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My time at university, although filled with some of the best times of my life, were also the hardest years of my life. I had a lot of lows and at points felt like I had hit rock bottom. This has meant that I have ended up learning a lot both about myself and generally from experience. Now that I have finished my law degree at university, I wanted to reflect on my experience generally and the takeaways from my time at university.
You will always be learning about who you are and yourself
I started university feeling pretty confident and comfortable in myself. In fact, it was the most confident and comfortable I had felt in my own skin ever. Although I knew I still had room for growth and improvement I thought I probably wouldn’t feel lost or go through as big of changes as I did during university.
Your mind is complicated
I feel like when things are going well in life or you feel okay, it can be easy to forget how complicated the mind and emotions can be. I went through a lot whilst at university and I found I did not always react or feel the ways I might have previously thought I would feel going through the kinds of situations I was going through. At times I felt numb during really difficult periods when I would have originally expected to feel pain. Other moments I would feel lots of different emotions together and so much more than I ever thought possible. Processing things happens at your own pace and when you are hit with lots of things at the same time, often it isn’t until many months later that you begin to accept and finally rebuild your life so you can begin to move forward.
Your path isn’t linear
Throughout the education system, we are used to there always being a next step. Something new to progress onto. Even within university, there can be very much the mentality that once you graduate you either go straight into a masters or further education or a job. Even personally, there is a often a perception of progress as linear, as you always going forward. I have learnt the hard way at university that progress can be putting one step forward and taking two steps back. It doesn’t mean you aren’t getting anywhere. It just means that path which is so often presented as straightforward or in one direction can have many set backs and many twists and turns.
Getting comfortable with the unknown
If there is one main thing COVID taught us, I think it is just how uncertain life can be. We often took for granted the security in knowing what would happen the next day and what the situation would look like. COVID-19 for me completely changed my university experience and meant I had to adjust to an online world and also to the fact that many work experiences and life experiences I wanted would just not be possible for the time being and I wouldn’t know when I would be able to do them. That although sad, uncertainty and the unknown is just a reality of life we have to come to terms with. We will not always know what will happen or when and it can be scary, but also it can be exciting depending on the way you look at it.
A few close friends are better than lots of friends with no meaningful connection
This isn’t something necessarily I would say university taught me as I knew this before. However, university definitely reinforced it for me. Going through some of the worst times of my life really highlighted to me the friends I could trust and count on. I made some really close friends and although people I consider close friends may not be huge in number, it is having them that counts. I still have many friends that I can hang out with and know I will have a lovely time. But, having people I know I can share difficult experiences with is so special.
There is a difference between urgency and importance
In university, especially throughout my first and second year, I prioritised others' mental health above my own constantly. I was supporting a lot of people with serious mental health problems and felt like I was literally holding people’s lives in my hand. This meant I automatically always pushed my own mental health aside because comparatively, it was not as bad. However, the reality is that just because their mental health needs were more urgent, did not mean mine were not important and I still needed to pay attention to my own. After all, being a carer for others can massively impact on your mental health as well.
It is never too late until it is
The way I managed to turn my law school exams around and still do well even despite so many things going wrong in my personal life impacting my study really taught me that it is never too late. Things can feel impossible, but until the time has passed, we still have the power to change it. No matter how hard it is, when you keep going there is a way (even if sometimes that means some things not going to plan).
Boundaries are really important
Boundaries are really important and you should not keep making excuses for people that do not respect them. I initially was a lot more forgiving of people who did not always respect boundaries. I would tell myself that they had a lot going on or not doing well mentally and thought that I was being understanding. Whilst being mindful of others is good, boundaries are important for your wellbeing. You enforcing a boundary does not mean you are not understanding. No matter what someone is going through, it is never okay for someone not to respect your boundaries.
You never know how strong you are until you are pushed to your limits
University taught me I am so much stronger than I ever imagined I was. Things I thought I would never be able to cope with and more were thrown at me and I still managed. My limits were tested, stretched and taken to a whole new level and still, I somehow made it through. Circumstances that leave you with no choice but to be strong bring out an inner strength in you you never thought possible. Because in those cases it becomes a matter of survival.
Your life is for living it
I say this because I feel in the hardest of times I was not really living, I was surviving. When you have gone through a lot, you can get stuck in the painful experience and the memory of it and not move forward. Stuck in a painful cycle. My third year of law, especially with things opening up more after COVID really showed me you can live your life and enjoy it despite everything. Moving forward is important as well as trying to rebuild your life no matter how hard things may have been because at the end of the day there is a life beyond even the most awful of experiences. Although I have had lows in my third year, I have made some incredible memories going out with friends and getting involved in activities. It reminded me of how amazing life really can be and the pleasure of just making the most of moments. I have learnt to accept that what I experienced was terrible but it happened and there’s still a life for me to live.
Help keep me going 🙂
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