By Warsha Autar
Dear No one,
I’m just going to cut straight to the point: I did not like the last piece I wrote. It didn’t feel like a good enough story to end the year with. It just wasn’t the kind of column I wanted to leave you with. Then again, I did not know what kind of column or article I actually wanted to leave you with. The unnerving sense of unfinished business kept me up at night (okay maybe my ridiculously unhealthy sleep schedule played a part in this as well, but you know what I mean).
Then one night it hit me, I wanted to tell you all that I have learned in the past few months at Leiden. Since I recently turned 19, and I’m clearly running out of ideas, let’s be cliché and make it a list of 19 things I learned at 19 years old.
1. Nobody knows what the f*ck their doing: well, maybe a few people do. But, I can assure you that the majority of the people on campus are pretty clueless about what they want to do with their future. And that’s perfectly fine. Explore and experiment to find out whatever has your preference and use this knowledge to shape an idea of the kind of future you would want to have.
2. Forgive your past self for the mistakes they’ve made: Because their actions led you to be where you are today. Use the knowledge you gained from these experiences to move forward.
3. Wear what makes you happy: Many people tried their hardest to fit in. myself included. I used to brush out the curls out of fear of my peers would disapprove. It wasn’t until later that I realised how much I liked my curls and that this was the only thing that mattered.
4. Check which room and which building you’re in at least 15 minutes beforehand: sincerely the girl who had to run from Wynhaven to Schouwburgstraat and was 15 minutes late for a meeting with a tutor.
5. Nothing will go perfectly according to plan: Do you know the meme of the happy dog who is sitting in the house that is on fire? Well, sometimes life will feel that way. It can be overwhelming, but don’t let the unexpected twists, turns, and hurdles stop you from fighting for and eventually achieving your goals.
6. Keeping in touch is hard: You won’t be able to contact old friends from secondary school on a daily basis like you used to. Sometimes you’ll lose friends because of this. And that’s okay.
7. Don’t get discouraged if you fail: In case you do trip over one of life’s hurdles you should follow my friend’s advice, “just get up and knee it in the nut sack”.
8. Stop worrying about them and start studying: To paraphrase my mother “Romantic interests and friends come and go, but your diploma will never leave you.” Don’t get so caught up in your love or social life that you forget to study. Trust me, the hours you have to spend rewatching all the lectures are not worth it.
9. You won’t always get a proper ending: Sometimes, you won’t be able to properly say goodbye to people (romantic interests as well as friends). You’ll drift apart (e.g. point 6), they’ll shut you out of their life, or you’ll shut them out. This final state of your relationship is not ideal, but it’s human. Don’t worry, over time you’ll find closure with these unexpected endings of relationships.
10. Go to the lectures: I was lucky enough to have Anna Karisto as my student mentor. She was keen on encouraging us mentor kids to study hard and gave us chocolate during the stressful periods with deadlines. Her main advice was to go to the lectures, because it forces you to study the material earlier than the night before the exam. It really helped me get better grades. Thank you, Anna.
11. You won’t agree with everybody and vice versa: There are people in this course I will never agree with on political or philosophical topics and they will probably never understand me and my opinion. And that’s fine as long as we accept and tolerate each others opinions.
12. Love yourself first: Don’t force yourself to be in a relationship when you aren’t emotionally available. Please, take you time to heal from past hurt and personal issues before you commit to anything or anyone. Going into a relationship prematurely could end up doing more harm than good.
13. Be a decent cook: No matter who you are, we all need food to survive. So for the love of your bank account, stop spending money on MacDonalds and learn how to cook some damn pasta.
14. Make the first move: Tell the girl how you like her nose piercing. Ask that boy about the blue glitter on his cheek. Don’t be afraid to start a conversation with a stranger. Who knows, you might be meeting someone who’s going to be important to you one day.
15. Let go of toxic relationships: You are in no way obligated to maintain contact with people who aren’t treating you right. Cut them out of your life and start fresh. There are many kind people on campus who actually care about you. If you feel like you need professional help to cope with toxic relationships, don’t hesitate to contact the university psychologist.
16. Don’t be afraid to say no: You can’t always do everything at once, so if you feel like you can’t keep up with your life anymore, you need to slow things down by quitting some activities.
17. Try going to that party: No matter how busy it can be on campus, it’s easy to feel lonely and lost. I’ve heard this can be especially true for the international students. There are a lot of BASIS events where you can meet new people and make new friends. If you think you might need professional help to cope with these feelings of loneliness, don’t hesitate to contact the university psychologist.
18. When given the choice between an old flame and a new crush, pick the last one: If you truly loved the first person you wouldn’t have fallen for the second person at all. You’d just be settling with the first one out of habit, not out of love. (Also, before you rush into a relationship with the new crush, remember point 12.)
19. Orientalism is love, orientalism is life: Just kidding! The last bullet point actually is that laughing and joking around is important when facing life’s challenges. There’s nothing that lightens the mood like a smidge of dark humour. Use that laughter to keep things in perspective when things seem gloomy.
I feel like this year was all about introspection: learning how to enjoy our own company, growing into our own skin, starting to like who we are. Dear No one was a project I started to keep track of my findings during all of this. Thank you for learning and growing with me this past year. Have an amazing summer.