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December 2014

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Note: This is an old post from my previous blog, dated 27/09/14

A house isn’t a home until you’ve made a bit of a mess of it. That’s what I told myself when I moved in on the 17th to stop me from whining so much as I mopped up the spilt decaf coffee on the floor. It wasn’t entirely untrue, but when a thunderstorm came over the night after I had just moved into Canterbury, I realised I didn’t have a Thunder Buddy. I was the only one who’d moved into the house. So I’m pretty sure the storm wasn’t at all intimidated when I sang the Thunder Song on my own.

By the 20th, Housemate 1 moved in. Housemate 2 followed a few days after.

So there I am on the 24th in the living room, writing this blog post on my laptop because a certain level of calm and happiness has emanated throughout my cynical facade.

I sit in companionable silence with two of my housemates in our living room. There is a distinct emptiness opposite me where the television would be, if we could afford one.

Housemate 1’s laptop purrs like a possessed cat as she goes about her business playing a game whilst Housemate 2 chews loudly on an apple, reading manga on her phone. Every now and then 1 and me burst into song, whilst 2 probably wonders why we’re so crazy. Not that she’s much more normal. And though we have no WiFi and no television, I think we’re pretty happy. (Yes, you can be happy without WiFi, it just doesn’t last very long!)

Every house or flat has it’s own dynamic. Let’s call Housemate 1 Hannah so she doesn’t strangle me in the middle of the night for deformation of character. Hannah is like the Mum of the house, and Housemate 2— let’s call her Suze— she’s like the younger sister. Not because she’s actually younger— even though she is— but because she got lost trying to get back home from uni today and Hannah had to get her. Hannah was joking that Suze was a troublesome daughter.

Fresher Year is great because you get to be introduced to such a variety of different people for the first time in your life, from all sorts of backgrounds. But lets face it, who you end up sharing Halls or a house on campus with is pretty much like the lottery. You just don’t stand a chance of winning.

I had reasonable housemates last year, and at first they were quite easy to get along with. Then two dropped out, a fire occurred and we got two new housemates. They. Changed. Everything. 

A casual threat left outside my room

They were real pranksters for sure, and a bit too open about their sexual lives than I was comfortable with. But they were funny and sarcastic and I think the whole experience really taught me something. They taught me not to tell strangers you live with that write novels or they will forever attempt to steal your notebooks.

But Fresher Year is in the past and I am now a slightly more experienced Second Year. (Sorry, Americans. We don’t do that whole “Sophomore”, “Junior”, “Senior” thing that you do. It is literally just First Year through to Third Year for most courses.) One of the greatest perks of Second Year is choosing housemates and I think I may have just won the lottery.

And even if something changes, at least with a double bed in my room I know no one will be bothered enough to move it to the kitchen this year as a prank.

The housemates you choose to live with can just be people who you were willing enough to share the cost of a decent house. At one point last year I thought I would be happy if I never had to interact with my housemates again. But I can’t deal with that kind of isolation. Hopefully your housemates will become like the family you actually chose. You can sit in a room eating dinner whilst ignoring each other on your laptops and smartphones, just like your real parental units at home.

In other news, Housemate 5 moved in today and brought a board of Scrabble. Why must he tear apart this fragile family unit with his boring competitive game?

 

 

Chicken.

chickent_meal
Yummy in my tummy…

You heard me. Chicken makes all the pain go away. But seriously, I’ve had the most stressful three weeks recently. Last week wasn’t so bad. Things began to settle I think. But obviously not because of chicken. Alright, chicken helped, but it wasn’t the only factor.

It’s very true that the first step in solving a problem is admitting that you have one.  Feel free to ask for help. If you’re ill, you should probably see a doctor. If you have problems with an assignment, ask a friend. You need money? Get a job. (I know, helpful advice here, right?)

And I did this time and time again. I talked to my parents and I tried talking to my academic advisor. But the thing they don’t tell you about the Uni Life is that you really have to deal with your own problems. Back at high school you had your parents there to tell you what was best but when you start university, you are thrust into the real world. (Okay, actually the uni life is it’s own world. It’s sort of half real, and half a drunken mess for most people). If you don’t attend lectures you won’t be in any real trouble unless if maybe your scholarship depends on a high attendance rate. But you still very much have to deal with the consequences of your own actions.

So how do you get all your assignments done, have time for societies, reading for leisure, writing those several novels you can’t seem to finish, Keep up with the Marvel Universe (dude, they have TWO different versions of Quicksilver) and a whole bunch of other fandoms, maintain a normal sleeping pattern and figure out what you are going to do with the rest of your life as you know it?

Quicksilver
Quicksilver in Days of Future Past
Avenger's Quicksilver
The Avenger’s: Age of Ultron version of Quicksilver

 

The simple answer is you don’t. You can’t do everything. Not by your own strength, and I think knowing that is a real help. You have to be realistic about what you can and can’t do and you have to be willing to ask for help when you need it. Obviously you may not always get it. Some of my friends have useless academic advisors, or they find that one person’s method of coping may not work for them. I’ve known friends to stay up all night with lots of caffeine to finish assignments. That doesn’t work for me. I can’t work after 2am and that’s my limit.

So…

Number 1: Know that you can’t do everything, but that you should always try your hardest and ask help when you need to.

Number 2: Know your limits. But also push yourself sometimes. That may sound a bit confusing but there are times when maybe you’re just being lazy and you really can force another hour or two work out. Then there are times when you’re just really ill or out of it for some reason and a break will do you some good. I can’t tell you your limits. People pay therapists to help work through their problems. I’m not qualified but I can tell you that no one can rule your life.

