This time five years ago (give or take a few days), I was waking up to find out whether or not I had made it into my top choice university. I needed three As to get into LSE, and, with no real intention of ever taking up my back-up offer if things didn’t go to plan, I must say I was feeling fairly confidence. If anything – I was more crossing my fingers to walk away from school with at least one or two A*s. That said, although I had spent the summer feeling pretty confident, the fear of “what if?” only hit me the evening before when rumours started circulating that Bath uni was sending offers out early. Ironically, the morning of results day my laptop crashed meaning I had to run downstairs to use my dad’s laptop to find out what ended up being really good news. Hey – I didn’t get my A*s – but I did get into the only university I really wanted to go to at the time.
That evening, my friends and I went clubbing in London to celebrate. I had turned 18 a few months prior but it wasn’t until that summer that my friends and I stared to venture into this new world of “clubbing” for the first time ever. We had gone to our first club during our holiday in July (my first non-family holiday ever), where we jetted off to Marmaris in Turkey. Most people we knew had been going to Zante or Magaluf (ya’ll know the deal), but although we wanted to party, we thought that by going to Turkey vs. the usual Spanish or Greek islands, we were keeping in more “classy”.
After that night out, I’d spend days packing, searching through the Facebook group for my university halls to stalk all of my prospective house mates, and generally just getting really excited for the freedom and the fun (the learning aspect of university was definitely at the back of my mind). In September, my family and I set off in the car and got me all moved into my university halls. One of the first things one of the hall reps (now a good friend of mine!) said to me was “get ready – because we’re going hard tonight!” and I remember thinking to myself waow, I am really ready for this turn up. And turn up I did – until exam period – when I got my head buried in my books.
I wouldn’t have predicted that this period of my life would be such an immense period of change and growth. At 18 years old I i) left school, ii) moved out into Central London and iii) had the freedom to do whatever I wanted to do for the first time ever. This was following years of going to school in a peaceful area of greater London, seeing the same faces every day, surviving on £20 a week (with £5 to spare might I add – that I’d collect and then dash on Primark finds), and having the only real concerns in my life being my grades, and the only real topic of conversation amongst my peers being “who got with who?” at whatever house party has just passed.
Things change really quickly – because within three years I was working full time, totally financial independent and making all these “grown-up” adult decisions even though I still felt (and sometimes do feel) completely like a university student. What can I say? Life comes at you quick…
Life comes at you real quick! That’s why you gotta live in the moment
— Kemi Akinboyewa (@_skylish) August 3, 2018
Over these last five years I have totally changed into a different person: in terms of confidence, mindset, my goals and even a few of the people I surround myself with have shifted (although I must say that the majority of my friends are people I’ve known for many years). Whenever I see people stepping onto the path that I was first stepping on a few years back when I left the school I’d been at for 8 years, it really takes me back in time. Sometimes I wonder – what would I have done differently if I could turn back time? I never like to live with regrets because of course mistakes lead to lessons. BUT – sometimes I wonder – what do I know now that I wish I knew back then?
There are a few things. For one – I wish I had believed in myself a bit more. It’s as though I thought success was for others and whilst I could look – I couldn’t follow in their footsteps (I remember once way back when looking at someone’s blog and proclaiming about how great I thought it was and how I wished mine could be that good – to which Levi asked why it couldn’t be?) For another – I wish I had let people walk over me less (I pretty much allowed myself to be trampled on by a few people in my first two years of university).
But the biggest thing I wish – and my biggest tip for anyone who is about to enter into this period of growth in their life – is that I was stronger minded back then.
But first – before I explain my thinking for the above – I want to break this up and point out that there were a lot of things I’m so happy that I did. Most importantly, I’m so happy that I had fun. I honestly did whatever I wanted to in those first two years of university – I didn’t care about anything, not even my own safety (note: I would not recommend), but being so ridiculously carefree – I can never look back and wish I “let-go”, because I totally did. Secondly, athough I’m in a long-term relationship now, I’m actually really happy that I went to university single (even though at the time I wanted a boyfriend), and even more so – I’m happy that I went to university with none of my friends from home. Not to say that any of these things are bad – but for me, it totally pushed me to come out of my shell, meet new people, go to different events, do whatever, because I didn’t have a safety blanket to fall back on. I feel like this is so important and even though I would have preferred at the time to be rooming with my bestie, or even though I thought I absolutely needed to be in a relationship at age 18 (note: you don’t), I can see now the value of not having any of these things at that time.
Although I was having all this fun, and was totally unhinged, as mentioned above – my mind was super weak. Thinking for myself? What even was that.
On my first day of university I remember walking into our hall’s garden, sitting on a table with a bunch of folk I’d never met, and just introducing myself and starting up that typical conversation (“what do you study?”, these days it’s “so, what do you do?”) A few hours later I was backing shots with my first two real university friends and for a week or so, I would spend much of my time with these two girls. I felt at the time that I was confident – but the truth is that being able to hold a conversation and not seem totally shy does not equate to self confidence, and that is something I learned over time. In reality – and like a lot of people say – I didn’t really know my “worth”. I really just went about my life doing what everyone was doing, I had no sense of individuality and I never really knew how to just trust in my own thoughts if they didn’t match up with what everyone else was doing. I often felt the brunt of peer pressure in those early months and I allowed myself to be treated in a way that I never would today by a good amount of people – including close friends. Sometimes, I wish I could just go back and shake myself and tell myself to get it together and strengthen my own mind, but at the same time I think it’s just a period I had to go through to get to where I am today.
I would say it was sometime into my second year of university that I started to connect these pieces and now, years later, I can look back and see how much things have changed. I’m still not necessarily the loudest person in the room but by no means would I call myself shy – and honestly I feel like I can hold myself up well with anyone. But – even more importantly – now I really do have confidence in myself, my abilities, and I can use my own mind. I can’t say I don’t have moments of weakness, of course I do, we all do – but I can say that I’m definitely more in tune with myself than ever before, and it feels great.
So – if you’re at the point where I started this post – get ready for a few years of immense change. You’ll probably look back and not even really be able to recognise your current self in a few short years. If you were take anything from this post, I’d say two things: i) have fun (and
no minimal regrets) and ii) be strong minded – actually listen to that voice in your head, trust your gut and don’t let anyone sway that.
Photos: Marianne Olaleye