Dear Swansea University

Wow, where to begin. I'm still on a high, if I'm honest - I graduated this week and I'm still smiling and in genuine shock. I'm not used to waking up and seeing my degree on my wall (yes, I'm that extra that I frame it, and no, I'm not sorry).

If I were to be completely honest, I didn't think I'd ever graduate. I always told myself I wasn't smart enough to be there and I doubted my abilities academically. The last three years have changed my perspective on so many things, I can't even begin to comprehend it.

It was a surreal moment, waiting in the auditorium and waiting in the wings before my name was called. I was shaking like a leaf, but I was smiling. After the amount of times I've been told I couldn't do something, I actually did it. Going to university took so much choice and thought, because dealing with horrific anxiety made this choice so difficult for me. Numerous times in first year I contemplated dropping out and not going back, but there was something in my head telling me to stay. I followed that feeling, and I have no regrets.

What has being in university taught me?

 In numerous ways,  it's taught me so many different things that I'm forever thankful for. 

Academically, university taught me:
  •  How to manage time effectively (for the most part, I still definitely did essays the day before...)
  • To not have majorly high expectations. I'm only one person with one brain, and I can't expect myself to get everything perfect. I'm human, I'll make mistakes!
  • So many transferable life skills that I use now in my job
  • That I doubted my educational abilities so much

On a personal level, university taught me:

  • That no matter how hard things would get, I had an amazing support network and if I just speak out, I can be heard.
  • Friends are so important! You can't go through 2-5 years of university without a good friend network. It makes things so much easier (especially when you're all stressing about work and message them with 'pub' every two seconds until it works)
  • That sharing your feelings makes a problem seem less big

I won't sugar coat it: the last 3 years have been hard for me, academically, emotionally and mentally. If you're a reader of my blog, you'll know this. I've been faced with so many challenges of various difficulties and through the hardships, I've come out the other end. I'm happier than ever, my confidence has soared... It's like I'm a different person compared to the shy and anxious first year I was. I didn't expect university to be easy, but I was willing to fight and put the effort in needed to be where I am. I cannot thank my university, course leaders, personal tutor, family and friends enough for everything they've done for me, from the long video calls home, to having essay meetings that were mainly chats about random things and personal life. It's been an extremely life changing experience, and I wouldn't have changed my time at Swansea University for anything.

The pride I have in myself at the minute is overwhelming. People may not think graduating is a big deal, but to me it's meant everything. I put myself down so much, and even others have put me down. This just goes to show that I can do things if I put my mind to them, and I'm bloody good at persevering and giving things my all.

I'm proud to say that I'm a graduate. Swansea will always be another home to me, wherever I am in the world and wherever life takes me.

Thank-you Swansea University, you've been incredible.

What 21 years has taught me

It's been three months and eight days since I turned 21, and thinking about it, I feel like the last 21 years have taught me quite important lessons.

When I was younger, all I dreamed of was wondering who I'd turn out to be. What career would I be doing? Who would I meet? What experiences would happen? I had so many questions and I couldn't wait to grow up. Fast forward to 2017, I was 20 years old and honestly? I was terrified to grow up.

The thought of not having school or university to (sort of) guide what I was doing, who I'd be around is a bit scary, especially when if you think about it: you wake up, do what you need to do... I feel like there is so much free reign for someone who isn't in education. You can pick to do full time jobs and not worry about lecture attendance and assignments (I mean... Unless you're a lecturer, of course), and you're making decisions 100% yourself and maybe not having something to guide you (when to get up, what to eat) - you sort of do it out of instinct.

21, for me, is an age where (if you're a student like me), it's a landmark in your final year of university, and it makes me feel as though this is the year where I'm going to 'have to adult' (as I say).

The last 21 years of my life have been a rollercoaster. Happiness, bereavement, exhaustion, heartbreak, surprise... It's all happened. Today, I really wanted to share with you, on the day of  my birth, what being alive for 21 years has taught me.

What you see as important now, may not be in the future

This is a big one for me, because I always sweat the small stuff. I always overthink and think of the worst in situations. Granted, I feel like I've gotten way better for this (although some may disagree, if you know me well enough, that is). The worries I constantly have are: How much money have I spent? How much do I need to last me until (insert date)? I need to get this piece of work done before (date) but I'm too exhausted to do it, What job am I going to get after this?

While these may worry me now, I know (probably) at some point in the future, these worries will make me think 'what the hell was all that for?'. I don't want to spend my entire life worrying about things that may not be that big of a deal. I want to have fun, live my life and do the things I want to do.

