Monday, 1 July 2013

When Did I Get So Old?: Gracie's second year of university.

This time last year, I was packing up my life into boxes and saying farewell to Hampshire; Sussex-bound for the summer, looking forward to four months of friends, family and freedom. This year, however, I'm staying. I've moved out of my (hideous, falling-apart, lovely, filthy) student house, and as of 16th June I am in my gorgeous new pad for the summer, and come September I'll be starting yet another new chapter in my life: the Final Year of Uni.

To say this year has gone quickly would be like saying "Hey, Monica likes things clean"; "Elphaba was misunderstood"; "students enjoy the occasional drink"; "the sky is kinda blue". If possible, my second year has gone even quicker than my first. I do miss being a Fresher, every second year student does, but I feel like this year is when I came into my own and really discovered who I was.

I joined Fly Hard. Despite desperately wanting to join my university Ultimate team for pretty much the entirety of my first year, I put it off and told myself I shouldn't, all because of one person. That was dumb, to say the least. Not only did said person leave the team, but they also were not, shall we say, especially popular with the team members in the first place. So after wasting that year hoping and stopping myself, I finally went along to a casual throwaround, then a training session, then another training session, and the rest is awesomeness. I got to know the coolest people, and I got to play the coolest sport. Next year I'm living with three fellow Frisbee enthusiasts (the Womens' Captain, Vice Womens' Captain, and Chairman, no less) so I'm only going to get better. I attended the Fly Hard Awards (or Fly Hardies 2013), and I am thrilled that I somehow won this year's coveted 'Hottest Player' award, but next year I would kind of like to get an award with more substance - like 'Most Improved Female', or 'Most Enthusiastic Player', maybe. That's one of my many goals for the next year.
Fly Hard has been there for me always. I've always had that outlet, that therapeutic bi-weekly thing that made all the worst days bearable. It's helped immensely with my confidence issues (in myself and in my body), and taught me much more than how to throw a good hammer. I don't think I realised that it means just as much to all of us, until I saw the Captain (and the other third years) crying while giving speeches at the awards ceremony. The other night, one of our teammates posted in the Facebook group that he was having 'personal trouble' and needed friends/to get drunk; what few were left of us, those currently staying in Winch, all rallied together and stayed up with him until 3am playing Arrogance and downing drinks. That's the kind of people the Fly Hardians are.

One other thing has become a big part of my life this year: coffee. I've never appreciated the true wonders a single steaming cup can do, until I started having Tuesday & Thursday 9am lectures this year. Coffee is a powerful substance made of deliciousness, strength, hope and love. I'd make a point of taking a sip before answering a question in a seminar, of going to grab one to go with my classmates while on a break or downing a large latte before an important presentation; it's comforting. It's also a social thing. I've had numerous cups of coffee with those closest to me this year. Many happy hours have been spent in Starbucks (despite my mother's outrage at this; our family are Nero all the way) gossiping and philosophizing over a mocha or two. My friends and I have also started a fabulous new tradition of ordering in Starbucks under aliases of John Green characters - I am Alaska, Clare is Hazel Grace, Rikki is Augustus, Vee is Margo. All the credit for this ingenious idea goes to Clare, aka Hazel Grace, who is not only a visionary writer with serious Nerdfighter tendencies and a love of coffee, but also someone I will be missing like crazy all summer (because she's off being amazing at camp in America, or something. Not jealous at all. Shut up).
I've developed a relationship with the lovely fellas who work at the SU Terrace Bar; now whenever they see me coming they smile knowingly and say "Hey Gracie, skinny vanilla?" My coursemates, the too-cool Drama boys with their big ideas, the in-crowd Creative Writers who are enviably 'clicky', the glamourous Drama girls who I was always certain were too cool to hang out with me - are now really good friends of mine, partly due to our coffee dates together between lectures. See? Coffee is good for your social life.

