The True Cost

Being alone again is totally awesome and totally not all at the same time.

A lot of things are totally awesome and totally not at the same time, actually. That’s what happens when you look at both sides of the coin. I kind of like to keep things realistic by assessing the good and the bad – that way you don’t get dizzy riding the highs and plummet into an abyss when reality bursts your bubble, and you don’t get lost on a downward spiral of hopelessness that nobody can save you from. Realistic, rational evaluations are helpful.  So… Here are some of mine, I guess.

For the entire time until now I’ve been wanting freshers’ week to be over. Fresher’s week as a second year is very different. My friends are spread all over London, instead of being grouped together on campus. There are no spontaneous flat parties here, and although there are plenty of people in my accommodation, none of them have reason to leave their room and it’s difficult to find people to interact with.

There’s a PhD student on my floor, but it is mostly freshers and international students who are either shy, over at the uni, or jet lagged. The freshers this year are 2 years younger than me instead of 1, and I feel a world apart from them. Until Saturday, they lived at home. It was weird watching their parents let go of them and walk away – that exact moment when they were living independently for the first time (in most cases). I almost cried when my mum left, and I felt like I was coming home, not leaving home.

The reason I’ve been dreading freshers’ week is simply because it is a whole week of nothing for me. In my mind, it is 7 drawn out days between me and everything I’ve missed – lectures, a reason to get out of bed… My life. I am across the road from campus, SO close to the buildings I will be in next week, and… I miss it. Alone, without flatmates, I need something other than vlogs (and the Jenna&Julien podcasts I’ve been listening to back-to-back to fill the silence in my room) to occupy my mind. At this stage, I jsust want some work to do.

Yesterday I was wandering over towards my desk thinking about next week and free time… And I realised that after 4 months of doing nothing, I’m going to have to go to 2-3 hours of lectures most days of the week (plus the same amount of independent study, and 3 hour lab sessions when scheduled… And then coursework and essays and tutorials on top of all of that), I am going to have less free time than I did last year, and for the next eight months university is going to dictate when I can do things – it’s pretty much going to rule my life. I don’t get to switch off from it for 8 months. Our timetable isn’t fully up to date yet, but there are meant to be a lot of lab sessions, which means my days will start at 10 and not end until 5 (doesn’t sound like long, but thinking and concentrating for that long completely fries my brain. Especially when I’m not well. Thinking is stupidly exhausting).

My brain was pretty much thinking Oh my whaaaat, I have to go back to this huge daunting daily grind, like stepping onto a treadmill that I can’t get off of for months. My life has to revolve around this place and… when am I going to do stuff? This of course, was a ridiculous thought. It was the result of being alone with too much time to think, but the intimidation was an understandable feeling having not had to… university… for the last 4 months. At no point over the last year did university feel like a drag (and it was a pretty crappy year if I’m honest. Could have been significantly worse, but also could have gone much better). I was always happy to be there, because I love my degree and my university SO MUCH.

My room is kinda luxury, I feel. Ex-flatbrother has a ground floor room with a view… of a fence! We are both blown away by the quality of the accommodation, but for me when I look around I am tinged with guilt about the financial strain that I have put on my family. I think the payment for my accommodation is actually coming from my life savings fund thing that my mum kept since I was born. Living here is going to empty that fund completely. But at least the money is mine.

This room feels a little bit more like mine now that I’ve moved all my things in, but at the same time I still feel like I’ve unpacked all of my stuff into someone else’s room. Everything feels foreign to me. It’s a new environment (one that feels far too out of my league!) and it will take time to get used to, I guess. Things that seem too good to be true are people, and people usually are far too good to be true. I guess this room is so amazing it just doesn’t feel real (honestly, it feels so surreal to be somewhere so nice). It doesn’t feel like mine because I can’t believe it is. I’m incredibly lucky to live here, and to have a roof over my head at all. I just pictured myself turning 21 (which I will do in March) in a place where my bedroom isn’t also my kitchen, dining room and study. In a weird way, I just have this urge to want to settle into a place where I know I’m not going to have to pack all of my stuff up at the end of each year and move. I want to settle down. I want to be able to spread out. This is probably because I spent all of last year looking at flats that were near here, extremely nice, and much cheaper (because there would be more than one of us sharing) and I never considered any other places to live because I had no need to. As an option, it was financially so much better, and although I would have been renting, the space would have been partly mine. Until too late to fix the situation (I completely understand why it happened, but it was how it was handled that was the big issue for me), my brain thought that was the situation I was going to be in. It’s the situation that a lot of my friends are in, and that I turned down the chance to join with them because I had a “solid” plan of my own. Renting. A living room. A separate bedroom and kitchen. Someone else to talk to. The flats we looked at were so nice and so much cheaper than where I am right now (some even had swimming pool’s in the basement of the building, and still only charged student rates!) and I guess if I can be somewhere equally as nice as here, but at less of a cost, that’s the goal. We were never prepared to spend this much.

