Returning to Birmingham was unplanned, sporadic, urgent; it was a decision made out of my hands and accompanied by an exhausting, inexplicable mix of emotions. I think a lot of students have felt the same way, and I can’t help but ramble on.
Home. n. The place where one lives permanently.
‘Permanently’. That’s the cinch, the pointer.
A lot of students do not have a permanent home. We are caught in the middle of two winds; the winds of home, the winds of pre-university life and everything and everyone we knew before. And then there are the winds of university, of a multitude of exposure culture and an independence of unprecedented times. In other words, pre-uni life and and post/mid-uni life are two completely different worlds – and now, for an unimaginable amount of students, those two worlds are colliding, and…
Cue the black hole-
of emotions, of world dysphoria, hidden identities – the lot. It is the plunge of your lukewarm body into freezing cold water.
Being home like this is, to be a blunt, a bit of a nasty shock.
Home should be a safe place. A place without penalty, a place where you can be wholly you. Not everyone has that experience of home, and suddenly being thrust back into it can be catastrophic.
My final year of student living should not have ended the way it did- my mum and my brother driving to my student house at midnight on a Monday, to pack up my belongings and escort me home. Theoretically, yes, I could have stayed – but for my own good I knew my mum was right when she told me I couldn’t; my two housemates, and only friends in the whole city, had already left to spend the lock down with their significant others, and having already spent a week alone in that house I knew deep down that I could not spend however many months this could last entirely alone.
Don’t get me wrong, I am entirely grateful to my mum and brother. But of course, I can’t help but feel just that little bit bitter. I feel robbed of my final student months, and that feeling won’t just dissipate – and I know I’m not the only one in this boat. Some of my friends won’t get their graduation ceremonies, and others don’t even know if they can graduate – and that fucking sucks. Some have had to return to dysfunctional and toxic family homes. I feel so lucky that I’ve already had one graduation, that my home life is in fact a blessing.
But still. Coming home like this has sucked, and being expected to carry on with university life whilst now living in the home I moved out of specifically for university, is incredibly difficult. And I think that is a large part of the problem, for myself and many others. My hometown is the place where university does not exist. I am not the same 18 year old who left Birmingham for a 3 year stint in Wales, and a further (supposed) year in Nottingham.
I am a stranger in the strange land of my own home.
And I feel like as much as I belong here, the total opposite is also true. Not to be a repeating rubric, or anything, but – this should not be where I am. This should not be where or how I’m doing what I’m doing.
But it is. And it’s the same for thousands of students across the country who have most definitely been largely ignored by the government in this pandemic. More than half of us are paying rent for student accommodation we cannot live in, for a number of reasons; but unlike our private landlords, we do not get a mortgage break. How unfair is it for us to be expected to pay someone, who is receiving either a government subsidy or a refreshing break, or not losing any money at all, during this pandemic? It is utterly unfair,and private landlords should be as accommodating as universities when it comes to accommodation, but that’s another rant for another time. The point is this;
I should be at my term time address. I should be enjoying my last few months of being a student, whether that’s by drinking and partying with my friends or going out for food or having film nights in with them. I should be studying on campus and utilising my university’s library resources. I should be exploring the new city I moved to and going on cute dates with cute guys (and girls).
But alas. None of that is happening. (Except maybe that last one).
Instead, I am treading in the uneasy waters of home life and acclimatising as best, or as easiest, as I can. Breaking down who I was before, and reconstructing myself into who I am now is tricky. In part, I think, because my family have not been privy to what have been, unequivocally, my transformative years. University isn’t just about learning new ideologies and meeting new people, widening your horizons, It’s about transformation; releasing yourself from your cocoon.
My family haven’t witnessed as I’ve experienced new, adult, scenarios; they haven’t been there as I’ve shed my old skins, like the corn snake my mother has detestably been looking after for the last 3 and a half years for me. They haven’t witnessed as I’ve climbed into new flesh, merely being presented with the current model, the latest release, and I wonder if I am as foreign to them as they are to me.
But despite all this, being home is a blessing, even if it is one I’m begrudgingly accepting. I don’t think it has properly hit me that I will not be leaving this house now until I can sustain a dwelling of my own, but, and I cannot stress this to myself enough, it will all be okay. I am surrounded by those I love and those who love me, and the family I cannot be with I can still still walk to and wave through the window, or see through my phone. I have my dogs, four massive balls of chaotic energy, and I have a fantastic mother who’s putting her health on the line daily whilst she continues to work for the NHS during this horrible experience.
Love you, Sara. Kinda hope you don’t read this though in case I come across as an ungrateful wee child, which I very much am not. x.