But not really. I still haven’t decided whether the past six months have flown by, or if it’s been a lifetime. But lifetime sounds cooler. And a lot has happened.
Six months ago, you see, I got on a plane. I kissed my girlfriend goodbye for the last time, looked out at the mountains on the horizon, and said goodbye to Geneva. A couple of hours later, standing on the Gatwick Express, I blinked back the tears for a moment, and it hit me. I wasn’t on holiday, in a train full of almost-foreigners. This was home.
Not in the way London has always kind of been home. I spent seven years living in France, and loved it there, but I was always a sort-of Londoner, far more up-to-date on UK politics and culture (through the liberal London lens of the Guardian, and later, Twitter) than French. I visited London at least twice a year, usually closer to four times, making me the only person in the world, probably, to take holidays in Sutton. Still, saying goodbye to my actual home, the one on the ground floor of an apartment block in Ferney-Voltaire, kind of dispelled any illusions I had about feeling like any sort of exile. London, like Brasil, was a place I identified with, was a part of me, my roots, but it wasn’t home.
On that train, I realised that like it or not, it was now.
It wasn’t exactly a homecoming. I wasn’t going back to Zone 3, back to Sutton and the suburbs. I mean, I was temporarily, going to Dad’s in Catford and all, but now I was going to be living in Camden. NW1. A place I had only ever visited. To me, Central London.
This isn’t going to be a retrospective diary of a Fresher though. This is just a record of something I’ve been doing almost daily for the past six months. At Freshers’ we got given a wall calendar of the year. At first, I thought I’d use it to be super-organised for work and stuff. Then I started pinning things to it. And it was the best decision I’ve ever made. I’ve got a poor memory, and it’s easy to forget how incredibly lucky I am to be in this fantastic city with all these opportunities just waiting there for me to grab them.
This year, I’ve met David Harvey and Caitlin Moran.
I’ve seen David Harvey, Tariq Ali, Tony Benn, Richard Seymour and Ken Livingstone (more times than is healthy) speak.
I’ve been to several stand-up performances, from UCLU nights, to comedy clubs, to seeing Stewart Lee at the Leicester Square theatre.
I’ve seen a Guns guitarist and Ben L’Oncle Soul play within twenty minutes’ walk of my home.
I’ve performed a ten-minute stand-up set in front of upwards of fifty strangers and about a dozen friends, without completely failing.
I’ve gone to a greyhound race.
I’ve been inside the Houses of Parliament twice, and not just the public galleries. I’ve drunk the House of Lords’ special wine.
I’ve been elected to society committees
I’ve been on marches, demos, I’ve been canvassing. I’ve stayed up to the late hours debating feminism and class politics with a friend, I’ve spent hours in the kitchen discussing the state of the UK and the world with my flatmates.
I drink white wine and whisky. Not together, natch, but I never would have touched them before. Indeed, I generally drink far more than I had ever thought I would. I can think of three nights this year that I don’t remember bits of. I’ve woken up in hospital. I’ve learnt what it is to be truly, devastatingly hungover, and I’ve gone to class and a family lunch in that state. I’ve been served free Grey Goose vodka at a Westminster nightclub, and downed £1.50 “Don’t Want to Know” vodka in Soho. I’ve walked home in the early hours of the morning like a badass motherfucker. I’ve narrowly avoided getting into a fight in a club by virtue of somehow bluffing the other guy into walking away.
I feed myself competently, reasonably healthily, and at times, downright opulently. I have dinner parties.
I’ve been to the gym and stopped going to the gym.
I’ve stayed up until the birds start singing with regularity, including one night where I only managed half an hour of sleep.
I’ve written two fifteen hundred word literature essays in Spanish and been praised on both for the clarity and lucidity of my writing, which, coming after a year in which my Spanish felt like the biggest obstacle to me getting to UCL, was a big boost.
I’ve gotten a job, gone to a job, gotten paycheques, paid taxes, and lost that job.
I’ve spent literally days playing various videogames – seriously, I’m talking 200+ hours here.
I’ve spent an afternoon watching Batman cartoons over Skype with my best friend.
I’ve been to Manchester and Bristol for the first time.
They say university is a place where you grow up, where you become an adult. This close to the fact, I don’t know if I have grown up, per se. What I do know, is that I’ve lived. In these six months, despite a low-intensity struggle with what has felt a lot like depression at times, I’ve lived more intensely, and more actively, than I have my entire life. For the past three weeks, I haven’t even had an evening off.
Ultimately, that’s enough for me. I look around me, I look at popular culture, I look at certain people in my life (or, really, out of it at this point) that I envy, I see a life that isn’t my own, and get myself into a feedback loop of depression. And to get out of it? I look at my wall-planner. I look at my wall-planner and the forest of flyers and tickets pinned to it, and I remember that though these six months haven’t been what I expected, though they don’t really resonate with what I read about university life elsewhere, they’ve been my six months. And for the most part?
It’s been fucking awesome.