A Semester Summarised

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I’ve been meaning to write for what feels like an eternity, but I have never been one to start from the middle. I must start from the beginning, and follow the story to its end, or start from the end, and reflect on the steps I took to get to that point.

That’s it, folks. I can’t write a blog about university until I graduate. 3.5 years to go!

Alas, even I cannot procrastinate for that long!

This morning, I had my final class of the semester, and that, I feel, is ending enough for me to start from the beginning and attempt to piece together some kind of narrative of the past three months. Yesterday, I woke up with the strangest desire to go on a health kick: exercise more, study more, and basically become a new and improved Eliza. At this moment, I sit, eating quinoa salad (with chips, because it’s important to have a balanced diet), post-workout. My attempts at self-improvement have been semi-successful today. However, this hypothetical new, improved Eliza is of little significance to this story.

Instead, I will introduce you once more to the old Eliza, and take you on brief time-travelling tour to show you how she has lived for the past three months.

It was raining, the day I moved to Glasgow. Water gushed down so hard from the sky that I could barely see out the window of the car. I can’t remember precisely what I felt, leaving home. I felt sad, because I hadn’t been able to find my cat to say goodbye to him. And nervous – I must have been. And somewhere in there was excitement, because I’d made plans for that evening, to meet with a friend from my course who I’d met online. We’d messaged each other non-stop for the entirety of August, and he was my best friend before we’d even met in real life. I would meet him at 6 o’clock, because he had plans with someone else first (who coincidentally was moving into the same accommodation as I was).

I would be living in a twin room, and had applied to share with a friend from my course who I’d met online. She would arrive from Italy the following evening, so I was somewhat surprised when I walked into my new bedroom, and found someone else’s belongings on one of the beds. My heart sank with dread. I knew this wouldn’t be an easy ride. I ran to reception to query it. They gave me a phone number to ring, for the accommodation service. I called. They said nothing could be done till Monday, and it would cost money to move rooms. I wanted to cry.

And then the doors opened, and two figures emerged into the reception area. The first was a tall girl, with long brown hair, who I recognised because we’d talked on Facebook a bit. Behind her was a guy, slightly shorter than I’d imagined, with dark brown hair. We caught sight of each other at the same moment. I responded to this as any calm, mature adult would upon finally meeting their best friend. I screamed his name, ran to him, and threw my arms around his neck, hugging him for a long time. It was like seeing my favourite fictional character come to life.

Due to stress, emotions, excitement and (most significantly) a large intake of caffeine throughout the day, I. Could. Not. Stop. Talking. I gabbled faster and faster until the only words that came out of my mouth were apologies for how fast I was talking. I felt like I was making a dreadful first impression, and I was worried I wasn’t how he’d imagined me, and I was very, very nervous. (When I mentioned this to him, some weeks later, he said that it was “adorable”, and that I was exactly how he expected me to be. Thankfully, I have calmed down since then). We sorted where we’d meet later, and then he left me to do my unpacking.

I returned to my room, and met my new roommate. I was relieved, because I knew her vaguely from the accommodation group chat. I explained the situation, told her I might be switching rooms at some point soon.

When I look back in hindsight, I see things in a different light, so I will not over-describe the scene. I will leave it at this: I was in a situation I didn’t expect to be in, but I was prepared to make it work.

Saying goodbye to my parents was strange, knowing they would go back to an empty house, missing their daughter and half their crockery. I was disappointed that they didn’t cry. My mum cried when my sister left home, so I felt it was only right that she should cry at least three times more over me.

I was glad when 6 o’clock came around, and I could hang out with my bestie. We sat in my kitchen, and I hugged him too much, and talked too fast. And I was so scared he wouldn’t like me in real life. He knew practically everything about me before we met, but can you really know a person when you haven’t heard their voice, or seen their face, or experienced the way they express themselves? It’s different. And this new dynamic to our friendship took some getting used to.

