It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

An ode to my fellow university graduates

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On a sunny Sunday afternoon in June, I embarked on my final drive down the M5 back to London from Exeter. After three somewhat tumultuous years at university, I had never felt more ready to be ending a chapter. I hadn’t been particularly interested in attending University in the first place. But being reared in the middle-class suburbia I was, it was only fitting that I should spend three years reading a subject I had little interest in, amongst my equally unenthralled peers. 

 But now I was finally free from the monotonous routine of disenchanting psychology lectures and drinking myself into oblivion three nights a week, to start living a life I had been daydreaming about since I was 4 years old. I could feel the hunger for a different life eating away at my insides. With such naïve certainty I assured myself that life would take off from this point on. It would only be a whirlwind of bright lights and glamour from the second I returned home. 

Fast forwards 6 months, and I’m stood at Kentish town high street bus station, toes starting to prune from the amount of rain that had infiltrated my thread bare trainers. Tears streaming down my face, my future seemed as blurry as my contact lenses. What was I doing here? I was supposed to be on a first-class flight to New York for a long weekend with my handsome boyfriend. I was supposed to be slightly overwhelmed by having to juggle my new job as the editor of Vogue, at the same time as decorating my new flat in South Ken. 

I can confidently report that I am neither the editor of Vogue, nor do I have a handsome boyfriend. The closest thing I have to a boyfriend is my best friend Issey, who checks in on me once a day to make sure I haven’t totally lost the plot. I am also not living in my own flat in South Ken, but instead am back at home with my mum, dad and two sisters. The constant investigations into who ate all the chocolate fingers, and arguments over who’s turn it is to take the bins out, means home often feels more like student digs than my university flat itself. 

The illustrious tales of ‘life after university’ quickly became something of urban legend, and the reality of how difficult the transition can be rapidly set in. 

At university I became so sure of the defiant, slightly reckless youth I was. It took me a while, but eventually I found my groove and wriggled around in it until I became too comfortable to move. I developed such confidence in what I said and what I wore that I became unafraid of any repercussions. And then just as I thought I'd found the girl I was, I was picked up and dropped into a huge, unfamiliar pond, desperately trying to tread water. The self-assurance I once felt at university rapidly began to recede, and all that was left was an overwhelming sense of being totally lost. 

My friends had all gone off in their own directions, some of them going on to do masters, others jetting off to Australia to prolong the post-uni bewilderment they too would inevitably feel. And with £27000 of student loans and a hefty overdraft in tow, excursions to visit friends at their new campuses became somewhat of a pipe dream. I quite literally hope to be mugged these days, just so someone else has to deal with my financial faux pas for a day or two. I don’t have any idea what it is I want to do with my life. But still, the all too familiar greeting of a rejection letter, from yet another grad scheme I have no interest in, doesn’t exactly do my ego any favours.  

Leaving university is one of the most difficult challenges I’ve faced. And oddly, it’s one of my favourite chapters yet. Because after standing at that bus stop in the rain, drenched through to my bones, I got on that bus, and went home. 

It’s knowing that whether my day is good or bad, when I get home I can be certain to find my mum planted on the sofa singing all the wrong words to a Joni Mitchell song. It’s knowing that if a boy breaks my heart, that instead of drowning my sorrows in a bottle of £4 co-op wine, my dad will be on standby with a cup of tea and a hob nob. It’s the Friday evenings going for a pint with my best friend at our new favourite pub, even though neither of us drink pints. It’s returning to those fearless youths we once were, running around Piccadilly at 4am and starting fights with handsy men outside McDonalds. It’s the fear and yet the overwhelming excitement of the future. It’s taking comfort in knowing nothing at all and having everything to learn. 

I know this period can be difficult at the best of times, and I am no stranger to a weekly mental breakdown over the sheer confusion of it all. But one day I might actually have to live with a boy, and mum won’t be downstairs with a chicken pie on standby. And one day I’ll get where I was going and there’ll be no more excitement in the uncertainty of it all. So for now, I may as well just sit back and enjoy the ride. 

Zahra Hulf

Project Manager , Lets reset

Zahra graduated from the University of Exeter in 2019, with a BSC in Psychology. During her third year of her degree, she conducted her dissertation on the differing parenting styles of new mothers, and the effects this has on the development of a child. She began working at Let’s Reset shortly after graduating, and acts as Project Manager at Let’s Reset. So far she has helped in the production of the Let’s Reset book, the launch of Let’s Reset, and the Let’s Reset workshops. Zahra has a keen interest in mental health, and alongside volunteering as a befriender at the Islington migrant centre, she also writes a blog about the issues women living in poverty face around the world every day.
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