Here is a post I was supposed to publish over a week ago… A short, somewhat more personal than usual post of encouragement to all those who are struggling through their time at university. Cliché as it may be, there is light at the end of the tunnel. It is doable. If you believe in yourself, you can do it 🙂
It is done.
My undergraduate degree is finished. Only two weeks ago, three years after this trek began, I finally found myself sporting a rather fashionable blue-striped black robe and mortar. And in another three years’ time, I hope to be wearing an even funkier hat when I (hopefully!) graduate again. I will have to do a lot more work for that to become reality, I know. But the past three years have already put me through so much utter psychological crap that I sometimes get genuinely surprised I made it thus far.
I vow to keep this short.
A science degree can become a rather isolating journey. Whilst groupwork is encouraged, I know of many people (including myself), who would often prefer to work in silence on their own. Understanding equations can take lots of lonesome time, leading to isolation if you are not a member of any societies or sports clubs (joining Taekwon-do has genuinely saved my sanity!). A joint honours degree like Mathematics and Physics combined could well mean that the aforementioned groupwork is… well, ignored and just not part of our curriculum. Never have I ever set foot in a lab…
Isolation, and being surrounded by utter geniuses can so easily make you feel like you just picked the wrong degree, got there on a stroke of luck, believed by everyone else to be smarter than you really are… Whilst everyone else around me is getting 60% and above in their exams, why am I only getting 40%? Dark thoughts overtake my mind, sabotaging my efforts to excel. It’s not like I’m slacking. Must mean I’m inadequate. I must be not as good as everyone else here. I’m not going to graduate. I’d better drop out.
This time last year, my mind was cluttered with crap of this sort. I was simultaneously waist-deep in combat of an illness I had been suffering with for a number of years, though officially diagnosed only in my second year of uni. This time last year, it threatened to strip me of my health and any chance of succeeding with my degree.
But, on the brink of being admitted inpatient during exam time, I could not face the prospect of being taken away from my family and friends and… well, physics. And mathematics. Zeeman was my favourite place on campus. The library was my second home. I wanted to reach green belt in Taekwon-do by the end of my third year. And to graduate with a 2:1. And to become a meteorologist.
Exactly a year later, two-thirds of that currently occupy my bag; a third of that is yet to be achieved. My last year at uni has quite literally turned my life around, in every single aspect. I have a few people to thank – you know who you are. I also have myself to thank. I still have a long way to go in recovery; it is a long, painful process. But it is so worth it.
So it will not be an easy feat to simply brush this entire episode aside and act like it could never hit me again. As a PhD candidate, I know I will hit many brick walls and consequently feel like a failure all over again. I know that. Deep down, I fear relapse as a means of coping with failure. But I am wiser now, more confident, bolder and ready to tackle new challenges of life. And I also know, that as long as I keep my friends and family close, I can achieve anything.
So can you 🙂