To the student lost or lonely, I say hang in there. Be patient and be calm. Uni’s a strange place: people everywhere – most of them your age – yet you can struggle to make friends, form alliances or connect on any lasting level with the thousands of people swirling about you.
Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.
Looking back on my own time as an under-graduate, I think of that saying ‘life is elsewhere’.
That’s how it felt to me: that everyone knew something I didn’t – or someone I didn’t – and were busier than me, happily engaged in being a student or being social.
I found that difficult and occasionally embarrassing: I was the earnest one at the party; the one forever waiting for life to reveal its meaning; for contradictions to die; for the inner chaos to quell and call forward some new and vital way. But that rarely happened. So on I went, as best I could.
Yet the time wasn’t wasted and neither is yours. You’re a student and that buys you time. Use it.
Find an author you like and then find the books that influenced him or her. Read them, too.
Go to a gallery. Any gallery. Of all the paintings on the wall, which speak most directly to your deepest sense of self? Ask to meet the artist. Which artists influenced him or her? Find their work, too.
If you hear a busker whose music moves you, talk to the busker. What music influenced him or her? Buy those albums. And buy the busker a beer. What do you have to lose?
That’s how you get your education: bit-by-bit; piece-by-piece; day-by-day.
Years after leaving uni, the heat’s gone out of any painful memories of feeling lost or wandering lonely.
These days, I am grateful that I had that time to live beneath the radar, free from too many obligations, threading together some sort of identity in this poor and magical, curious world.
I reckon one day you might feel the same. Meanwhile, be trusting and go well.
First published in Platform magazine, Victoria University, November 2008
Image: Wandering; Paul Bateman, 1991