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My new home.

And I was never prepared to be this alone. On my first night I laid there and wanted my dog. I went to reach down and stroke him as he slept next to my bed, and he wasn’t there, because he’s 40 miles away. That was when I nearly cried, because no words could ever actually explain how much he means to me, and for the entire summer, when I’ve been in the same house as him, he has refused to leave my side. It’s like losing my shadow – it feels entirely wrong to be apart from him, and there isn’t really a distraction to take my mind off of the fact that my usually cure for loneliness probably feels abandoned and has no idea that his human will be returning to see him.

I’ve arranged to meet with people, but they all want to go places and do things – drinks in the pub, a trip to the cinema, Thai food in Brick Lane… All of it involving money, at London prices. My student loan payment is missing in action, and I haven’t had the message to say it will arrive in three days, so I can only assume that it won’t be hitting my bank account today as it was supposed to. This happened to a few people I knew last year, who got their payments two weeks late. I’m hoping that doesn’t happen, because that gives me £20 to live on for two weeks… (When I said living here had made things a little financially… unhealthy… I meant it). I also need to buy my little brother a birthday card and present for his birthday on the 22nd (he’s turning 14… This still blows my mind to think about). So I either have to bail on plans and miss the opportunity to strengthen friendships and see other humans (therefore no longer avoiding a complete breakdown) or bail on a birthday (which I’m not going to do). Two birthdays actually, because Uni Pal has her birthday soon too.

Dear London,

If you could just halve the price of EVERYTHING so that it matches the price of things EVERYWHERE ELSE IN ENGLAND that would be great, thanks. 

Sincerely,

Broke student. 

Thankfully, I can sit looking out of my window and watch people walking around the park, and see planes taking off, and Canary Wharf… (this view still takes my breath away)

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I just took this photo as I sat on my bed. You can see the sticky-up metal things of the O2 arena in this one, over to the left of the horizon. (I’m sorry, I will at some point stop posting pictures of the view, promise).

There’s bad sides to most good things, but I don’t choose to look at it that way. There is good in most bad things, and sometimes we are fortunate enough to stumble across that realisation. I have a place to live, even if it doesn’t feel like my home yet, and even if it feels like student accommodation instead of somewhere I can relax and settle. I am healthyier. There’s food in my fridge. Living alone is just new. After being treated like my 13 year old brother for the entire summer and spoken down to and shouted at like a child, it is so nice to be able to breathe and be an adult again, to be able to act my age. Unfortunately, being an adult comes with a lot of extra junk to worry about – like money and the future. I’m not ungrateful for anything I have right now. I am super appreciative of the situation I am in and that probably didn’t come across in what I wrote above. All I really wanted to say was: the idea of uni is intimidating after so long out, money is not a fun thing right now, this room is so amazing that I don’t feel like I belong in it, and I’m worried about the effect the loneliness is going to have on my mental health (something that nobody likes talking about, and words that I struggle to write myself), and being an adult again and having to do adult things is alien to me and super stressful right now (I’m stressed and completely calm at the same time somehow – denial is at it again).

I was going to swim today and leave this all behind me, but I woke up with my arms and shoulders aching a lot from lifting all the boxes when I moved in on Saturday, so I guess I will find a good book instead. (Oh wait, I couldn’t swim anyway, because you need money to be able to get into the leisure centre…)

There’s one last very true thing that I haven’t said yet though…

No way but through. 

I guess this is just the true cost of living. Or at least, of being an adult.

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