He couldn’t stay for long, because he had plans with other people. And a part of me felt betrayed; like he had time for everyone but me (I have a tendency to be irrational). I sulked for the next few hours, feeling sorry for myself, as I am prone to do. It was better at about midnight. My roommate and I went upstairs to a flat party on a different floor, and I met lots of people from the group chat. Those of you who are familiar with Facebook messenger will know that there is a function on there for setting people’s names to nicknames in chats. Due to my habit of turning everything into an innuendo, my nickname on the group chat for my accommodation was “The all-knowing sex guru”. When I walked into that kitchen, people shouted “The guru’s here!” and I have never felt so warmly welcomed in my entire life. I entertained them with my inappropriate humour until perhaps 4 o’clock in the morning.

The following evening, my should-have-been-roommate/friend arrived. I waited at reception to meet her. I had been anticipating this moment since May, when we’d first started talking. She was tired from travelling, and I was over-excited. I talked too fast, and she couldn’t understand me. Her accent was strong, and at times I couldn’t understand her. I tried.

I helped her take her luggage to her room (which, ironically, was right next to mine). I gave her a basil plant as a gift, because we’d talked about keeping one on our windowsill, when we thought we’d be sharing a room. I hear poor Basil died long ago.

That night was perhaps the most time we’ve spent together alone, and that makes me really sad. Because before we met, she was once my bestest friend. But life is life; people grow apart (or never really grow together), or they’re busy, and that’s the way it goes. The other night, I felt particularly mournful and nostalgic, so I scrolled back through months of our messages, and pictured another life.

Fresher’s week wasn’t the extreme experience that legends foretold (because I didn’t go out much, and didn’t really drink), but it was during that week that I met people from my film course group chat, some of whom became my good friends. Fresher’s week was also when I joined an improv theatre society. It happened upon me by chance. It was after the English Lit induction, and I went with my best friend to the campus bookstore, to check out the books we’d need for our course. I was talking very loudly about how expensive these books were, when this tall German guy came up and told me he’s in second year, and looking to sell his first year English Lit books at a reduced price, and would I like to buy them? We arranged to meet the next day, to go through with this sale.

Skip to the next day: when we met, he was in a hurry, because he had a rehearsal to get to. As an afterthought, when we parted, he told me the rehearsal was for an improv show that afternoon, and that I should come see the show. For whatever reason, I chose to go to the show (probably because I didn’t have a better way to spend a Thursday afternoon). I don’t know what I expected. But it was great, and I laughed so much, and afterwards I signed up to join the improv society. It has been one of the best decisions I’ve made at uni. It’s a place to be wacky and imaginative, and a place where I can know that I’m not the weirdest person in the room. There are so many cool people there.

Once fresher’s week was over, time began to slip by rapidly. The first few weeks were the golden era of my social life. I’d hang out with my friends after classes, and stay up half the night playing Cards Against Humanity with people from my accommodation. At the end of the first proper week of the semester, I got hit by a car. It was an accident, my injuries were minor (though my badass elbow smashed the fuck out of that windscreen!), and people felt sorry for me and gave me lots of attention, and it was all fine. I still have a mild phobia of crossing the road without traffic lights.
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The late nights caught up with me, and I got flu, and I was terribly homesick, and very miserable. Things with my roommate were gradually getting worse (me and my friend had decided it wasn’t worth the hassle or money to switch to share a room). My roommate didn’t speak to me unless she absolutely had to, and I was annoyed with her because she took a week to deal with the hair dye stains she’d left on the floor. We generally ignored each other’s existence, and this did not help my misery. My room wasn’t my own, I was consumed by self-pity, and I didn’t even have a private place to cry!

Life fell into a routine. My social circle diminished a little as people became busier, and I generally stuck with the same 4 or 5 friends. I survived the midterm essays (Bs in all of them, woop woop!), and the stress they brought. I was content with my life. Or more, I was lazy. I knew something was missing, but I ignored it.

I went home for a night during Reading Week, to visit my parents and my cat. It’s funny how homesickness vanishes when you actually go home. I was so excited when the train pulled into Penrith station. And I ran to hug my mum in the car park, and I remembered what it felt like back in July, when I returned from Estonia. There were so many parallels.

I went into the leisure centre café, to say hi to my former co-workers, and it was like time had stood still since I left. Nothing had changed. And I missed Glasgow. I lay in my bed that night, and the silence was so loud.