I have read some amazing things this year. Yes, books such as 'How To Be A Woman' (Caitlin Moran is my spirit animal), every possible Gothic novel ever (in what began as a studious obligation, but soon became a full-on obsession), Angela Carter ("oh, this kinky bitch again!" I sighed as I snuggled down with her collection of Fairy Tales before bedtime), 'The Time Traveller's Wife' (and other such love stories perfect for holiday reading and designed to break your heart), and let's not forget 'The Fault In Our Stars', 'Paper Towns', 'Looking For Alaska', 'Will Grayson, Will Grayson', 'An Abundance of Katherines' (John Green, why do you delight in making me cry?), books that have changed my outlook on the world - and actually, come to think of it, my life.

However, I have also had the honour and privilege of reading some serious up-and-coming literature from the minds of those around me. Doing a joint Honours with Creative Writing, I get to hang out with the future critically acclaimed authors of the world, and be among the first to read the first pieces of their legacy. I was blushing in the Learning Cafe reading Clare's erotic Textual Intervention piece, I wow'd my way through Jack's insightful reviews, I frantically scrolled through the Creative Writers' Facebook page for more. Only this year did I have the courage to post a file on there for criticism and notes; my TI2 Creative Piece, which I worked insanely hard on and, thank goodness, got that beautiful First that I craved so badly...
I've also had the chance to get to know other bloggers/tweeters who find comfort in writing and at the same time feel the most immense passion for the pastime, so much so that someday they hope to be paid to do it - in other words, more people like me. People like Eleanor, the best friend I've never met, who writes beautifully and is a twin spirit to me. Most of my friends blog - my two perfectly heart-on-sleeve housemates Vee and Abby, the lovely Helen who will always be one of my favourite people and biggest inspirations, and darling Vick, who's pursuing her dreams and taking over London town. This year has been a big year for my blogging world, to say the least.

I've met Frank Warren, the man who started one of the biggest and most life-changing phenomenons for not just an eleven year-old me but millions of others just like me and not like me at all - PostSecret. My flustered exchanges with John & Hank Green will go down in history as one of the most embarrassing and utterly predictably fangirl-esque moments ever - all I could manage was "John! John...! I want to write stuff!" and "Hi Hank, wow this is surreal... Hi." Not one but two very special, if brief, half-hugs and handshakes with Joshua Radin have potentially made everything in my life okay again. Tweets from Carrie Hope Fletcher made me squeal like a little girl meeting Cinderella at Disneyland.
Of course, meeting some of my idols, inspirations and in some cases long-term crushes (Joshua, say no more) has been magnificent and magical, but this year I've also met some equally if not more important people whose existence makes every day that little bit better; people who push me when need be, build me up, catch me when I fall and gather up the pieces when I just can't find a way. Going into third year, I am finally totally and completely happy with my living situation - 'situation' here meaning 'a beautiful room and the best housemates'. VIP posts will soon be reinstated on my little blog, and these three will be getting essays. Plus, friends from last year staying with me despite how many times I've given them reason not to, and those I've gotten to know even better over the past ten months or so. The phrase "I wish we'd hung out more in the first year!" is thrown around far too much, often between shots or during drunken trips to the toilet together, but it's true. Every coffee date in Starbucks, every downing of a drink, every face-painting session, every afternoon spent T'ing D... These are the things I'll remember, always. 

There were more tears this year, more personal dramas, more conflicts and more horrible sinking-feeling moments. There were also more unforgettable nights, more laughs, more successes, more spirit, and more friends. The rain came down hard, iced over on the pavement, I slipped and fell, someone helped me up, and the sun came out. The arguments made me realise what's important, and what's worth fighting for. The crying made me see who I cared about, and who cares about me - enough to sit with me on the side of the road and stroke my shoulder until I smile again. And, you know what? None of it mattered in the end. There was more than enough good to outweigh the bad. Now, with my 2:1 for the second and best year so far at uni, I'm looking ahead to my final chapter here in this beautiful city with these incredible people, and I know it can only get better.

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