If they don't like you, 'sod the lot of them'

A phrase my Gramps taught me a long time ago, but it's true. I used to spend too much time worrying what others thought of me, that I felt like I was losing myself in that time. It wasn't a nice process to go through, especially when I'd look in the mirror and honestly not recognise my true self. It's taken me until recently to not care how I look, what I act like, who sees me doing these things and what the outcome is.

Family and friends are so important

I can't agree with this statement more than I already do. I've gone through a lot of... Difficult (shall we say) periods in my life, where they've been so exhausting mentally, emotionally and physically that wanting to withdraw and give up were actual options I had considered. Without the love and support of my family and my friends, I don't think I'd have developed into this now-21 year old person I am now, laying on a bed in my university room.

My mum in particular is a person who's strength, loyalty and love I am in constant awe of in every single second of my life. I have never met someone so compassionate, strong and optimistic. I'm glad she is finally happy with what is happening in her life.

It does get better

One which may seem like a cliche, but it's true. I've been through horrific periods of anxiety (numerous kinds) and depression, and they've been my demons. I felt like they were constantly living in my shadow and that they'd never leave. I could never speak to people unless they spoke to me first, I used to hate leaving my bed, I didn't like attention on me and I also really struggled to make friends. 

I now work in retail where I'm talking to customers from 3 to 6 hours per shift, doing presentations does not phase me in the slightest, I like going out on nights out with my university friends (oh, I do actually have some!), and I step out my comfort zone with things like: hair colour/style, make-up and fashion. I haven't a bad mental health day since June 2017, so 8 months it'll have been. I've had my times where I've been a bit upset about something (which I won't be discussing as it has been posted on the blog), but I've brought myself out of it very quickly and carried on.

There's more to life than body image.

While, yes, I am very focused on my fitness, I do realise that there's more to life than just being fit and healthy. My personality, intelligence, connections and many more are aspects of my life and aspects of me which I see as way more important. I have struggled with body image for most of my life, due to being bullied and have low self confidence/esteem, but now I'm really happy with how I look and I don't want to change things drastically.

Self love comes first, no matter the circumstances

I've been in situations where I've had so much self doubt and nerves about everything, that socialising was a huge deal to me. I had little amounts of love for myself and didn't care much for myself. This made things a bit difficult, especially when relationships are concerned. The phrase RuPaul says 'If you can't love yourself, how in the hell can you love somebody else?' really helps me reflect. If you can't be 100% comfortable and happy with yourself, how can you put love and affection into relationships?

Good things take time

It's a harsh truth to say that in life, nobody has it perfect or positive twenty four, seven. There are going to be things that get in the way of what you're doing and they may knock you back. I had (to put it lightly), a brutal, never-ending shit-show for a good few years in a row. Social anxiety, death, depression... It was a bit of a struggle for me. I feel like now I'm in a place where I can finally say I'm happy with: a) what I'm doing, b) who's in my life, and c) myself. 

For someone who has struggled with mental health problems from their teens into early adulthood, I can comfortably say that I'm fine now. In no way am I trying to boast about not having issues with my mental health, because let's be honest, it's relieving to read when someone who has been dealing with the same stuff as you is getting over it, and also: mental health problems don't go away permanently. 

There has been times where I've been anxious (like for my two job interviews I had late last year), I've felt a bit depressed (due to really bad night sleeps, thankfully I'm over those!). I'm happy that it's taken me 21 years to feel at ease, because I know in myself when I can feel anxiety or depression rearing their ugly heads my way, and I've got the knowledge to sit down and say 'no, I'm in control, not you'.

A smile can change someone's day

When you think about it, simple things like a smile or a cheery 'hello' can really mane someone's day. I've learned this as a retail worker, as chatting to customers, engaging in what they're saying and genuinely being interested in what they have to say really does make them feel better. Today, for instance, I served a customer, and not only 2 hours later was I sat next to them on the bus on the way home. 

We had a 20 minute conversation about his family, my university degree, his trips away and working away in Germany. He commented on how nice it was to have someone 'young' be genuinely interested in what he had to say, and he also said it made his day. It made mine too, because I feel like we should make more of an effort to talk to people. I know it's easier said than done, if you're either: not a fan of talking to people, deal with social anxiety/shyness, but even the title says a smile could change the day for someone.

This post was a bit of a lengthy one, but to be fair, I have been off the radar for over three months! I'm so happy to be back blogging, and I really hope you enjoyed reading this post.

What are some life lessons you've learned? Do you stick by them? Let me know in the comments, and let's have a discussion!

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Have an amazing day!