Mid-Michaelmas blues

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It is no secret I hated school. I despised the repeated monotony of constantly being sent to the headmistress for talking back and challenging the school ethos, being told I wasn’t good enough as well as strenuously juggling my six IB subjects. The only thing at the forefront of my mind as I scrutinised each second pass on the clock during exams was the future ahead of me. Watching my graduation cap fly into the air officially marked my release from the shackles of school and the hellhole that is the IB, into the freedom of university and adult life. So why is it, at week six of term, I’m now finding university absolutely miserable – a moment in my life my former self would beg to be in? 

Week six of term officially marks being over the halfway point of term, and is also when the dreaded ‘mid-michaelmas blues’ set in; the novelty of freshers and a new academic year has calmed down, burnout is increasing and homesickness is seeping in. Fifteen-minute calls home turn into fifty, people begin to reveal their true colours, the days are getting shorter, the nights longer and the temperature is plummeting to what feels like sub-zero degrees. All you want to do is go to bed, withdraw from the world, have a good cry and wake up from this bad dream. Sometimes, it all feels a bit too much to handle within a span of six weeks on top of managing a degree and learning how to properly take care of yourself for the first time. Although naming it the ‘mid-michaelmas blues’ can feel reductive, as if you’re putting on a wet paper towel to heal a bullet wound, it is comforting to know this is a universal experience.   

Although naming it the ‘mid-michaelmas blues’ can feel reductive, as if you’re putting on a wet paper towel to heal a bullet wound, it is comforting to know this is a universal experience

Personally, combatting the mid-michaelmas blues feels a bit like I’m Sisyphus. I feel as if I’m pushing a massive boulder of homesickness, tears, not feeling myself and burnout up cardiac hill. Once I’m finally beginning to feel more like myself again and I am nearly over the hurdle of sadness, something else comes my way only for me to slip and fall. I then start at the bottom of the hill and repeat this process for what feels like an eternity. However, there is hope. 

Messaging and calling friends and family from home have been keeping me at bay – especially when I get to see my dog on FaceTime. A problem shared is a problem halved – according to Age UK, “Around 3 in 10 adults share their worries (29%). Of these, over a third (36%) feel brighter as a result.” Although a low number, this shows the potential effects of just beginning to open up. After a teary conversation home and with friends, the boulder started to feel lighter – I started to feel more like my tougher-than-nails self again. The naive excitement my pre-university self once felt gradually returned.

Sometimes, the unexpected setbacks in life lead to the most beautiful destinations

I’ve found that it is equally important to not push yourself as it is to not let yourself wallow too much. This has looked like watching several reruns of Seinfeld, Modern Family and Gilmore Girls (my personal recommendations if you are in need of comfort shows or a laugh) and what my friends have now coined as ‘babysitting’ – fuelling my coffee addiction with coffee shop dates, sitting by the river for fresh air, dog sitting, film nights and wandering around town for hours to distract me. Setting yourself a routine and getting out of the house as much as possible is key to keeping your mind busy. Finding activities you find solace in is vital to not falling into the trap of a complete downward spiral.

Ultimately, if I could go back to tell my naive IB self anything, it would be to remember to breathe, take things as they come and enjoy the road of the unexpected. I would tell myself that the best things in life happen when you begin to lower your expectations. The preconceived notion of freedom and university will not always live up to your expectations – every rose has its thorns. Although I am far happier now compared to when I was at school, I’ve come to realise that happiness isn’t always found in the places once initially thought, and sometimes, the unexpected setbacks in life lead to the most beautiful destinations. Embracing life’s uncertainties and making the most of unexpected opportunities can lead to experiences and growth my former self couldn’t have ever dreamed of.

Illustration: Hayleigh McLean

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