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When Uni Isn't The Best Time of Your Life

Desfile DEMO 2016 Design de Moda Faculdade de Arquitetura Lisboa

I've touched up on this subject quite a lot on my YouTube, mainly in connection to my depression. But I recently read Beth Sandland's post about this and I felt I needed to write and share my own story too. Because I loved her post and really enjoyed reading her perspective on it. And though our conclusion was sort of the same, our journey was the complete opposite.

I've always quite known I didn't fit into the proper academic moulds. I always wanted to be bolder, more artistic, less bookish, more creative (even though I do love to read books).
I knew university wasn't really something I dreamed of but I just figured (young naïve me) when the time comes I'll have something up my sleeve, my life will be somehow all set up and uni probably wasn't going to be it, I'll have options. Maybe a plan!

But, shocker... Having graduated high school just fresh out of turning 17, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, who I was, what I wanted from life. I'm still struggling with that last one if I'm being honest. I was raised in a tiny town with under 10,000 people where everyone knew each other, no one dreamed big and I felt like a sore thumb sticking out.
So I had no examples to really follow, no people I could relate to and ended up mirroring what everyone else was doing. I applied to uni, got in, moved out of my parent's, uprooted my life to Lisbon and started my journey through the most horrible years of my life (not to be too dramatic, but yeah).


Everyone says, including my mama, "uni will be the best time of your life, you'll meet the best people, have amazing times and memories that will last you a lifetime".


Basically, it'd be all downhill from there so I better enjoy it because once I graduated and started working, "real life" begins and it's all trouble.
But what if... What if once again you don't fit into the mould? What if uni is indeed NOT the best time of your life? It made me think that... Crap, if this is the best my life's going to get... If this is the peak, what the hell is going to come after??


Curso Design de Moda Faculdade de Arquitetura Lisboa

First year of uni was quite fun and unique. Although I hated architecture, I didn't fully grasp how bad it was until my second year. Because the first year is all about new people, new parties, all nighters, settling in, finding who you are outside of your parent's roof and hold.
Getting drunk off 1€ shots of absinthe, the beautiful green fairy (the fastest way to get drunk, I would not recommend) and golden strike and powering through the buzz till the 8AM geometry exam without one wink of sleep. Letting your friends crash on your tiny rented room and sleeping on the legit floor, no mattress. Celebrating your birthday at the beach overnight with tents, loads of booze and friends. Splitting the "two free drinks" you get at the club entrance into 8 shots of pure vodka when you're already 3 shots in (true story, BAD IDEA) and waking up in the hospital with puke all over you, hooker heels, no keys, money or phone and the blessed IV drops ⎼ it only happened once but that's how wild my first year was. (Urban Beach, anyone?)

But then shit got real. The actual course load started and, man, did I hate architecture!
Let's be clear, architecture is known to have the hardest workload of any and all degrees. It's fucked up. It's harsh! You have to LOOOOVE it. You have to admire it. You have to breathe, think, dream architecture to actually lowkey enjoy it.
Me? In my free time I wanted to get the subject as far away from me as I possibly could and there was no way in hell I was spending my holidays reading on it and visiting buildings to study their structure and design. Nope.

I quit my architecture degree two months into my fourth year (it's a 5 year degree, masters included). I couldn't take it anymore. I was miserable. Crying every day. Fully sobbing at the thought of another project. Wanting to get away from architecture as fast as I could. I met amazing people. Had amazing parties. Formed amazing memories. But overall, I was a shell of a person because none of that mattered. I hated it. I hated it all. And I often wondered if it was "all going downhill after uni", was it really worth living at all?


Curso Design de Moda Faculdade de Arquitetura Lisboa Adidas  Lisbon Project

I took a year off to study for the two exams I had to retake at my old highschool (fun trip down memory lane, bumping into old teachers who asked "oh, what happened?"). And I applied to Fashion Design. I got in. Same campus. Same university. Different subjects. Different people. Younger people ⎼ going through their wild first year phase I was waaaay too old to care for.
And, guess what?
I hated it!
I loved fashion, still do. But I just was not made for uni. The structure doesn't suit me, it doesn't nourish or nurture me, it just makes me stressed, mopey, depressed and freaking miserable!
I just wanted out and by the third year I was screaming inside. But I couldn't bear the thought of spending 7 years studying and not graduating at all, not having any degree to show for it. Or should I say, my mum could not bear the thought of it and I did not want to break her heart again.

I graduated. I went on a big ass vacation to Mexico with Miguel to take my mind off things. (Mind you I was being medicated at the time and had just got done with the horror show that was college so I was high on life... and meds. And summer vibes!)
I moved to London. I started working. And though depression has always followed me around like a creepy stalker (I realised much later it wasn't about uni entirely, more on that later), I was happy.


Working in London YouTube Space Google Offices

I wasn't working in fashion ⎼ I had realised that I do love fashion but I absolutely loathe the fashion industry. And I wanted nothing to do with that, it wouldn't be good for my mental health. Fast fashion is becoming faster and faster each year. And the stress of its deadline structure is even more intense and raw and crude. No, thanks.
So I gathered up my skills (lord did I struggle with this) and I started applying for influencer marketing positions. Two months later, I landed at Digital Streamers, where I worked for about a year and a half before going freelance with my own content creation.


Working full-time was SO MUCH BETTER than uni. It wasn't going downhill for me, it was going uphill. Uni was hell. Working was kind of nice.


I came home and I could rest. I didn't have the weight of a million projects due. The guilt over my head for watching a few episodes instead of working 24/7 because that's what was expected.
I wasn't a grade A student in uni. My goal was to pass... And graduate. Some subjects I did better, usually the ones that were more intelectual and less deadline-oriented.
Truth is: no matter how much I loved or hated the subject, it wasn't about that at all. It was the structure. I couldn't hack it. I'm not a good person to work under stressful and tight deadlines. I crack. I need time to breathe. I need time to think. I need time off where I do absolutely nothing and take a break off of my own mind. And I thought any artistic course would be great for me because it would allow my ideas to flow and fully form. But the reality? Even when studying art, you have to do it all on their time. You have to reduce and restrain your creativity so that it can all be done in time for the final presentation, for the final exam, for the final show. Not fully explore your ideas, just exercise the practical part of your brain that is responsible for managing time. And that's not what I wanted. That's not what I expected. That's not what I was looking for.

So working felt right. I did have some deadlines but it wasn't all that creative so I didn't have to restrain myself. I got home and I didn't overthink it, I didn't wonder about all the things I could've done and improved if only I had had the time. If I just could've done it right, like art is meant to be done. I just did what was asked and expected and all was okay. (The lack of creativity did begin to hit, but again, a story for another day.)
I had more time to be social. More time to spend with myself. More time to do nothing. More time to simply breathe with no weight on my shoulders. Just purely breathe for the sake of breathing.


My point is...
Everyone is different.
You don't always fit into the cookie mould.
Uni may be the best time of your life. Or the best time may yet to come. Or sadly it might've been before uni (though unlikely). We never know. But we have to stop looking for it and expecting it, otherwise we'll never live life to the fullest.
If we think it'll be the best time, we'll be so worried trying to make the most of it, it won't feel organic or right. If it's not, we'll forever feel like life won't get any better and then... What's the point of going on, really?

Plus, what does that say about people who, for some reason or another, have not gone to uni? Will they not ever experience the best time of their lives? Will their lives always have a uni-shaped hole? I call bullshit.

But I'd love to hear from you on this.
What are your thoughts? What has been your experience?
I'd appreciate if you could leave a comment and start a discussion :)