Cecilia writes about how she dealt with university life when her tee-totalism was causing her to be singled out
I knew university wasn’t going to be like the way it’s portrayed in the films.
You know, the Pitch Perfect, Legally Blonde situation where you get accepted for who you are, somehow get on Dean’s List without doing any work and end up kissing someone amazingly hot during the closing song. That’s not the way life works, I get that.
But if you had told me that university was going to be bleak and nasty as it was, I probably would have begged my parents not to make me go, and I would have joined a convent….in Tibet.
I knew that university was going to be particularly hard for me. I’ve always been slightly out of step, bullying being a constant chorus in the musical that is “The Life of Cecilia”. But I thought at university, at least that would stop - we’re all adults now, right? We might not like each other, but we wouldn’t treat each other badly…would we?
My main issue was the fact that, at 18 years old, I was a tee-total. I know, odd. But I had my reasons, personal ones that I don’t have to share with anyone. I had never drunk so much as a unit of alcohol before moving to university. I knew the five girls I was going to be moving in with would think that was very strange and might have some questions, but that would be it. Sure, we might not become BFFs, but I was fine with that. We just had to get along.
I hoped to hide in my boringness, my anonymity. I was the court jester of our flat, ridiculed and insulted. I was ostracised, treated like a second class citizen and made to feel like a prisoner who had committed some terrible offence. It wasn’t like the school bullying, I didn’t get to go home at the end of the day, curl up on my bed and watch ‘Friends’. I had to live with them as they whispered whenever I left a room. Eat with them while they side-eyed each other whenever I said anything. Go to lectures with them while they texted each other about me. All because of the type of liquid I chose not to put into my body, something that didn’t even affect them. Please understand, I had no problem with other people drinking, I wasn’t preaching in the slightest, it just wasn’t for me - the same way some people don’t eat meat or don’t smoke. So why was it such a bit deal? My only possible explanation was that humans hate what is different.
At university I was meant to be free, but I was trapped. I was meant to be living my life to the full, but I was just existing by this point.
The saddest part of it all wasn’t losing my friends. It was losing me. I started to believe all the things they thought about me, began to question all my basic beliefs and values. Began to hate the very person I was. That self-hatred led to a deep, dark pit depression and regret, something I told no one about. Even now, three years later, it’s really hard to admit, which I know it shouldn’t be.
So I moved out. I begged a room out of the university and with the help of a couple of amazing friends, slammed the door on that part of my life for good. It took a good while, years really, but I began to feel again. I eventually got help and went on anti-depressants and went to mental health classes. I surrounded myself with the people who I loved and loved me back, and things got easier.
Thing is, I know I started this by saying I knew life isn’t like films. But I have been accepted for who I am, I just had to find the right people. I have been on Dean’s List every year, I just had to do the work. Ending up with the perfect guy? A few mis-steps later, I’m still working on that, but that’s okay. Because I’m so happy now.
So my advice to lonely Fresher’s? Hang on in there. Stay strong. First it hurts, then it gets better, then it feels like freedom. Talk to someone, even an anonymous voice on the end of a helpline. Get fresh air. Eat. Go to your lectures. Find good people, don’t settle. Accept yourself. I got through, you can.
For more information on starting university, click here.