I’m in a room full of people, of friends even, music is blasting out of a speaker; Lukas Graham’s ‘7 Years’ starts playing. Tom, our self-proclaimed DJ for the night, changes the song almost instantly. No one bats an eyelid, everyone, I suppose, is too drunk to notice. But, it hits me, those lyrics: ‘mamma told me go make yourself some friends or you’ll be lonely’. I had made friends. I’m at a house party. I go out regularly, I do plenty of exciting things with these friends. “Park End anyone?” I’m going on holiday with some of them in the summer. Tenerife, probably. Somewhere more exotic if we’re lucky.
I am having the time of my life. University – the golden years. The time I’ll supposedly relish when I’m old and grey and sitting by the fireplace with the grandchildren. But, who says I want grandchildren, and who says I’m having the time of my life. No, in that moment, the words of Lukas Graham sat with me, and for some reason wouldn’t leave me. An unwanted guest, in a room, I guess, full of friends.
University is the time of your life. But, why then, do I feel so alone. I had always maintained a work ethic at school, and without too much work, I would get the grades I needed. Now, I struggle to maintain focus in tutorials, which are only an hour long. My initial interest in my subject has wavered, I no longer care about those things I thought interesting. As my tutor gets impassioned about some esoteric detail about some esoteric event in the depths of history, I’m left unamazed, unfazed by this somehow revolutionary fact. These details no longer interest me, and even in tutorials, I feel alone – feigning interest in some irrelevant fact. As I speak to my friends from home, they tell me of the brilliant time they’re having at university. “We went clubbing, we got high, and watched the sun rise on Clifton Bridge”. Good for you, I whisper, under my breath. I spent the night, trying to find the motivation to write an essay. And the night before, I went clubbing, and woke up in someone else’s bed. Despite, the raw, physical contact, I was still, in my head, alone. I suppose, what I’m trying to say is, loneliness affects us all.
What I’ve learnt is the hedonistic lifestyle of Freshers week is not the reality of Oxford. Or of life more generally. It isn’t always the case that you’re going to be having a good time, that you’re going to want to go out, and that’s okay. Spending some time alone. Resting, recuperating, doing whatever it is that you want to do, is healthy. The expectation to be posting exciting stories on Snapchat, to have pictures in interesting places on Instagram, to get hundreds of likes on our Facebook posts has led to an unrealistic expectation of what university is.
University cannot be going out at least five times a week. It’s okay to take a step back. To realise what it is that you’re here for, to focus on yourself, and what it is that you really want, rather than trying to fit some distorted, contorted image of what the life of a university student should be. I have found that doing those things that I want to do, with the people that I really want to do them with, has made me feel more complete. I may not be the most popular, my Snapchat content is abysmally dull (if we’re friends, I’m sorry). But, what I do know, is that I’m happier living my university life in a way that I’ve defined it. And that means accepting that I don’t need hundreds of friends to be happy