It is my third night of university life and I am sat opposite my flatmate; a Birmingham girl without the accent (thank goodness, many say, though I must admit I am quite partial to it). She tells me how, shortly before she came to Sheffield, she realised that this could be the perfect opportunity to take on a whole new persona. ‘Not that I had a dark past or anything,’ she quickly rectifies before holding an imaginary martini glass and droning in an American twang, ‘I used to be an alcoholic.’
It dawns on me that she is quite right and perhaps when I visit school friends, they will now have a nose piercing and a yin-yang tattoo and have changed their name to ‘Rain’. University does provide the opportunity to recreate yourself – and kudos to anyone who does. But I’m fairly sure of who I am and cannot imagine I will change anytime soon; The Smiths will continue to be the soundtrack to my life, Sylvia Plath will remain my spirit animal, and (perhaps paradoxically) I will watch every episode of Hollyoaks without fail. No, for me university isn’t about recreating myself, it’s about self-discovery. Perhaps that is why I decided to do a Max Fischer and put my name down for a ludicrous number of societies in the first week.
Here I am in Week 5, surrounded by 900 page textbooks on contracts, constitutions and Carbolic Smoke Balls (inside Law jokes for the win) and my inbox is bursting with opportunities from tea-tasting to human rights campaigning. Alas, things have changed since Intro Week and I no longer have that ‘free time’ that summer consisted entirely of. I had almost forgotten that there is a meaning in ‘prioritising’ beyond choosing whether to watch Made in Chelsea or New Girl first. Sorrow is sitting at your desk at half five in the evening with a laptop, a 2000 word essay deadline looming and writer’s block, knowing that there is a hot cup of cinnamon black tea calling your name.
I do miss Tea Society – perhaps the gentleman who brought an entire tea set to university (including the cup and saucer he had brought to the session) was destined to be my best friend and now we may never meet again. And I miss John from Amnesty who was one of those infectiously happy people who you aim to surround yourself with. And I really long to be surrounded by the fabulous feminists that I met at the Women’s Committee.
Perhaps I will one day become the cultured, campaigning individual that I envisaged myself being at university. Or perhaps I will spend many a night on my laptop deciphering Ron’s contractual position. But I think I would agree with Marilyn Monroe: it is better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring, and so I shall take the wise words of a similarly influential woman, Ms Joan Upson, and put down the textbook occasionally and get a life.