home, still working the same two jobs I have been for the past few years. While I love NZ, and living with my parents is actually fine, and my jobs are pretty great, I kind of feel like I’m without purpose right now. It’s like university gave me structure and an identity, and I feel a little lost without it.

My hope is that I’ll take this feeling and channel it into the creative pursuits I let fall while I was focusing on study. Now I’m riddled with free time, I want to back into playing music and actually using this blog and feeling inspired and desire to create again.

The transience of university friendships

So this feels bizarre – I started this blog just before I started university and now I am exactly three weeks away from finishing my studies. I still have so much to do in that time which, in typical me fashion, is clearly why I’m writing a blog post instead of working. I’m still struggling with finding inspiration to write*, but as I walked into uni today I was thinking about the weird short-term relationships I’ve had with people since being a student. This is more for me than for anyone else, to remember the people I knew only briefly and shallowly:

  • My Classics class friend, who never seemed to do any work and streamed K-pop concerts during class instead of listening
  • The baristas from the uni coffee shop who learned my name and my coffee order, and who sometimes brought my coffee to me instead of just calling out my name and leaving it on the counter
  • The guy who told me that Psychology wasn’t a real thing and that Arts degrees were a waste of time, and then asked me out
  • Statistics tutorial friend, who once offered me a bite of his apple
  • The girl I sat next to in my Intro to Linguistics class whose name remains unknown, because by the time I realised I didn’t know what her name was, we’d been sitting together for two months and it was too awkward to ask
  • The parking warden from the student car park, who helped me navigate my car into difficult spaces and never gave me tickets even though I was parked way over time
  • Everyone from every group project I ever did – please know that I will hold everlasting resentment towards you for bringing down my average

*I made a tumblr blog that follows a lot of amateur poetry blogs in the hopes of finding inspiration there, but it seems like everybody’s poetry is about how that one guy broke their heart when they were 15, and as both someone in their twenties & someone in a long term relationship, it’s kind of a struggle to relate to that.

On my Arts degree

I have no idea where my degree is taking me. I’m totally cool with this, because I love what I’m studying.

I have never been set on a career path. I was not one of those kids who was all “I’m going to be a doctor when I grow up!” and actually went through with it. I flirted with a million different options. As a kid, I thought about being a vet, a journalist, a teacher, a cat breeder*, a lawyer, a psychologist, a singer, a writer, an actor, an agony aunt, a mother. As I grew up, I culled many of these options (realising I dislike kids way too much to actually want anything to do with them) and thought of more possibilities. But before I knew it, school was telling me I needed to make a decision so I could go the university that would help me ~achieve my dreams~! I knew I didn’t want to study medicine, or engineering, or architecture. But I didn’t know what I actually wanted. Panicking, I decided to study towards a double degree, in Law and in Arts.

I discovered fairly quickly that Law was not for me. I hated the lectures, I hated the assignments, I hated the readings: I hated the very essence of it. Friends noted I didn’t seem like myself. My family tiptoed around me. I quit after the first semester, because I was an emotional mess. One paper did that to me – I couldn’t bear the thought of how the rest of the degree would affect me. I decided my mental health was more important than a qualification I wasn’t even all that interested in anyway.

So I focused on just one degree, a Bachelor of Arts. I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with it, but the Arts subjects were perfectly suited to my talents and interests. After a couple of weeks, I realised that a BA was right for me. I was happy in what I was studying.

Despite being happy in myself, I am aware that others are not. I am constantly bombarded with negative opinions of my course of study. Because only “lazy” people study Arts. That we “don’t do jack shit” and “just waste studylink money”. That we “will never find jobs”. That “anything other than Science is a waste of time”That BA stands for “Bugger All” because BA courses are “so much easier than all the real courses”.

There is so much negativity directed at Arts degrees. But why should anyone care about my studies? I don’t care about what anyone else studies (bar my friends, because I care about them). I am doing Arts because it fits in with my interests. I like my degree. I like my subjects. I am sorry if you do not like yours, but I don’t see why that means anything in relation to me.

If anyone tells you that your area of interest is “not as important” or “a waste of time”, then that person is a judgemental douchebag. You don’t need that sort of negativity in your life. No one has the right to criticise choices that don’t affect them. This goes for everything else, too. If you don’t want to or didn’t go to university – so what? It is your life. Ignore those people who want to diminish you. Do what makes you happy.

*I still may go for that one.

Excellent choices

“What do you want to study?” “Where do you want to work?” “What do you want for dinner?”

