Its a known thing. You get to university, after queueing in traffic alongside other cars packed to their eyeballs with pillows and crates of Stella, your parent/s are having a full blown conniption trying to find optimum parking spot, there are a dangerous amount of lads lads lads in the stairwell and you’ve tackled the food shop, but now you’re sitting in your halls, alone on your bed. Now what?
In my case it went like this; I left for university on a Saturday. The Saturday every 18 year old in the country also made trek from home to halls. Traffic was stupendous and I got irrationally stressed. My anxiety reached new levels and I had to pretend to sleep for about 45 minutes for the personal safety of everyone in the car. We arrived in Portsmouth, queuing across the bridge at snail speed as I duck my head, unwilling to make eye contact with every other passing car that was blatantly a student. After registering, I make a solo attempt to find my room as my dad breaks laws finding a parking spot. I climbed seven flights of stairs. I was unimpressed, until I opened the door to my room.
Its basic. The walls are prison cell greys and the curtains look like ugly hipster shirts. The bed resembles something I took camping once and the wardrobe/bathroom looks like it belongs in a caravan, but its amazing. I can’t even describe it; It’s such a standard university halls room, but it feels different. I suppose everyone feels like that a bit. I had to go back outside to find my dad and begin the perilous journey with all my stuff…4 trips later (3 for me, Dad did most of it) and I was getting nervous that I’d over packed. Turns out, everything fits nicely and I have ample room to accumulate more books, clothes and rubbish- much to my fathers displeasure.
We went food shopping. I aimlessly walked around the supermarket wondering what I would make myself for dinner when the decision was all mine. I was pretty silent the entire way round, a wave of nauseous adult-ness washing over me yet again. Next time I’d shop, my dad wouldn’t be there to help me, and I am 20 years old for goodness sake, I fucking got this…wait…daddy can you carry this?
After the traumatic food shop and the even more scarring journey back to my flat, we decided food was needed and walked to Gun Wharf, a new build, beautiful complex on the water, full of outlet shops and nice restaurants. I had a bottle of rose pretty much to myself, so was on complete form chatting away. After dinner, walking home and sitting on my bed putting clothes on hangers for 20 minutes, there wasn’t much more we could to delay the inevitable goodbye. I’ve since heard that some kids were pushing their parents out the door, that they didn’t even let them take them shopping or for dinner or even for coffee. My heart breaks a little bit for those parents, just based on the look on my dads face when we said goodbye and he told me not to worry, he could be back here in 2-3 hours if I needed him. We managed to say goodbye, and he left quickly.
I looked around my grey walls, grey floors and climbed onto my bed, pulling my legs up to sit cross-legged, exactly like I am now. I tapped my leg, looked around my room and exhaled. What the fuck happens now?
I could hear my roommates moving around in their rooms, not 50 feet from where I sat. My palms were sweating; I could sit here and just listen to them move around, imagining what they might be like, psyhcing myself out OR I could get off my anxious ass and knock on their doors and meet the people I’d be living with for the next year, maybe even the next 3 years.
As it happens, I did neither. I got up, and typically, predictably, habitually, I went to the kitchen and made coffee. It worked out though, 3 of my flat mates followed. 2 guys and a girl. We just talked, it was all small talk to begin with, of course it would be, all the usual stuff. We sat there in our kitchen, trying not to make snap judgements as we learned such basic information about one another. Its so hard and so easy.
One roomie suggested we go for a drink in this town we’ve collectively been to 5 times. Within the hour we were sharing odd maladies and tales of tragically embarrassing accidents- I won, obviously. The barriers break, we were talking.
The thing is, you’re human. So are they. They may swallow their doubt better than you, they may thrust their hand in your direction or kiss your cheek when they greet you whilst you prefer to hover in a corner, but this is all still new to them. This town, this flat, this experience. Navigating it all is a challenge, but you can’t do it sitting on your bed.