One of the most pivotal moments in life is the realization that you can actually have a say in the way it plays out. Up until that blessed eighteenth birthday we are children; constantly being told what to wear, when to be home and what we should do with our lives. While we may resent our parent’s over-protectiveness and endlessly struggle to bask in the glory our own independence, it is that little direction which often keeps us sane.
There are very few rules to living on your own for the first time. There is nobody to tell you to put a sweater on when it’s cold or to nag you about completing schoolwork; and for the first few weeks it seems like ideal living. However, it’s not just the reality of the ‘real world’ that can trigger stress. For me, entering university was a shock to my moral centre.
Being in a relationship during my first year, I was able to remove myself from the feeding frenzy in dorm rooms all over campus. I was unable, however, to continue on with my naivety about people only having sex when they are in love; as it turns out, you don’t even have to like the person. I realize that for both women and men there is pressure to ensure you do not leave high school a virgin. So for the rare few who enter university with their virginity intact, there is even more pressure to give it to somebody, and as quickly as possible. While I’m not recommending you slap on a purity ring, waiting for the right person – and not having a double digit number by midterms – is severely underrated.
Naturally, entering university presents this inevitability of change. While some can be negative or just mere experiences, the concept of changing yourself intrigued me. After being constricted in an itchy wool kilt for four years, I exited my catholic high school with a limited style sense, confusion about religion, and horrendous blonde highlights. Through those troublesome years I had been bullied, teased and overlooked. I knew that I longed to shed the label of the misunderstood girl with big dreams, and as cliché as it may be, I viewed university as a clean slate in which to re-invent myself.
It was easy for me to carry resentment towards the ways I was labelled in high school and even to some degree, let that dictate who I would be in university. But to have thousands not knowing who you are can be quite a freeing sensation. It’s a chance to develop your own opinions, ideas, personal style and grow into the person you want to be. While standing out was usually something to be feared in high school, beyond those walls, it’s something to celebrate. While wearing the right labels may have made you less of a target in high school, or more like the girl you’re envious of, it essentially just makes you another myrmidon in a lecture hall.
My first year can be boiled down to this incessant existential crisis. I was ignorant to how sheltered I had been, and in some respects, still am. I never did university the typical way with keg parties, football games or mindlessly following a set of expectations previously laid out for me, yet I still can’t understand who decided this was how university was meant to be experienced.
If there is any ounce of worthwhile wisdom I have acquired, it’s that university is a different experience for everybody. Some people want to flirt with pseudo-intellectual lifestyles while others just want to party. For me, it was a promise land of likeminded people and an opportunity to securely accept my own identity. For the first time, I am not just living independently or experiencing things for myself, but I have finally realized I am in control of my own life. Whether I choose to drop out and travel, get involved with extra curricular activities, or sit home on a Saturday night to read Samuel Beckett I can be not only accepted, but appreciated for my ideas, hard work and uniqueness. University is essentially, this; a freedom not just from your parents or their strict rules, but a freedom to choose and a freedom to finally be you.