Moving to university is one of the biggest life changes most young adults go through – and whilst it may well be the best few years of your life so far, let nobody say it’s going to be easy. When I moved to Manchester from London – perhaps the smallest cultural shift between two cities that one could imagine – every constant presence I had come to rely on was suddenly thrown into flux. At the time, I could hardly see a foot ahead – but with a year of perspective, the one thing that I’ve taken from my experience is that there’s always more in the broken pieces than you might think.
Forever obsessed with lists, I started keeping a bank of Rules for Life in a little box in my brain that I draw on from time to time, constantly in edits thanks to the barrage of new experiences that university offers. They shift, they change, they evolve – but there are a few that have stuck around and proven themselves effective. I’ll be releasing them as and when they fully justify their place on my list. Here’s number one:
1. Never forget how good it is to know people. Recuperate, don’t isolate!
As an autistic individual, loneliness and isolation is a huge hurdle for me at the best of times – and perhaps ironically, I’m not alone in this. Social anxiety, withdrawal and crippling FOMO face all students; some suffer more and some less, but no one is immune. It can be easy to disengage and shrink away from social interaction when it triggers insecurities. Have you ever stepped into the kitchen to grab a snack and felt your stomach drop when you see your housemate, even if you get on well? Don’t worry, so has everyone else.
Whilst it’s important to take time for yourself, the further out you float, the harder it is to get back to land. Chilling out on your own can be wonderful for recharging your social batteries, but at the end of the day you are the product of thousands of years of social evolution: you need people. We all do.
Set yourself a baseline interaction and try your best to meet it. No brush with the outside world is too small; if you can’t drink in a bar, go for coffee. If you don’t want to go out, stay in and cook dinner with a housemate. If that takes too long, drink your morning cuppa in the common area and try to smile at someone. Message people online from your bed if need be.
If you can manage one of these (almost) every day, it will help. As annoying as people can be, you are designed to connect with them. Not all of them, sure – but if you can get by with one or two, it will give you a solid thread to the outside world that you can pull on. You’ll be thankful to have that in your back pocket when a rainy day hits.
I hope this has been helpful – check back soon to see number 2!