Upon entering my final year, I have an abundance of apprehensions and anxieties about the prospect of leaving my university experience behind and moving onto something different. I have never been good at accommodating change in my life, I firmly hold onto what I know and what I am comfortable with – there are never meant to be waves in my sea. My third and final year at Exeter is already nearly a third completed; time is simply no one’s friend – it is unreasonable, stubborn, will never slow its tempo, or dawdle to let you take a moment in.
I would be lying to you if I said that, despite my chronic chaotic impulse to organise and plan my life, I don’t have a phobia of the future. The future scares me because it is nebulous – I can’t tell if it’s a star being born or dying. Throughout my life, I have been progressing towards the next phase – GCSEs, then A-Levels, then university, and now I feel as if I have swerved off the road completely and I am having to consult the map for the first time. But there are multiple maps, multiple routes I can take which every email from Career Zone seems to happily inform me about. Spontaneity and “crossing that bridge when we get there” are approaches I have never seen myself naturally adopting, but then I realised that is what graduation is all about. It is about finally letting spontaneity take the wheel and throwing the map out of the window because life can’t be mapped.
Watching many of my friends complete successful internships over summer, and some even now have secured grad schemes, has only inspired me to pursue employment out of panic, stress and anxiety. While their success cannot go uncelebrated, there is something innate in all of us I would say, that seeks comparison with others. Although they motivated me to begin the process of looking for something constructive for when I graduate, I felt myself chasing after opportunities which didn’t necessarily appeal to me. Sometimes what works for other people will not work for you, and that’s okay. Sometimes, the best things happen when you least expect it.
When I look back at my university experience, I am a vastly different person to the girl who appeared at Lafrowda three years ago (mainly the hair). In many ways I miss her, miss the carefree and simple enjoyment of first year and the process of finding my ground and knowing I had three years ahead of me. But I cannot forget how much I have grown up since then, and even since last year. I regard university as the environment where I truly became myself. Living independently, meeting a whole new group of people and participating in societies and activities I never could at home, has made me the most honest version of me, and made me honest with myself.
I know it is silly to be mourning my university life when I am still very much living it – it seems to be a waste of my time and energy. Yet I cannot lie, this year is going to be bitter-sweet. But there are many things I am yet to do, from the mundane to the insane, and many things I want to repeat. I want to go to varsity with my house, I want to do a complete TP Friday with falls and thralls with my best friends until the lights come up, I want to cycle to Double Locks, I want to paddleboat on the quay, I want to get a first in all my essays, I want to do an all-nighter in the library (a bit cliché yes), I want to take part in touch dukes, I want to win the black horse pub quiz, and I could go on. But I want to enjoy my last year more than the other years and, most of all, I want to graduate.
Sometimes the best thing you can do about your future is to not contemplate futurity – not to invest your mind’s energies in imagining, worrying, planning and conceiving your future as if it can be determined simply by a formula. Rarely do things go according to plan, and my time at university has taught me that, when this happens, the plan is not redundant, but the plan is reshaped, remoulded, reinvented.
Rather, we should all strive to purely be present-conscious. By this, I mean live each day as it comes and only think as far as tomorrow (cliché, yes). We should all envision ourselves as novels with many chapters, narrative turns and changes rather than simply as one page. No sane person reads the last page of a book first, they don’t try to skip to the future and miss out all the vibrant chaos within the chapters.
You don’t know where your life is leading in first year and I can tell you that this does not change even when you are graduating in months. But sometimes there is bliss in spontaneity, advantages to unexpectedness and pleasant purpose in surprise.
But now, watch as I do a masters at Exeter and this all becomes a subject for next year.
– Emily Coleman