The first important realisation I came to is that,
1. You don't have to be who you were in secondary school.
Over the five or six years that we're in the secondary school system, regardless of your
year group size, it becomes obvious that everyone knows everyone. We all knew what people got up to on nights out, how they acted at lunch time or in the classroom. Opinions were moulded and limits were imposed on the supposed normal behaviour of each individual. That's utterly normal, we're human beings after all. Yet, these restrictions can be well, frankly restrictive on people. Some may feel shackled to these opinions, fearful to break the mould of what everyone supposedly thought of them.
I know I was.
At the time, I thought I was happy during my final years of secondary school, yet now I realise how many people I had to tiptoe past on a daily basis, just so their opinions of me and my identity would remain intact. I felt censored in my writings and musings, both on paper in my notebooks and on this lovely blog. The decline in my writing content and regularity is evident to see. It's only now that I've gained the confidence back to write my own thoughts and opinions. I felt so horribly trapped in boundaries imposed by others that I wondered would I ever get back to blogging at all. It took time to regain the confidence to do so, along with months of lying to myself, justifying the lack of content with 'a lack of time.' A lack of time it may have been, yet it was also a fear of reactions.
I realise now that I cannot live to please everyone. It took me an even longer time to realise that I shouldn't let unimportant people try take over space in my head or in my creative elements such as my notebooks and this blog. I turned my back on The Random Life of Aveen due to the fear of what others think. If we were to live by others definitions of us, would we really achieve our goals and self-actualisation? I think not sadly.
I read a quote by Nelson Mandela recently and which hit me profoundly. 'I learnt that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.' I delayed writing this blog post for months due to fear. Adrenaline courses through my veins as I swiftly type these words. I am no longer afraid of what others think of me.
Life changes, people move on. I moved to the other side of the country to pursue my dreams. I'm hit with the same question often, 'Why Limerick, why not somewhere closer to home?' The answer is simple, I wanted to become different to who I once was.
2.Going somewhere where you know nobody is liberating.
I decided to go to a college on the opposite side of the country, knowing absolutely nobody who was also starting there. Some may scream at the thoughts of that, clutching their friends as they stumble through an unknown campus but God, it was like being released into a new world. A new world where I had a new identity, personality and persona.
I can still recall sitting in my room, first night in Limerick. My parents had just dropped me off, all my things were strewn all over the floor, waiting to be placed into drawers and cupboards. As my parents left, my Mam told me that some girls had already arrived and were in the kitchen at the top of the hallway. My room is down near the bottom of the hallway but I could hear quiet small talk and nervous throat clearing as the door was ajar.
I decided to go into the kitchen, 'to introduce yourself' as my parents would put it, and maybe see if I could make some friends. My thought process went haywire. With each footstep I made in the direction of the kitchen, I knew the first impression would be vital in a place where I was unknown by everyone. I left that messy room as a quiet, unassuming and ultimately shy person, afraid of so much as looking at anyone. I entered the kitchen with a smile, straight posture and an air of confidence I had evidently stolen from a passing gust of Autumn wind. They had no preconceptions of me, I could mould my own personality to become whatever person I wanted to be, and it felt wonderful.
3.You can be friends with people all over the country.
If you are unfortunate enough to listen to me over an extended period of time, I talk about friends from all over the country. (Mainly Cork, Kerry and Clare though). It's so strange, having no friends 'from home' in college, as most people do. It was an intentional choice which I'm happy I made. It gave me a further incentive to be more outgoing and confident in making friends and talking to people.
You can wear your hair curly, people don't care if you straighten your hair to within an inch of its' life everyday.
In secondary school, I literally refused to leave the house unless my hair was in a perfect bun, put in place by a nauseous amount of hairspray or heavily straightened, to remove any imperfections or life in my hair. I'm typing this post with my hair not straightened, curly and wavy. I used to despise my natural hair for many years yet I've come to appreciate it now. To emphasise the waves, I even got my hair cut shorter, just for the curls to fall more naturally. If I was to go back in time to this time last year and tell myself that I go to lectures and even exams with curly hair, I probably would tell myself where to eloquently go.
Those feelings of confusion and of being homesick will pass.
The first few weeks were marked with feelings of homesickness which is always a bundle of laughs (not). I found a memo note in my phone from around my second or third week in college.
''The bouts of sadness come in waves yet they last longer than a rough, salty wave at the beach. Homesickness is an upsetting emotion. When your physical being aches for home, yet you know deep inside that you must leave in order to better yourself both academically and as a person. Maybe that's what hurts the most. The necessity of leaving all you know, to come back better.
The loneliness is an ever constant ache in my chest. The longing for my usual support network of home wreaks havoc across my soul. I know this feeling will soon subside.
Yet as I walk to the bus stop, as another anonymous face in the midst of an ever-changing crowd, the feelings of sadness find ease in existing and flourishing.''
Thankfully, those feelings passed as I slipped into a weekly routine and rhythm which has become part and parcel of my college experience so far.
I have to admit that I quite enjoy college and it's various differences. I feel that I'm changing into more of an 'adult' that I previously thought I would be. I went down town at home during the week with my Sixth Year friends for the first time probably since September or before then. We bumped into a good few people from our year. As we walked, chatted and caught up on our lives since we last spoke in person, I realised how irrevocably different my life had become over the space of a few months.
As a creature of habit, I used to despise change and what such changes entailed. For the first time in my life, I have embraced this change and owned the change. I miss seeing the Sixth Year girls every day, but when we meet up, it feels as if we never really left each other. Technology is a superb way to stay in touch but will never beat the euphoria of sitting with your friends in a warm coffee shop, a warm cup of hot chocolate in hand, talking about all these new and fascinating adventures and experiences we experienced separately but discussed together with humour and laughter.
First Semester was filled with a lot of life lessons and was a time of maturation of my character and who I want to really be. I had an absolutely supreme experience which was utterly fantastic. I am no longer afraid of the opinions others hold about me. I can grow, I can change.