My response to all of these questions is crippling fear and silence. Indecision rules my life. I have changed my degree twice, my major four times, and still I’m not sure I’m doing what I want. More than once I have just not had dinner because I couldn’t decide what to have. My ineffective response of “I don’t mind!” has irritated many a friend of mine. I cannot for the life of me make decisions. It doesn’t matter how big or how small – the thought of making a decision debilitates me.

Right now, I am struggling to decide between whether to finally move out of home and enter the world of flatting, or to spend all my savings on an overseas exchange. I feel so stupid for struggling with a decision like this. Either option would be wonderful. Both would give me great experiences and both would leave me incredibly poor. But I cannot decide because whichever I choose means that I miss out on the other. And unfortunately, FOMO rules my life much more than I would like it to.

I wish I had a better way to aid decision making than writing a pros & cons list. Inevitably, this list will have an equal number of pros & cons and stress me out further. Sometimes I wonder if it would be easier if I just decided to flip a coin for every choice.

Knowing me, I wouldn’t be able to decide which option goes with heads and which goes with tails.

PS: I recently added a “Bucket list” tab to this blog; if you check it out I promise your day will maybe be mildly more interesting.

How to survive school stress

I have been in educational institutions for a straight 16 years now and I’ve definitely had my fair share of crazy stress*, but I’m surviving okay! So I’m passing on my bountiful wisdom to you because I love you all and wish you serenity:

  • Have a playlist of calming songs to listen to when you’re studying/stressing out, like this one. Pretty much all the advice I give has something to do with music, but that’s because music makes literally everything better**.
  • To-do lists. I have entire notebooks dedicated to my to-do lists and I live my life through those lists.
  • Reward yourself. When studying, I read one section and then, for example, watch a few youtube videos. If you spend all your time purely studying, you will lose it.
  • If you’ve hit the study-brick-wall, just stop. You won’t take anything in at this stage and would be better off sleeping or eating.
  • Have a standing event with friends. If every week you have something to look forward to, like a lunch date or movie night, it helps keep your insanity in check. And along those lines –
  • Make Mondays enjoyable. Every Monday I buy myself a coffee from the nicer, more expensive coffee shop on campus. My caffeine addiction is so strong that the thought of it really helps get me through the morning, and the caffeine itself gets me through the rest of the day. Having something to look forward to on an otherwise crappy day makes it bearable.
  • Sleep is your friend. All nighters just make you miserable and incoherent. Try to limit them.
  • Remember: it doesn’t matter. This may seem slightly contradictory to everything ever, but it’s true. If you do badly, if you fail, if you don’t finish – the world will continue turning. If you do well, awesome! If you don’t, learn your lesson and move on to the next thing. And if you don’t learn your lesson, that’s okay too, coz you’ll have plenty of opportunities to learn it again.

*read: middle-of-the-night hysterical sobbing at assignments that refuse to complete themselves.
**seriously, name one thing that good music does not improve.

Advice for incoming university students

I’ve got less than two months until my first year at uni is finished, which pretty much means I know everything there is to know about everything. I’m sure there are many posts just like this running around, but here’s my take on what people* need to know before starting uni:

  • What other people study or do with their time is not your concern. Your friend doing a [whatever you deem to be useless] degree probably hears it all the time, so don’t ruin a friendship by adding your unneeded unoriginal unsupportive unhelpful opinion on how they should consider doing something more “useful in the real world”.
  • Start your assignments as soon as you get them. I never followed this during school and I’ve spent the year regretting that habit. Spending the night before an assignment is due struggling to find another 400 words for an essay is not fun.
  • Do your readings.
  • You have to be the one to initiate conversation, otherwise it is very likely that you will spend the next 3 years not speaking to anyone.
  • Seriously, it’s important to do your readings. It is very possible to do really well without doing them but life will be easier if you actually read the things you’re supposed to.
  • No one else cares how you dress.
  • Know when to quit. I started off doing a BA/LLB, and after a semester I quit. I could not handle law. It doesn’t make you stupid if you quit doing a subject – it just means it’s not right for you. Don’t do something you hate just because you think it’ll be useful.
  • Hayley’s videos on this youtube channel are a godsend.
  • Also, Rachel’s college advice videos here are wonderfully useful.
  • Your grades aren’t going to be as good as they were in school. Try your best to ensure the change isn’t too drastic. Like by DOING YOUR DAMN READINGS.**
  • Partying every weekend may seem cool but finishing the year with a D average and $20 000 on your student loan is not cool.
  • There is no such thing as a cruisey subject.

*ie what I needed to know.
**fun fact: I have a test in 2 weeks on the first 6 chapters of my textbook (an exciting 272 pages!) and I haven’t read a single page yet. Do as I say, don’t do as I do.