Back In The Driving Seat

This piece was written for the December 2022 issue of Caitlyn Raymond’s fantastic Details Magazine, which is out now – you can find out more about it by clicking here!

Whether it’s for this magazine, my own blog or any other outlet, I always try to write about my own life from a ‘glass half-full’ perspective. And why wouldn’t I? After all, there’s enough misery in the world at the moment without me adding to it. Unfortunately, though, my sunny disposition on the page isn’t always reflected in real life, and that’s never more true than now, at the tail end of nine months of unemployment (so far). I sit, I dwell and I overthink, and it seems like there’s something different for me to mull over every single day – I never quite seem to be able to catch a break. It’s hard to admit that without moaning, but I’m just telling my truth.

Last week, that troubling thing was time itself – more specifically, the feeling that it was passing me by, and there was nothing I could do about it. I’d turned 25 and I was sitting there, in the thick of November, with seemingly very little to show for my year. That’s a hopeless situation, let me tell you, and when you’re down in the dumps like that it can be very easy just to wallow in self-pity. I definitely know what that’s like, because it’s usually when the comfort eating starts! So when it happens, what do I do about it? I take control, I make changes, but not necessarily the kind you might expect.

They aren’t major life alterations. There’s plenty of time for those, and in any case, it’s always much better to take baby steps – and I mean baby steps. I’ve realised I have to seize the initiative wherever I can, even if that means deciding to eat my dinner an hour after Mum and Dad have finished theirs, as I have done recently. It’s caused a little bit of debate, and I suspect they think there’s something driving me away from them, no matter how many times I try to convince them otherwise. But the simple fact is that they won’t dictate when I’m hungry: I will. They can’t complain if I spend too long in my room either, because if I have my solitude, I’m calm and content, and those moments are worth their weight in gold.

You may well think I’m immature, or I have a screw loose (now that I’ve written about my dinner routines, I’m wondering if I do too). But in a life that’s increasingly felt like it’s getting away from me, it allows me to climb into the driving seat and get back behind the wheel. That might only be for five or ten minutes at a time, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less valuable. It provides a light in the darkness, it helps to guide me through uncertain times, and it makes the long-term unknown that little bit less daunting.

Mason

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Going Beyond The Comfort Zone

Hello!

My name is Emily. I’m a friend of Mason’s and a fellow student, and he’s kindly invited me to write a post of my choice for his blog. It’s been a while since I’ve written anything on a blog. The feeling of just letting my thoughts flow and allowing my fingers to just do the typing is all coming back to me now. So let’s see how this goes…

I remember the pre-university excitement as though it was yesterday. The mental lists I made of all the social interaction I was going to do, how many friends I was going to make, how many Freshers’ parties I was attending, and of course, how much fun I was going to have before the semester started. Did any of that go to plan?

Absolutely not.

When I turned eighteen and started university, I thought that was it – that my independent, anxious phase was over. I was going to enjoy myself with my new flatmates, and actually try to socialise. Little did I know that what I thought was an anxious phase is just who I am as a person and cannot be easily fixed with social interaction. I’ve always been the type of girl who would rather spend an evening at home with a good movie or book rather than going out and getting totally shitfaced. However, I thought that for the sake of university, I’d get out of my comfort zone.

That went down like a lead balloon…

It was the first day of Freshers’ Week and the university was holding a Full Moon Party. My flatmates and I had pre-booked tickets to go together, to get to know each other a little better. It came to my attention that this wasn’t their first party, by how they were chugging back shots like it was nobody’s business. I, on the other hand, was younger and was never popular enough for house parties, and hardly drank. So you can already see why this was a bad idea. Flash forward to an hour or two later when the doors finally opened, and the anxiety and panic had set in. I just felt so out of place, I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t just go up to my flatmates after just getting in and saying “I want to go back”. I decided to give it a chance. Maybe I would like it?

Wrong again.

It got to the point where I felt the anxiety rising and rising until it bubbled over and I started to panic. There were too many people. I didn’t belong there. I felt unsafe. All I knew was that I needed to get out. One of my flatmates noticed I was panicking and helped me get back to the flat safely by calling my friend on campus. I’m pretty sure I ruined his match on Call of Duty.

So why am I telling this story? Well, as someone who has been anxious their entire life and wondered whether university life wasn’t for them, I’m here to say that despite the drinking, the partying and the social interaction, university life can still be for you.

After that night, I was embarrassed to show my face to my flatmates, and even though their personalities were lovely, I knew I wasn’t going to get on well with them because we were different people. On a Wednesday night when they’d have pre-drinks and go out to BOP, I was sat on my bed with a blanket, eating spaghetti bolognese whilst watching Celebrity MasterChef…you see?

If you, an independent individual, end up sharing a flat with party animals, you can still find your own ways to enjoy yourself. On those Wednesday evenings, I had the flat to myself and didn’t have to press my ear to my bedroom door to hear if anyone was in the kitchen because everyone was out. Sometimes I baked cookies and cakes, or went for a walk into Winchester to pick up any food I needed, or just to get some fresh air and be alone with my thoughts for a while. It’s the little things that can sometimes have the biggest impact.

Having said all this, though, the one thing that kept me going was seeing my family at the end of the week. I was lucky enough to get into a university relatively close to home – only 60-90 minutes away on the train (God knows what I would’ve done if I went to my insurance choice, Bangor). So, if like me, you are the type of person who loves their home comforts, applying to a university close to you is probably the most important tip, as at the end of the week, you get to crash on your own bed and realise just how quiet it is within your own four walls.

Emily G