i didn’t ever think i would end my first year of uni during a pandemic. but who ever said life was predictable? 2020 so far has been dramatic as fuck.

it’s been a pretty interesting few weeks recently, and from having shit all to do, i’ve had a lot of time to think and reflect, on not just myself and the things that are happening in the world, but on the past 9 months.

honestly, when i think back to how it all came together and the person i have become since september to now, i find myself questioning some of the choices i made. some of the things that transpired were so unlike me, unlike the decisions that the me from years ago, or the me now, would make, that it makes me wonder what was going through my mind in that moment, who i became in that split second.

before the lectures and seminars began, i was nervous. i was scared. i was worried about how i would fit into this world of academia and literature and Shakespeare. i hadn’t studied properly since 2018, and back then it was two completely different subjects—health and social care, and psychology. and now, i’d picked English Literature. would i really be able to go through with it? did i even make the right choice?

days prior to the registration, i’d made a friend on the freshers group, but like all things, it wouldn’t last. not properly anyway. some things, some friendships, you jump into and it ends up shattering into what you think is glitter, but in actuality is shards of glass.

from the first week, i skipped a lecture and two seminars. don’t ask me why, because i don’t even know.

but it soon became a pattern that continued throughout the year. out of all the lectures and seminars for those two modules, i attended 5 from each. which is terrible.

the entirety of the first few months of studying English were spent focusing my attention on things i shouldn’t have been: my social life. though that’s not to say i went to freshers parties and got black-out drunk every night. that’s not my scene at all.

but there were some very questionable choices made that makes me feel queasy and cringed out when i recall it. despite these moments of being so unlike myself, feeling as if i was stepping into someone else’s life, but really it was just some other side of me seeking attention and some kind of validation, i was still able to complete the essays i needed to. last minute, but i was able to.

however i never put my 100% into them, the way i should have. i told myself that this year, this course, this uni, would be one where i focus. i didn’t come to study to be making friends; i came to get a degree for myself so i can prove myself right, and my family wrong. my mother told me that there were some people saying to her “can she really do it? will she go through with studying this time? why did she choose English? she won’t get anywhere with it.” and actually, one of my cousins said the same—asked why i picked English because it’s a bullshit subject with no job prospects.

um, ok. i didn’t pick it for its job prospects asshole, i picked it because it’s the only subject i ever enjoyed and felt passionate about. prick.

though i first told myself i came to uni to only get an education for myself, i still obviously wanted to make friends. who doesn’t? and i did. and maybe it’s me and i’m a shitty person, which i kind of am, i won’t deny that, but those friendships didn’t really last.

yeah i still talk to one of said friends, but it’s awkward stilted conversations with, from my perspective, forced interest. it doesn’t actually bother me because i already have the friends i need and can count on, but it is always nice to have friends to see again after a few months and catch up with and grab a coffee and cake with in between lectures.

here’s to hoping i’ll have that from september 2020. but i most likely won’t.

at least i’ll be able to get my shit done though right? and i won’t have anything or anyone else to blame if i get anything less than 70%.

the weird thing about making or not making friends is the sense of belonging and feeling out of place. it’s not that i felt out of place or anything. it’s just that, in seminars when you have to work with a partner or have a group project and everyone’s got someone or people to work with, and you’re like ‘ah shit i really should’ve made some friends’.

i did, despite the whole kinda being alone from november onwards, feel at ease anyway. a little. but then i started skipping more and more of uni, though i was able to still submit my work, even with little to no knowledge of what i was actually writing about because by that point, i stopped caring. and then january came.

my dad got sick.

and it was the scariest few weeks of my life.

thankfully my lecturers were amazing, kind and understanding people, who gave me extensions and helped me catch up with what i missed. and at that time, there was one friend who, despite not sharing any classes together, was kind of amazing. she checked up on me every day, emailed me her notes, came to see me in the hospital and visited my dad. she got me flowers and a card, and some fruits. i remember sitting with her in the hospital cafeteria, eating for the first time that day, with a slice of chocolate cake that we were sharing and cups of hot chocolate and coffee, just talking and i was trying not to cry.

i was so scared and numb, but i had to be strong.

after this ordeal, i tried to shake off the feeling. and it was when dad was discharged and home, that i finally allowed myself to cry more than just a few tears, for longer than just 5 minutes.

even now, months later, he is still not back to the strong man he was. he’s skinnier and weaker and not the man who’d go out every day walking for ages, just because he could. and obviously now due to the pandemic, he can’t at all as he’s at such high risk.

having such a heavy and emotionally draining event occur right before my second term at uni was exhausting. i’d planned on starting fresh, focusing, being a star student. but my mental health got a little fucked up and i couldn’t bring myself to see the end goal anymore.

was it just to finish the year off no matter what grade i got? to just finish the year full stop? to get a degree? to survive?

i didn’t know what i wanted anymore and so i just found myself floating along, doing everything last minute, hours before the deadline, not revising at all. the only time, since october, that i submitted an essay a few days before it was due was when J made me sit down and actually do it.

after that, i switched back to not even researching or starting it a day before. i was so unbothered that i ended up using my GCSE notes for one essay on poetry, which were actually helpful. i mean i actually got a good grade for it. and for the rest of my assignments and exams, given the effort i put in, im the teensiest bit proud of myself. especially for my result in my poetry & prose module.

the rest of my modules were so focused on the literature and the language of the 18th century works and poetry, a world i didn’t understand nor care about to fully be devoted to it, that i struggled to find myself writing essays i could actually be proud of. whilst some of them (ok, one) have made me feel like i did pretty good, i could’ve worked harder on the others. and now, knowing what i do, that there’s nothing worse than regretting the lack of attention or care or not doing enough, i know that i’m going to do more and be more.

i always hear people “find” themselves in uni or make their forever friends or fall in love with ‘the one’, because with this change of pace and scenery comes this sense of newness. i mean, ok i found myself and discovered more of myself than years previously, and yes i found my person but that wasn’t because of uni.

change is big and scary, and it’s like stepping into the unfamiliar. i still get nervous stepping into the buildings and the rooms, wondering if my unassigned assigned seat is free or freaking out a little internally because i didn’t read the book. i was both in and out of my comfort zone simultaneously and it was exciting and shit scary.

whilst it wasn’t the most productive of years and ended on a pretty low note, not at all how i expected, it was eye opening and refreshing in the sense that i now know what to do, and what not to do. (although i still struggle with navigating around uni. i honestly don’t know where some of the buildings and rooms are.) i may feel like i don’t belong or am in the right place, but i do and i am. because it’s something that i enjoy doing: both reading and writing.

the last couple months shaped me into a stronger person, and maybe i care a little less about certain things or people, and maybe i realised that i can be pretty selfish and make stupid shitty choices, but i am a damn good writer. and the year has, honestly, helped me to see my worth and i can’t wait to experience the next two years.

Sumaiya, x

Posted by:Sumaiya Ahmed

Sumaiya Ahmed is a student, poet and freelance features journalist, aiming to break down the boundaries of cultural stigma and shame attached to mental health and sexuality within the South Asian culture, and bringing marginalised topics to light. She is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Poised.

14 thoughts on “One Year Down, Two to Go

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