It’s quite hard to sum up three rather important years of your life in a single letter. That’s three winters, three summers, three autumns and three springs; and much can happen in a single season, let alone several years’ worth of them. Rather than rehashing every moment of my university experience from start to finish, I thought I’d share some things I’ve learnt along the way, in an attempt to pass on some advice, and perhaps even wisdom.
My journey has not, as appears to be the case with most people, been a straightforward one. Time seems to have both dilated and accelerated during my degree and frankly, it’s difficult to come to terms with the fact that I’m now no longer a student. According to my mum, not yet having a full-time job is a sign that I’m still in the undergraduate mind-set. And she’s right—I still expect to have long months off; I am already making plans for my next trip abroad as though any place of work will ever let me have more than 25 days off a year; and getting up at 9am still feels like an unachievable dream. I am caught in the limbo of summer, in a space where reality feels just far enough away to be forgettable.
Reality, however, as we all know, is an inevitability, despite the romanticism of Miguel De Cevantes’ novel Don Quixote: ‘maddest of all [is] to see life as it is, and not as it should be!’ I am at a complicated crossroads where I am yearning for the independence a job brings but am tethered to home by fear of the unknown. I know I have to choose a path, but currently have a foot on each side of the junction, reluctant to commit to one or the other. It is a situation that I’m sure is familiar to every graduate not continuing with the joys of higher education. And obviously, there is a way through it, or else every person would be in a no-man’s-land of career crisis (perhaps everyone is—they’re just good at hiding it.) I am trusting that I will make it to the other side, just as I made it to the other side of university. And perhaps I will come out with some equally clichéd life advice as can be found in the list below:
University is not just about your studies. University is about the people you meet, the new things you get to try, and the places you end up living. It is where you learn to grow up, how to cook (hopefully), an environment in which you figure things out both completely by accident and on purpose, and where you feel things, good and bad, that you never thought you could. I was so overwhelmed when I first started at Falmouth that I almost dropped out. Sometimes I thought about it after that, too. It’s a thought that almost every graduate has had for one reason or another, and although university is not right for certain people, most of us will figure out how to survive. I’m glad I stayed, even if I doubted myself, the course, my work and my talent every now and then. If I had gone back home I would have never produced the same stories, created the same worlds, been involved with the same projects. I would have also never had the chance to try gig rowing (a native Cornish sport), which has taken me from the Scilly Isles to France and Italy.
The thing nobody tells you about rock bottom is that it’s possible to stay there for quite a while. There’s an assumption that as soon as you recognise just how bad a time you’re having you immediately start on an upward trajectory again. In my experience, this isn’t always true. Even on the sea floor there are still currents; things don’t have to get worse to prevent things from getting better. Almost always, though, you will rise to the surface again. (I thought a water metaphor would be fitting for Cornwall.) Hope is a necessary force for growth.
The last lesson I will spare a bullet point—I haven’t got much to say, other than that fundamentally, life is too short to worry. It is easy to forget the preciousness of our existence until a near-miss situation or an unexpected death. We don’t have forever, so we must try to grasp the opportunities that are placed in front of us whenever possible, and appreciate what we have already. I certainly haven’t mastered this yet, but writing this letter has been a useful start, and also acts as a way of closing the chapter of my life that has revolved around Falmouth for the last three years. I think some kind of exploratory self-reflection is necessary after every major change to allow us to move on—and though I will be moving on from Cornwall, I will never forget my time here.
by Alice Benham