It was good to be reunited with my parents, and to cuddle with my cat, and collect clothes I’d left behind. But it didn’t feel like home anymore. I distinctly felt that I was an adult, visiting her parents’ home, not her own. I felt weird eating food I hadn’t bought, and not washing my own dishes. It felt more like home the next morning, sitting on the sofa in my pyjamas, drinking coffee with my parents. (I will never be able to make coffee as well as my dad does). But I was relieved to return to my life in Glasgow.

The other thing that happened when I went home was I got my hair cut, in a bob. And I dyed it purple. I felt more like myself, somehow, more vibrant. And I realised what was missing: I’d lost my passion. I was so comfortable, living on money I didn’t work for, being an average student, spending hours with my friends every day. Where was my drive, my ambition, my flare? When was the last time I’d worked on my novel? Who was I?

I found a spark of myself, a little while later. There is this lecturer for English Lit, who is, frankly, an utter dick. 70% of us were suffering from our second bout of fresher’s flu, and he told us off for coughing, ridiculed us for “spreading horrible germs”. He was a dick, he knew he was a dick, and he knew he could get away with being a dick. It was our second lecture with him. I was sitting in the second row from the front, and he was looking right at me, as he disdainfully told us not to cough whilst he read out a poem. So I stood up, squeezed past the people beside me, and sauntered out the room, coughing exaggeratedly. I slammed the door behind me.

Was it a mature course of action? Well no, probably not. But it was an act of protest, and I was proud of myself. I’d mustered enough passion to be conspicuous, rather than sitting back comfortably and doing nothing. (And people told me they wanted to cheer for me as I slammed the door). Since then, I’ve reclaimed my identity. I haven’t done much work on my book, but I have written a little poetry. And I’m enjoying my classes more (I despised Philosophy for the first half of the semester, and now it’s my favourite of my three subjects).

The most important factor in finding myself again, was having the space to do so. Four weeks ago today, I came home to find my roommate’s stuff had disappeared from our room. People still come up to me and say they’re sorry to hear about her switching rooms. But I’m not. I danced a jig when I found out, squealed with joy, named the room “my empire”. I didn’t know if someone else would move in, but I moved my stuff to the other side of the room just in case. I would never be without access to a window again!

A girl came to look at the room on the Tuesday after, but she didn’t move in, so my empire remains my own. I finally have a place where I can hide from the world, and walk around in my underwear (it’s the little things in life). I feel like a different person since she moved out. It’s emotionally taxing, sharing a room with someone who is at best indifferent to you, and at worst, despises you – especially when they have to walk through your half of the room. It was like I had no space that was actually mine. The downside is that now I have a place where I can be an introvert in peace, and I am a lot more antisocial. I’m trying now to undo that, but it seems people are busy so often at this time of year.

Life, I have learnt, is cyclical, and people and patterns come back to you. The two people I hang out with regularly are the first two people I met when I arrived in Glasgow. And I still talk too fast, and I still hug my bestie more than he wants me to. As it began, so it shall end. As if nothing has changed. But so much has changed and evolved, throughout the duration of this semester. I have changed, repeatedly, and my friendships have changed. And there are constants: whether it’s my routine of where I get my coffee each morning, or the identical days where I’ve walked in circles around the uni campus with my best friend, having the same conversations over and over – talking about films, poetry, our equally nonexistent love lives, arguing the same arguments, our footsteps crossing the same stretches of road, over and over.

It’s so easy to think the passing time hasn’t changed me, when so much of my life is routine. But I can pinpoint moments of change, of growing closer to people, or far apart.

And I like to think I’m more mature now. I’ve applied for jobs, I’m being healthy, exercising, I plan to study more… Hell, I’ve even gotten around to writing a blog! The semester is over, and its ending is both momentous and commonplace.

In the month before next semester begins, I will study hard (or so I tell myself) for my exams, which are two weeks away. And I will make more of an effort with my friendships. There are so many lovely people in my life, and I don’t see enough of them. Whether it’s a friend who came to a different lecture slot for English Lit on Wednesday just to hear me perform my poetry, or a friend I’ve grown apart with and now have to take baby steps to reconnect with, or the best friend who I’m constantly talking to… I need to work hard to keep these people in my life. Because they have been a blessing to me, and I would be lost without their love and support.

(And now, a moment of silence for my left hand, which is in utter agony from handwriting this entire blog in one sitting, as well as now typing it up!)