Lately when I am asked about college, it’s the people I think about straight away. Always people, everywhere, all the time. 3 meals a day, in the corridor, getting my post, going to the shops. In the library, making tea, 15 minutes away in one of dozens of coffee shops, on my phone, on Facebook – college is full of people and so my life is full of people when I’m at college. Lately I’ve been noticing that sometimes this reality doesn’t super excite me. So I try to convey not “the wave has finally broken and I hate it now”, but a little realism. When in Newcastle “it’s nice to be here, a little bit quieter pace”. And sometimes now I don’t really want to talk about college, not because I don’t like it but because in the rare moments I’m not there, that’s actually ok with me.
This sounds worse than it is. I’ll explain…
Yesterday I got kind of obsessed with a book that arrived while I was away over the weekend. 4 books arrived while I was gone in fact, proof positive that a watched pigeonhole never has mail, and the one I read was the first fiction book I have bought in ages, a psychological thriller about the disintegration of a marriage. Seriously, what is wrong with me?
I got kind of obsessed because it was gripping and because halfway through the book every single thing you thought you knew flipped on its head. The person you liked, who conspiratorially made you like her with her quirky ways and gentle narrator asides admitted it had all been a game and she was a monster! It totally messed with me and I stayed up till 1am reading till the final depressing, obsessive love, can’t live with or without page. I fobbed off attempts from others to study or hang out, slunk around making cups of tea and generally felt moody with the world.
Then I woke this morning. Praise the Lord (not flippantly) for a new day! Today was the antithesis of yesterday. Coffee, washing, cleaning, driving, shopping for church camp and study. Rain outside, tea inside. Even time for an episode of Miranda and, when Gary made me think of Diver Dan, a quick few minutes of Seachange. Today was a joy. Today was spent with friends. It was better with friends.
Life is generally better with other people, but you can’t tell me that when I’m grumpy and tired. You probably wouldn’t want to either, but that’s beside the point. I need to remember that life is so often better with others when the sheer volume of others around me threatens to overwhelm. When I’m asked about my interests at dinner and the summary sentence at the end is “awesome, so dingoes and swimming then” and I think, panicked, ‘Hang on, that’s not it’, I need to calm down.
This isn’t a race here, to be all that I am and have every person know, or to feel completely at ease in every moment. I so rarely feel insecure that it took me weeks (and an overdue cup of tea with a friend) to realise that is what I’ve been, a bit. Worried that people might get the wrong idea, hear only a corner of me, or find out some small thing that prevents them wanting to know the rest. I need to remember, quite apart from the fact that God has got it under control, that this is all perfectly normal and to be expected. The pressure I feel is allowed, but should not be. The pressure of others who ask, and the pressure I put on myself when I reply, wanting to gild the edges of my life here even though I love it as is, am actually happy and thankful.
I’m thankful for friends who slip notes under my door and text and add extra ridiculous check boxes to my whiteboard. I’m thankful for friends who drink coffee with me and come on car trips and help fill my trolley and talk about inane things like play dough and pricecheck soccer balls and don’t think it’s strange when I take a photo of the pole on the level near my car so I don’t get lost. Friends who ask me questions in Greek until I know the answer, instead of saying it outright. Friends who lie on my floor and laugh at the silly hooks we come up with to remember the words. Thank you God for days like today which remind me that no man is an island. And I am beyond glad for that fact, that here in this place there are endless adventures awaiting and people willing to journey with me.