I can’t really say whether or not my three years of university (plus 13 in school) went quickly or not. I don’t think it feels like the blink of an eye since I was teaching myself how to juggle instead of studying for my VCE exams, and watching The Parent Trap because I felt more nostalgic for Lindsay Lohan vintage than stressed for an upcoming exam. I would say that such a work ethic has continued on in my tertiary studies, but I feel that a bit of context is necessary.
I am a big worrier, like, huge. I made a pretty bold call to make Year 12 the year of learning to not stress. Which, yes, I realise could have backfired immensely had I done anything slightly differently. And it didn’t help that the teachers used every other spare moment to emphasise the importance of doubling down in the final year of high school. But I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life trying to live alongside mounting anxiety in high-pressure situations, because even at that point, I knew that life would continue to be full of those moments.
There were times when I definitely failed in my goal to become more ~chill~. Like when I used to stress pluck my eyebrows, which no one noticed because my eyebrows are akin to Mia Thermopolis’s ‘bushman’ eyebrows pre-makeover in The Princess Diaries. Or when I cried and screamed at my Mum over something about my dress for my formal which I can’t even remember right now (and definitely wasn’t important). But I also felt that my few mini breakdowns were worth it in the scheme of things; not just in the way that I managed to handle Year 12 a lot better than I expected, but also in the way I carry myself nowadays.
Despite being told that learning at university would be immensely challenging for someone like me – rural, under the clearly-in score (just), unadjusted to university life – I actually feel like I did a lot better than anyone expected. Particularly because of the fact that I turned away from my perceived strength of classical music and looked towards a field with what I thought I had more potential in. So many people doubted my decision, I believe, and I think that also led me to doubt myself and my own abilities, especially when teachers are always catering for the lowest common denominator and teaching from there.
University for me was a time to learn how to think, not what to think. Heated discussions in tutorials were often my favourite way to learn, rather than reading from printed out PDFs that were bound and sold for $30 in the bookshop, even though I could just google the articles. Lectures were difficult for me to concentrate on, but I don’t feel like I missed out on too much in the time I spent endlessly scrolling through Twitter. My marks have always been higher than I had hoped for at the beginning of my degree, and I never felt too stressed out, which is a huge testament to my Year 12 mission to chill out.
And what about the rest of my university experience? Well, I met a lot of amazing people who I hope I can still keep in contact with for years to come. I feel like I learnt more from them and the Media Collective that I was apart of than I did in my studies. All of that experience definitely takes up more room on my resume, at least. It also meant that I was exposed to so many creative and hard-working people that I can only dream to emulate one day. But more than that, they are incredible people at heart, and even though every one of them is different, we combined to make and experience things that bring tears of joy, sadness, and pride to my eyes.
I also remained a lot closer to my high school friends than I expected; I thought that I would barely ever see them again after graduating high school, yet the shared experiences of travelling to university and adjusting to ‘city life’ brought us closer together, I believe. It’s truly grounding to see a friendship group filled with people pursuing different and amazing things, and it adds more to my life than if I had just befriended my media peers and left it at that.
So.. what now? I’m reading a non-fiction book for leisure for possibly the first time ever, and I’m treasuring the fact that I can learn what I want when I want at this point. I also know that I want to write more, because I’ve been so inspired by the people around me (that are much better than me). I’m quietly searching for a career in social media, however I’m not in a huge rush. If you’d said that to my 16-year-old self, however, I probably would have fallen off my chair. The idea of taking time to relax and actually do nothing is so foreign to me that I want to enjoy it while I can. I don’t think I’ve had this happen for at least seven years, as formal education was always heaping one task on top of the next. But I know that no one ever stops learning, and I look forward to learning outside of a classroom or a lecture hall for once.