New Year, Same You

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Before I left home last summer, I had this whole idea in my head that I was going to completely reinvent myself at University. I felt like I had a blank slate in front of me where I could create a new identity amongst all new people who knew nothing about me. I was going to become the outgoing, loud, confident, popular person that I envisioned thriving at University.

Like many of the best-laid plans, however – it didn’t quite pan out like that. I’ve learnt a lot of life-lessons since nervously rolling up to Leodis last September. Bribing your new flatmates to like the *new* you, with packets of Tunnock’s Teacakes probably isn’t the best way to make friends. You can’t just completely change who you are. It doesn’t matter how much you think you want to or how perfect the opportunity might seem — it just doesn’t work like that.

You can mature and adapt and grow as a person absolutely, but you can’t completely reinvent yourself and start over.

Something else that the many ups and downs of first-year taught me is that that’s ok. It took a bit longer than a bunch of random society meetings (who knew joining 6 sports clubs isn’t feasible) and poorly chosen Fresher’s nights out (don’t worry, nearly everyone’s fallen for the promising advertising of the neon rave) to come to terms with. But now it’s probably one of the most important things I’ll take away from my time here. Sure, I’m still a bit of an insecure whirlwind of chaos, a lot of the time. But I’m also *mostly* ok with that.

I do admire people that can go up to anyone at a crowded flat pres and start a conversation. Or those who can be comfortable contributing to a group of more than five people. That’s awesome. But, it’s equally awesome to be a little bit quieter. To want just to sit back and listen sometimes and to value having a couple of close friends over hundreds as well.

We’re all different; there isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution for happiness that works perfectly for everyone. As clichéd as it might sound, my time at Leeds so far has taught me that it’s better to be who you actually are and not who you think you’re expected to be.

I’m still not the super outgoing, loud, confident person that I wanted myself to become before I came here. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a first-year that was life-changing and worthwhile for me in so many different ways. You should never let yourself be limited in the way that I nearly was, thinking I wasn’t the ‘stereotypical’ Leeds student who would do well in such a vibrant environment. I’m not that stereotype. I’ll probably never be that stereotype. But that’s ok; I didn’t need to be. Because if University’s about finding your ‘people’ and your ‘tribe’, then it’s about finding the people that will like you – all of you – as you are right now – not the ‘new and improved’ tailor-made-to-please version.

So, put down the Teacakes and let people like you for you!

Isabel Ralphs