Second Beginnings

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I fancy myself very poor at beginnings. I’m fabulous at endings, I stitch together clips from summer and romanticise all that’s passed, I scrapbook and sentimentalise. But I dread starting new books and always write the introductions to my essays last, once I’ve wrestled out some semblance of an argument. But the best evidence of my being bad at beginnings is that I dropped out of Durham after my first term here, last year. 

I arrived, armed with a door-wedge from my mum and vodka from my dad, both of which would guarantee me friends they respectively promised. It took approximately five minutes for the thrill of a new place to wear off and the reality of communal bathrooms to sink in… I hadn’t expected to feel homesick and had promised my parents that I would try to call every now and then but would probably be too busy having a brilliant time to touch base too often. As it turns out, I was not busy, and I did not have a brilliant time. Covid restrictions aside, I don’t think I was ready for the baptism of fire and fresher’s flu that university is. 

At Christmas time I decided to take a year out and restart in 2021. I served Lee Mack an oat cappuccino while working at a Caffe in the basement of a department store and dyed my hair ginger; the two obvious hallmarks of a successful gap year. The closest I got to Costa Rica was unfortunately an unsuccessful interview at Costa, nevertheless, it turned out to be just the year I needed. Being forced to tell people that an ice machine is broken in the middle of a heatwave does wonders for confidence. By the time September rolled around again, I packed up the car with just the right amount of anxiety and excitement. 

During my year off I discovered the Paddington films and found a lot of comfort in them. I felt a little like the bear with the red hat in that I had turned up to a new city full of excitement and had found it not quite how I had expected. I re-watched the first film the night before I re-started this September and was once again reassured that good stories could have wobbly starts and that it might take time to feel at home in a place. Two weeks into term I somehow got drawn into being part of a stand-up comedy show and felt as out-of-place as a bear in London behind that microphone. I scanned the crowd quickly, avoiding eye contact, when a little red hat caught my eye… In the corner was a little figure of Paddington bear, stood on a stool, ready to watch me make a first impression about as good as his flooding the Brown’s bathroom. 

Sometimes we need to start over, and I guess that’s what the New Year gives us all a chance to do. How marvellous that the anxiety of September is followed by the excitement of January? New beginning is re-packaged in resolutions and plans that settle the nervousness of moving out and settling into a new place. If the beginning that this September gave you was challenging, I hope that this January gives you another that is easier and sweeter and feels more like home. 

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