Setbacks and Relief

Setbacks and Relief

There has been a change in my circumstances, and I thought I should tell you about it.

Theoretically, I’m a second-year student at the University of Cambridge. This is no longer the case, at least temporarily. Instead, for the next few months I’m going to be at home. Doing very little. Coming off my current meds, trying to get my head in order, building up my physical strength with physio and exercise, learning to deal with my anxiety, generally sorting myself out. And then I’ll be coming back and starting second year again.

Cambridge doesn’t have the most flexible of systems so, while many universities offer the option to take some modules part-time, retake part of a year, or otherwise change your style of learning, it’s sort of all or nothing. Either you’re here or you’re not. Taking time out like this is known as ‘intermitting’, or as ‘degrading’ (in the sense of going down a grade, e.g. year, rather than being shamed… although it can be considered that way too).

I’ve been considering the possibility of intermission for a long time. In first year, the only reason I went back over Christmas was because of the ballet club’s production of Coppelia. By the time that was over, I’d settled in a bit better and was slightly enjoying myself. This year, though, my health has got in the way too much, so while Romeo & Juliet has kept me at uni for longer than I would otherwise have been here, ballet’s no longer enough to make up for how bad I feel.

Also, I’ve caught every single bug that’s gone around college for the last month, so I’m really behind on work. It turns out that staying in bed all day isn’t great for your productivity — who knew?

The details aren’t 100% finalised yet — I only embarked on the process this week, and while it’s moved quickly, that’s because I’ve been turning it over in my head for a while. So I’m not sure how all of it works and I need to talk to some staff in college a bit more. I don’t yet know what effect this will have on my financial situation, for example, nor do I know exactly what I’ll be doing in those months. Apart from the whole getting better thing, and writing — I’d like to do something to get me out of the house, but that depends on the opportunities available.

However, the way things stand, I’m probably going to be leaving Cambridge next Sunday (the 28th) with a goal to being well enough to come back at the start of the year in October. With any luck, this time will allow me to get better, and the cushion of work I have from what little I did this year will allow my second attempt at second year to be a lot more enjoyable.

I’ve spent a lot of time wondering what I was looking for with university, and being unsure why I hadn’t found it yet. It’s hard to know what you want, and even harder to know how to find it. Ultimately, though, it’s reached a point where this isn’t what I want, and I’m not well enough to chase after anything else.

My anxiety’s the main culprit, but my rubbish immune system and the added complication of coeliac disease haven’t helped either. Obviously these aren’t entirely within my control, but I can learn to manage them a bit better so that I’m equipped to deal with the challenges of uni: currently, they’re just knocking me down constantly.

I’m looking forward to being able to write, because I’ve found it hard to fit that in. I’ll be reading plenty, and reviewing too. I plan to blog more often, and even make some videos. Though I may keep some Irish vocab ticking over in the background, the idea is not to do any work, and just to focus on my health.

I won’t lie: this was a hard decision. I’ll be graduating a year later than many of my friends, although far from all of them. Come October, I’ll find myself in classes and lectures with people I don’t know nearly as well, while my friends are in third year. And going home for six months has its own disadvantages, namely that there isn’t a whole lot to do in my hometown!

It’s a setback. But it’s also a relief. I’ve got to a point where I’m so behind on work I wasn’t sleeping for anxiety, and the thought of doing any reading or translation made me want to throw up. My health’s been getting worse and worse because of stress, and I wasn’t enjoying anything I did, nor was I able to do the things I wanted to do. I’d forego ‘fun’ activities because I was meant to be working, then not work, so I’d neither be doing what I wanted to do nor what I needed to do.

I need a break. I need to get my head in order. I need to re-evaluate what I’m looking for, and how to find it. Knowing that I’ve got the time to do that is a weight off my chest.

So, you can look forward to more blog posts from me over the next few months, probably, although they won’t be uni-themed.

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