Team, let’s talk about gap years. No no, rest assured, I’m not going chatter self-discovery inanities at you. I want to talk about that awkward interim period between waving goodbye to your university-going chums and greeting the reality that life really will be excessively dull for a while. No, dear reader, don’t condemn me as a spoiled little so and so for whom social life is all and hard work a foreign concept. I’ll have you know that I relished the opportunity of my supermarket job and my £6 an hour manual labour at the yard. Indeed, I was very keen to dip my toe into the real world, so fed-up was I with the sheltered, public-school existence I had hitherto experienced.
My problem is this: why does nobody warn you that even though you’re supposedly living the best year of your life, you’re often choked by an oppressive loneliness? Nobody explains that the lost feeling before the advertised self-discovery extravaganza can make it really difficult for you to enjoy yourself and positively inhibits your ability to carpe diem and make the most of it.
I feel you may be wanting some context for this sudden outpouring… Last September I began a History degree at a certain elite Scottish university. It started well (though do stay tuned for my freshers week review), I liked my halls, the people were nice (although rather too much ironically worn Reebok and Adidas if you ask me) but I found that my fellow students cared less about getting a bachelor’s degree and more about chasing eligible bachelor’s around the campus. Now I’m all for these kinds of sporting pursuits. I love a title in tartan as much as the next lassie. My point is that I’m very competitive and if the competition doesn’t care about the race, neither will I. I felt that I would come out with a better degree if I moved to an environment in which everyone was as driven as I was. In short, I wanted to re-apply to Oxford.
This was something that had crossed my mind before I actually committed to going up North but, coward that I was then, I thought there was nothing more embarrassing than a bitter Oxbridge-reject who just couldn’t get over it. I thought I was putting it all behind me when actually I was giving up on something that I had really wanted. Closer research revealed that the most bitter of Oxbridge rejects were actually those who hadn’t bothered to give it another go. Of course the voice in my head was screaming “oh my god what if you get rejected twice! Could you even show your face in public again you loser”. But hey ho, nothing ventured nothing gained.
I will never regret re-applying or leaving Edinburgh. The whole experience taught me a lot about myself from the scary moment of dropping out of uni, to the hard work for the entrance tests, to the whole interview process. Also, thanks to a truly wonderful book and wonderful woman, I was ready for the second rejection when it happened. What psychologist Angela Duckworth showed me in her book ‘Grit’ was that it is not talent that gets us to where we want to be. Sure, of course it helps, but what matters more is the effort you put in to take your talent, turn it into skills and use those skills to achieve. It also showed me that it is not your failures that hold you back but your attitude to them. When it happened, I was able to see my rejection for Oxford as just one door closing whilst others remained open or were open for the first time.
The reality was that with a gritty mindset I didn’t need Oxford to get to where I wanted to be. What a liberating thought. However, to return to my initial subject I now find myself to be dans le pétrin. It was all very well to think that my fate would be decided on the 11th of January, for better or for worse, but now I find that all is in fact in disarray.
I’m still waiting for Durham and UCL to get back to me. Durham is off limits for reasons I won’t bore you with now but do brace yourselves for that calamity. I have offers from Exeter and Leeds which is reassuring but neither seem to be inspiring me with much enthusiasm at this point in time. Where I would really like to go is UCL. Country girl have I been too long, I’m looking for a new, more stylish, metropolitan me. All very well imagining this but when the hell do I find out? I feel somewhat adrift. As a control freak this is my worst case scenario. My fate is entirely out of my own hands, rather it is piled up carelessly on the desk of some unfortunate admissions tutor.
So, what to do now? Try not to succumb to dark thoughts about my life being empty and pointless. The truth is it isn’t. I have great friends and I’m smart, what more is necessary? It’s only 10 days before I disappear off on my travels, I’ve got my entire life in front of me. Note to self: avoid submitting to melodramatic internal narrative, instead embrace positivity and don’t let ambition make me unhappy. Stop feeling sad and lonely because the truth is you’re not. Apply grit, get it together.