It hasn’t quite sunk in that I’ve officially finished university and have my diploma sitting nicely on my shelf and my graduation has been and gone. Although I’m the most worried I’ve ever been for the future, I’m trying to take it with a pinch of salt and make sure I look at it as though I’m standing on one spot with a million doors before me. Who knows, maybe I’ll find myself walking down the yellow brick road.
I’ve been taking some time to reflect on my time at university and I couldn’t be happier and prouder of how much I’ve grown as a person. The past three years have been full of countless life lessons and whilst there are just too many to share, I’ve written down my top ten in hopes that I can bestow a little bit of wisdom on to my fellow darlings. Even if you’ve already done the whole university experience or will never go in your lifetime, these lessons are one’s which can change your perception on life and guide you into the future with a little more sagacity.
Yikes. The one thing that comes with an overwhelming wave of stress and anxiety. I was actually really thankful that this was something I learnt in college. I used to be a rather unorganized scatter-brain before I was sixteen and it only took the hand-in of my first project and trying to do all of my technical file in one day to drill that lesson into me. Now I make lists for everything and whilst I find it can feel restraining and gives me a sense of being caged-in, it’s a requirement. Each Monday morning, I’d make a list of everything I absolutely needed to get done that week. Then I’d plan out what I was going to do each day and at the bottom, in a separate box, I’d add in a few other things that I’d like to get done but wouldn’t be a big deal if I didn’t have time in the week to complete it.
Making lists helps you stay on track and ensures you won’t miss or forget to do anything. It’s all about being proactive and organized.
Make time for ‘me time’
This is still the one lesson I’m struggling with right now. Do you know there’s such a thing as being too ambitious? Well, I didn’t but I’ve been told on numerous occasions that I am a prime example. The reason: workaholic syndrome. In my full last year of university, I can count on one hand how many times I didn’t go into university on the weekend. I pretty much worked an estimate of 8-12 hours a day, seven days a week. When Christmas or Easter term came I spent it in bed (or blogging,) from pure exhaustion. In fact, I stayed at uni for most of my Easter term. In all honesty, I’d probably do it again because I wouldn’t have the work and portfolio I do now if it wasn’t for all those extra hours. However, it also meant that I became sick and cranky over my project because that’s all I was doing. Whilst I’m intensely passionate over my career choice, it’s vital to take a little time out and do something else for a while, to keep your sanity.
Read a book, take a walk in the park, remind yourself that whilst this is important so is treating yourself and give yourself a little ‘me’ time.
Take care of yourself.
Similar to ‘me’ time, it can be too easy to neglect the really important things like eating your dinner and giving yourself a good nights sleep. Thankfully, this one didn’t take too long to learn. Looking at how I was before university and completely uneducated towards healthy living, I made a vow last year that I would never go back to the place I was at. I kept my daily workout routine and ensured I exercised six days a week. I even picked up weights in February and started intermittent fasting at christmas and I’ve never felt better! It’s been a bit of a life-saver and kept my stress levels down. Moreover, it gave me that all important ‘me’ time.
No matter how demanding your schedule can be, it’s only going to get harder to follow if you aren’t looking after yourself. Make sure you are eating enough, well-rested and treating your body right. It will thank you greatly and in return you’ll have more energy to do your work.
The importance of good friends
For someone that has been raised in an environment where relationships were, for the most part, very unhealthy, surrounding yourself with good people has always been a strong and vital part of life for me. I’ve known the darkest depths of what a bad relationship with someone can cause and thankfully this meant that I went into adulthood with caution and a strong intuition that helped me pick out friends that became a positive influence in my life. However, university is the time to really grow and spread your wings and often you’ll find that you change and with it compatibility to other people. This really isn’t a bad thing- just a way of life.
University can be really damn hard- do not think a creative degree is easy! We do not just draw and mess around. Through the whirlpool of stress, it makes it much more durable if there are hands grasping out, pulling you from the water and helping you breathe for a while.
Be your own person
Peer pressure comes with university- like peanut butter and jam- it is highly likely that you will be pressured into do something you don’t want to do. I’ve never been one to fold into these situations and always stand my ground. In fact, it really just makes me want to do it even less. If you find yourself in this situation and feel very uncomfortable, politely decline and if they are the right sort of people (and hopefully not drunk), they’ll respect your decision. If they keep pressing, it’s in your best interest to remove yourself from that environment.
It can be tempting to change something about yourself in order to fit in and, with going to university and probably not knowing anyone there from your past, you have the chance to be who ever you want. In the long run, however, you’ll only be miserable by not sticking to your true-self. If people find this to be a problem I can assure you, you are better off with out having them in your life. If you feel like you don’t know who you actually are then this is the perfect time to focus on just that. University is a time of new experiences and I advise everyone to look at this journey as a road to self-discovery. Life is not about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself. You choose what you like and dislike, the friends you make and the actions you take. Stay true to yourself and you may just find that things eventually fall into place.
There’s always going to be a bully
There’s always this misconception, that once you leave school, the bully’s leave with it. It’s with my deepest regret to inform you that, that is not at all true and this lesson is a hard one to learn. Moreover, the bully can come in many ages and positions. When I went to college, it was my tutor that was the bully and this was a heavy shock to my system. I’d dealt with kids my own age bullying and oppressing others but never someone that was in an authoritative position. With links to those higher up, complaints would be ignored and whilst it, without a doubt, made me a much stronger person that can now handle someone ripping up my sketchbook and call me all sorts of names under the sun, it wasn’t something I should have had to learn.
