Sometimes, I count all the beautiful moments I’ve had here: finding a way out onto the roof of our accommodation, running across the perfectly manicured front lawn late at night, sitting on benches by the river in the first week with bottles of cheap wine, talking for hours. The walks back from through my empty lecture site in the evening, listening to Kate Bush. The city itself, the buildings and the parks, the swarms of excitable tourists fighting to get pictures of the place in which I now live. Looking back on them, these were exactly the kind of stereotypically ‘magical’ moments I wanted.
I can’t ignore the worst parts though. The first week I spent not eating, hiding in my room, counting down the days until the scheduled ‘fun’ of our freshers week was over so I could throw myself into essay writing and lectures, something which at the time seemed simple and easy. All the times when I came back after a night out with people on the edge of a group of friends and sat in bed unable to move, hysterically certain that I couldn’t do anything, that I wouldn’t be able to survive here.
Other times i try and look at it logically, to see how much I have achieved, how I’ve improved. I’ve managed the workload. I’ve connected to people, conveyed my opinions, made small talk with strangers, faced confrontation and lived among people I barely knew, when at home I could hardly bear to let anyone else into my bedroom. Overall, just having survived the shock to my system of carefully structured solitary preferences and routines. Small steps, but things I wouldn’t have thought I could have faced six months ago.
But most of the time, the only way I can describe it is as strange. Bizarre. A combination of exhilarating and alienating which I can’t quite figure out if I enjoy.
When I talk to people, when I call my mum or my friends to catch up, I am happy. I tell them everything that’s been going on, because I now have things to relate to them. I feel pleased that I can be interesting, and I surprise myself with the amount of things I am doing when I say them to other people. These moments, I feel truly grateful for where I am, and I don’t hesitate to share this with people. But then that’s where the catch is though. I love this place, but I don’t like being here. I love my beautiful new surroundings, but I am uncomfortable with my presence amidst them. I feel dwarfed by them, and I can’t shake the voice at the back of my head, every time something happens which I thought I wanted - ‘But why me?’