An honest reckoning with a hard month

Yesterday was World Mental Health Day. I wanted to write something about love and overcoming hard times, about ending the stigma and accepting differences. But I couldn’t. The past few days have been a period of recovery from what have been a very tough few weeks, and while I feel better now with each day, I am still physically and mentally drained. Yet I know that blogging has been my solace in much darker times than these and so I come back with hope of solace once more.

Just over three weeks ago, I started at the LSE. On Thursday, I left. I did something I have never done before: I gave up. I admitted defeat. Not because it was too hard, but simply because I was too miserable and life is too short for that. It is not worth going into details here about what happened. What is worth considering is what I learnt.

Most of all I learnt that the three-month break from academia I had over the summer needed to last somewhat longer. I am officially burnt out when it comes to essays and required reading. Right now, I’d be happy never to see either ever again, yet I also still love education and I sincerely hope that the allure comes back in time. I would quite like a Masters to my name, eventually. Unusually for me, I just couldn’t muster any enthusiasm for my studies, and I knew I’d never survive the rigours of the LSE without it. This just was not the right time.

Drive is important outside education too. Those of you who know me best know that life is not always easy, and yet I almost always cope. That’s because, fundamentally, I really wanted the things I was aiming for: getting into university, getting a good degree, interning. Without that longed-for goal I felt – to use the cliché – cast adrift, and most terrifyingly I could feel my confidence slipping away. I did not go anywhere alone the whole time I was at the LSE. I felt gut-wrenchingly sixteen again.

I never want to feel like that again and, thankfully, I am quickly returning to the self I found at Warwick. Nor do I ever want to feel, as I did at the LSE, like the girl in the wheelchair. It is so isolating, so scary and so hurtful to feel so different, to feel that you do not belong because of something you cannot change. Yet the experience made me thankful all over again for the people who alleviate that feeling and who, through their love and friendship, make me feel simply like Lucy.

To all of you who supported me this past month, I am so full of gratitude. Being wrenched from my normal support network made the whole thing so much harder, yet I was buoyed by how easily it translated across the miles between us and by how much understanding and kindness came my way. I may have been lonely but, thanks to you, I was never alone.

So I guess what I am trying to say is that there is almost always light in the darkness. Life is hard but you can choose to make it better, even if that choice is scary. I am somewhere I never wanted to be: back home and looking for work. And yet I am happy and I am surrounded by friends. I am myself again. The main lesson here then is that sometimes, the unexpected path is the best one to take. Who knew?

With love

Despite all the important things I have wanted to write about over these past few weeks, I haven’t been able to face blogging about the thing I most needed to write about: leaving Warwick. I have opened and closed this post many times, and never have I found the words. But today, my wonderful friend Tessa wrote a fantastic blog post which almost made me cry, but has also hopefully helped me to find those words. Deep breath, here goes.

I don’t want to exaggerate, but I went to Warwick a little bit broken. I’d always been lonely and scared of the future, and I thought that that would be how I would always feel. I was hopeful of improvement, but also scared of that hope – so many times it had proved to be misguided.

How wrong I was. Within a few weeks at the start of a heady freshers’ term, I had found a new family in my beloved flat 19. People were friendly and chatty in a way I had never experienced before – and no one seemed at all bothered by my disability. By the second term, I had met the friends on my course who, with wonderful hindsight, I now know will be friends for life. This week, we celebrated graduation together. I have rarely been so proud.

The last three years have truly been the best of my life. Between them the extended flat 19 crew, Warwick Labour and the PAIS Class of 2016 provided more love and laughter than I could have imagined possible. Whether nights at our terrible-yet-loved SU nights and pub, a quick coffee, pub crawls in Leamington, Kasbah in Coventry – even a trip to Ibiza – or just hanging out, they’ve made every new experience brilliant and every memory worth treasuring. In always including me, they’ve made me happy and confident – and changed my view of people, society and myself.

My course was great too; even when the readings were tough lectures were always interesting, and while I still can’t handle the intricacies of political theory I do know quite a bit about international relations and security. I think at LSE next year I may miss the non-pressurised nature of work at Warwick and the sharing the suffering of essays with friends. So many of the lecturers I have had were simply brilliant; extremely academic and yet extremely kind when I didn’t understand – which was often. Leaving such a wonderful place of learning is made better by exceeding my own expectations and getting a First.

There are too many people to thank, but a few must be mentioned by virtue of being extra special. To my friends, especially Becky, Becky and Denning, I cannot tell you how wonderful you are – thank you for everything. I cannot wait for more good times to come and to share the future with you. And of course to my girls, Fran, Fran, Hayley, Gisela and Em, I love you all so much. You have given me everything and I will never let you forget it.

With that, Warwick, and with love always, goodbye.

 

The beginning of the end, and the new

Exams are over. I have finished my degree. I am still in complete denial because I can’t believe I will never again get a book out the library or get lost in the social science building. It’s taken me a week of sleep and relaxation to process that in itself, and now somehow I have just three weeks to reconcile myself to the fact that I am leaving Warwick. I am trying not to think about it too much, because doing so is just too hard.

Eyes firmly on the horizon then. I realise that I haven’t written here about what I’m doing next. Provided all goes well and I bag myself a 2:1, I will be taking up an offer to do and MSc in the Theory and History of International Relations at the London School of Economics. Lots of people are telling me how exciting this is and how great it will be, but for now I am too caught up in the worry of finding new carers and having to make new friends and missing the Warwick gang like crazy to get too excited. Once the practicalities are sorted and I’ve got over the exam-induced academic fatigue, though, I will be able to look forward to it, and once I’m thrown in to the course I’m all but guaranteed to enjoy it. Or at least I hope so, anyway.

The good thing is that the course combines international relations, my favourite part of my undergraduate degree, with history, an interest I put on hold after school. The bad news is that LSE recently cancelled the module I was most looking forward to, on the Middle East, which means that despite years of waiting I will never get to properly study the region I am most fascinated by. Hopefully this summer I will be able to read about it in addition to actually preparing for the modules I will be taking. I am also counting on my best friend’s history essays to get me back up to speed with the discipline (thanks Soph!).

Before all that, though, I have a reading list of random interesting books to get through, including a selection of feminist work. I’m currently reading Germaine Greer’s latest, The Whole Woman, which I am agreeing and disagreeing with in equal measure. Perhaps when I have finished, it will provide a good topic for a post here.

I’m looking forward to writing more in the next few weeks in preparation for a week back at the Guardian in July. Most importantly. though, I am soon off to Ibiza to help the wonderful Fran celebrate her hen do. I’m very excited and am sure I will come back with stories to tell – although maybe not here!

So yes, I’m nervous about the future, but when you think about it, this is only the beginning.