In university, I was thankful I didn’t have to deal with another tutor and I found that with my childhood and college experiences, I now have incredibly thick skin. (Not even a power house drill could puncture it.) It meant that when this one group of girls on my course sniggered at my legs and poked fun of what I was wearing whilst I stood up in front of the class and gave a presentation…. I didn’t care. Their words had no power over me and I just left them to it. It turned out that many of my peers saw the true colours of these individuals and they were highly disliked.
There will always be a bully, whether it’s your boss, co-worker, ‘friend’ or even a family member. Some people just hate themselves to the point that they have to try and diminish other people’s happiness so they aren’t suffering alone. It can hurt and it can become unbearable but as long as you aren’t letting them take control over your own emotions- you’re winning.
Be open to opportunities
My tutor once said that you should say ‘yes’ to every opportunity. She vowed that it is one of the main reasons she became so successful in her career. Personally, I think you should find some middle ground; be open to opportunities but if there’s something you really don’t want to do, then it’s ok to turn it down.
University offers countless first time experiences. Some will be amazing- like going to a boat party, experience your first love or going on a trip to your dream city. However, bad experiences are also placed on the table. You might have terrible flat mates or end up in someones bed the next morning because your drink was spiked. Hopefully that last one will never happen!
Regardless of the experiences you have at uni is bad or good, they are apart of life and to turn down everything and sit in your room all day is a self-sabotaging choice. Believe me, I did it for half my degree and whilst I actually don’t regret it, because I was in a bad place and needed that solitude, it did cause me to feel worse about life a fair number of times. Thankfully, I got better and made up for everything I missed in my final year of uni and I’m glad that I told myself to start saying ‘yes’ to things that came my way. I know it has been a great life lesson; don’t fear what could be, just go out and do it. Then you can get worried afterwards.
Follow your gut
The whole reason I ended up at the university I did was because I followed my gut. It’s a skill I harnessed at a very young age and it’s proven time after time to be the guardian that will always be thinking in my best interest.
In college, my tutor turned around to me and changed my whole project outcome. I followed everything he said because I thought it would get me the grade I wanted…It really didn’t. My tutor was a little bi-polar and didn’t like my end result, telling me I should have went with what I had originally wanted to do. I was left with a low grade and it felt worse because it was a project I wasn’t happy or proud of. It was a great lesson for me and helped me swerve a few curveballs in uni. Although my tutors at university weren’t too pleased when I disagreed with their design directions and went with my own gut, it resulted in loving my final major project and having a portfolio I was confident and happy with. Moreover, it’s led me to sell some of my designs before I even graduated and it’s all because I followed my gut and believed in myself!
There is such a range of decisions to make in life but they seem to increase in your university years. What’s worse, is the voices around you seem to increase too. Suddenly, people seem to think they know what’s good for you- your parents, your tutors, your friends…. It can be hard to listen to your gut instinct when it’s drowned out by a load of different voices screaming in your ear.
Uni should be ‘me’ time. It’s a moment in your life when you should be taking the opportunity to focus on yourself and what you want. You can find yourself doubting your decisions but this is the perfect time to learn to trust your instincts. It’s a very important skill that will help you survive when you enter the real world after graduation, so it’s in your best interest to start listening sooner rather than later.
You don’t have to have everything figured out
Perhaps this was only for my course or that the creative world is very competitive and the textile- fashion/ interior industry is cut-throat, but there was an insane amount of pressure to be employed before graduating. At the very least, to have some sort of work experience or internship organised. It was exhausting. I had countless sleepless nights, near-breakdowns and my mood was almost always low because I didn’t have a solid direction.
Graduating can be incredibly overwhelming. You are suddenly taken out of this bubble, of always having this structured life-ladder under the form of education, and once you get to the top, there’s a hooded figure ready to push you off and watch you fall. It has taken me a while, but I’m finally starting to embrace falling. I know a lot of people that have made a 180 degree flip in their career path and came out even happier than they were before. I also know a few that have spent a long time dabbling in different career paths, only to find the right one ten years later.
If you are in university or just about to leave, you are probably still very young. People are living until their hundreds these days! You have plenty of time to figure out what you want. You don’t need to know how many kids you want, what age you get married at or if you even want to get married at all! Nothings set in stone and there’s a turn on every road. Don’t stress if your five year plan isn’t going in the direction you want it to, things change and that’s not always a bad thing.
Believe in yourself
Following your gut is one thing, but it’s only going to get you so far if you don’t believe in yourself. At school you were probably at the top of your class for your chosen career path and different to everyone else. Then you walk into university and for the first time in what seems like forever, you’re ‘average’. Let me put this into perspective for you. You aren’t actually ‘average’; you’ve found the courage and ambition to better your life through your chosen career-path and your uni chose you as their student because they saw something in you. Now it’s time to see it too.
Self-comparison is the most common trait I’ve noticed through creative students. I’ve been around them for five years to see how soul crushing it can become. Being critical of your work is a great part of the process in order to better your skills. However, to be critical of your abilities is like a crazy man walking barefoot in a room full of lego. One wrong step and you can end up hurting yourself.
Stand back and take in everything you have achieved to get where you are right now. Yes, you did that, now think about what you can achieve by the end of your degree, in the next five years, by the time you turn fifty! Learn how to recognise that voice of self-doubt and when you do- a red flag should go up. Turn it into a positive light and transform a negative thought into an opportunity for growth.
Booties: Vintage Lace Up ankle boots (Similar)
Do you have any life lessons from University?