Number 3: Figure out a reward or penalty system. This is where chicken comes in for me. If I complete a specified amount of time for a piece of work, I’ll reward myself with chocolate. Or more likely, chicken. When I’m on campus in the evening I can force myself to finish my work because I know chicken is waiting at home. But what if this doesn’t work for you, and you would rather take the reward but not do the assignment? This is where an enforcer might be beneficial. Choose a trusted friend to withdraw said reward if you haven’t completed your work. For others, a penalty system may work better but I just find it doesn’t give me any motivation.

cupcake
Cupcakes can be a great motivator 🙂

But this post was meant to tell you about how to deal with stress…

Well, I can’t really say for sure. I’m still learning as I go. There are huge self-help books on this topic and it’s hard for me to say what’s best. I can however tell you what not to do:

  1. Don’t leave work to the last minute
  2. If you’re religious, don’t use work as an excuse not to worship your God or god or gods. If you believe in any kind of spiritual englightenment then you should listen to the teachings of your faith and make time for your worship. It’ll really help bring balance into your life. If you’re not religious, or if you’re a strong atheist, ignore said advice.
  3. Don’t pull regular all-nighters. It may seem that you’re very dedicated to your studies if you do this but there are health risks to staying up night and consuming lots of caffeine. It’s understandable and almost inevitable to do this when you have deadlines, but if you’re doing this frequently then it means you may need to be better organised.
  4. Don’t focus 100% on the course. A university course shouldn’t define you. You should define the course. (Wow… that sounded less cheesy in my head). Make time for extra things outside of studies. Join a society. Get a new hobby. Start a business. Do SOMETHING. Employers are going to want to know you are well rounded.
  5. Don’t eat junk food and sit on your ass all day. I can’t stress the importance of a healthy diet. Too many students eat junk. It’s take-away after take-away, after drunken nights celebrating. Eat your fruit & veg and go to the gym. Or go for a run if you prefer the outdoors. Learn a martial arts or go swimming. Just stay active. Because in those times even when you think you have no time and you’re really tired… that’s when you probably need the gym the most. I have a friend who goes to the gym Every. Single. Day. It’s his church. That’s probably excessive but you get what I mean. Staying fit is important and it releases all those feel-good hormones and stuff.

I hope that covered most of the ways to deal with stress and how to keep on top of things. Let me know if you have any questions and I do hope to update regularly.

 

Note: This is an old post I’m transferred from my old Blogger account

Summer holidays have always been encompassed by disappointing weather and dithering about whilst simultaneously attempting to convince myself that doing nothing for a whole month was what I really wanted. A longer holiday than usual might have been a dream come true for my former self, but now that I’ve experience the wonders of independecne from my parents, going back under their roof might as well have been purgatory.

At least I had Snapchat as a means of escapism.

picture of me

A third year Computer Science friend of mine, recently graduated, told me that I’d want to pull out my own hair within two weeks. He was wrong. I want to pull out my little sister’s hair within only a few days.

Mind you, I didn’t do absolutley nothing during the holiday. I participated in CampNaNo in July and “won” after writing 35,000 words; secured a voluntary job in August and went to Bournemouth and Leeds Castle with my family; caught up with some old friends; and found a way to combine my love of CS and writing.

 tank

Family time is still important, regardless of age. My family went out on a weekend to Bournemouth. They were having some sort of celebration/ military fair type thing, hence the tank.

fireworks

Who doesn’t love a good firework display? Add a bit of live music and dinner at a restaraunt, and it made for a really good night with the family unit.

expensive Bournemouth housing

helicopter at bournemouth

So why the bitching? I missed the uni life.

They don’t warn you how much you will miss being at university. All your educational life, you’ve been counting down the days to summer. And why not? Most everybody else seems to have gone abroad, or to some other sort of trip. Whether it was Soul Survivor, the Duke of Edinburgh, or The Challenge, everyone else is having more fun than you. And if you never felt that way, then you were probably the rich bastard I was always jealous of.

The number one problem with parents is usually curfews. Now, granted that you actually have somewhere to be (I know I never did), this had different repercussions for different people. But once you’ve experienced the freedom of living away from parents, there really is no going back. It’s like trying to shove the toothpaste back in the tube. It ain’t happening.

Except it does. Slowly. But then the toothpaste is never the same again.

When I got back home I didn’t ask for permission to go out. I told them I was going out. (Unless I needed money from then, in which case, I needed to warn them further in advance.)

My parents never spoke to me about alcohol. It was an unspoken rule. Don’t drink. Ever. I was underage so they figured I wouldn’t, and I didn’t. Yeah, I’m just that boring. So when my friend called me at the last minute, asking if I wanted to go to the pub sometime in July, I wasn’t certain I’d be allowed, but I was 18, dammit! I was ready to hold my ground.

I don’t know if any of these restrictions apply to you, but I think we can all agree as young adults, that parents can be really boring and stuffy at times. My life had gone from society meetings and house parties to cooking dinner being the highlight of my day.

Don’t do what I did. Don’t wait forever to think up of alternative options for that summer job you applied to. Make something of your holiday. Something you can be proud to write on your CV, or even something you can just rememeber fondly– future employers be damned!

Summer holidays needn’t be a limbo state as you await the next year at uni. Get a job or start a new hobby. Further your studies in your own time. If you make something of it, it needn’t be a state of purgatory.

I’m just glad all the moaning about wanting to come back to uni was worth it.

They tell me Second Year is harder. I guess I’ll find out just how much harder it is.