Tuesday, 18 November 2014

“Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.”

Flicking back through the last eight weeks of photographs is like taking a trip in a time machine. I will never forget how scared I felt the first day I moved in; how nauseated at the thought of leaving and in that moment if we had turned the car around I would never have gone. I listened to so much Beyoncé on that journey. “I’m not afraid,” I told myself over and over again. “I’m not afraid of anything.” I replied to good luck texts from my friends with shaky hands and refused to cry or think about home.

It took one look at my university bedroom and the equally, secretly, terrified faces of my new flatmates and everything was fine. Someone brought cake, the rest of us fetched our alcohol, music playing, and suddenly we’re laughing, we’re happy, we’re all going to be okay. Someone else went to Reading festival in the summer, someone else worked at Leeds. We talk about Arctic Monkeys, A-levels, who hasn’t lost their virginity somewhere in the blur of the last few years of teenagehood, play never-have-I-ever - all lying of course - and spell out our names as we save each others numbers. We wander out, elated, to explore our new world of libraries and bars, concrete steps, a campus of new experiences awaiting us in the morning but we can’t wait for that, we want it now. Snapchat, “have you seen this TV show…” falling over, spilling ciders, walking home. I climb in through a window in our building, fall up the stairs, smiling. Hangovers follow, medicated by mugs of tea. Milk and one sugar, are we becoming friends? (Yes.)

Two months have flown by; a blur of drinking and dancing and attempts at cooking, movies and arguments and laughing, never quite getting enough sleep or enough coffee. It’s not quite a home, this funny flat with the bedroom doors that stick and the mouldy showers and the fridge that’s too cold and the freezer that’s permanently melting. It’s not a family, this weird group of people, thrown together and suddenly alone, supposedly independent. Some of us only share in birthday meals and chip in for washing-up liquid; some of us drink tea at 2am together and watch TV in each other’s rooms, advising and teasing on everything on the colour of shirts, to who’s turn to clean, to who had who in their room being noisy last night. And that’s okay, everything’s always okay, or it will be in the morning or one day, far in the future, when I’ve got a drink in my hand and a funny story to tell. It’s always okay.

House hunting, walks to Aldi, figuring out the laundrette, homesickness, fresher's flu, far too many tins of soup and spaghetti hoops consumed. Visits from family, trips home, adventure, stress, panic and laughter. Essays written, seminars endured, lectures napped through. Coffee drunk, tweets written, instagrams posted. Whiskey, vodka, Jager, Malibu, vomit and alcohol poisoning. Too many pizzas to count. Halloween, Bonfire Night, passing by in a blur. Suddenly it's nearly Christmas and I feel as if I've lived here forever.

University is somehow everything and nothing like I imagined; exactly as I knew it would be and also in another universe. Even when life feels terrifyingly new and upside down and fragile and I remember how far away I am from home, its so good, this learning how to be a person stuff. This tumble-driers and microwaves, budget, student, train tickets, "adult" stuff. Cigarette smoke on cold November evenings, sparkles in the sky, the smells of winter, soft sweaters and hugs, more music than my ears know what to do with. Fairy lights, to-do lists, poster sales, endless, endless books. Sometimes I get sad of course and when I do I listen to music and read messages in my yearbook and miss my family - who half the time are somehow capable of infuriating me from miles across the country - and my friends - because a million messages and texts and Skype sessions are just never the same as being in the same room and laughing so hard you need to pee with people who've known you forever.

It’s as if one day I woke up and someone handed me my brand new life. An adventure, just like I always wanted.

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