or, What I Think I Learned from Moving to a Different Country to Go To University
Be selfish. Because it won’t be enough to remember to take care of yourself. But also connect, to friends, to students, to colleagues, to staff, to people living around you. Be thankful for them, for their help, for their presence. Be thankful to your closest supporters, to your steam valves. Be kind. A little goes a long way, and you will feel much better for it.
Watch Liberal Arts, and prepare to scoff – but even so. Watch Whiplash and prepare to shudder – but even then. Watch Community, season one episode one, season five episodes one and two – watch it all, in fact. Watch Monsters University, despite it not being as good as Inc, and watch Inside Out [I’ll come back to emotions later, too]. Watch Dead Poets Society, if you feel you should, I suppose.
Learn to meditate, and breathe, and sleep. Learn to read as much as you want of anything you want, and that it’s ok to abandon it for a year if something else comes along. Learn to bingewatch with other people, and bingewatch alone. Learn to listen, but also to talk, and it doesn’t always have to be about that much.
Read Ali Smith’s Artful and Deborah Levy’s Things I Don’t Want to Know. Read William Letford’s Bevel and Marina Keegan’s The Opposite of Loneliness. Read Vaughan and Staples’ Saga and Luiselli and McSweeney’s Sidewalks. Read Comme un Roman, by Daniel Pennac (or by Sarah Ardizzone), or maybe Journal d’un Corps (or Diary of a Body, by Alison Waters). It helps to know your limits, of the page, of the body, and others have explored those edges. Read Jeanette Winterson’s Written on the Body, too, and Claudia Rankine’s Citizen. Read Gillen and McKelvie’s The Wicked and the Divine and Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona.
Find something to become passionate about, and abolish the guilt from the pleasure. [Mine is Transformers, but you already knew that.] Be aware of what is flawed about your interests, do your best to come to terms with it and try changing it where possible. Learn from the mistakes it makes. This also applies to yourself.
Because what you must remember, what you need to make sure you never forget, is to have ambition (cue Atanas Valkov). To be curious (cue Melodysheep). To remember that emotions are allowed, they are natural, they are yours. Because being strong can be a weakness, and showing weakness can definitely be a strength. Accept both. Allow both. Get angry. Make it count (cue A Monster Calls).
You will cry. You will laugh. Sometimes there will be little difference between the two. You will feel lost as everyone is younger than you or looks trapped too early. You will meet people and they will leave, and you won’t. And then you will, too.
So take time to say goodbye. To say thank you. To say sorry.
And do it all with a smile, where you can.