Youth Review: 19-20

I pondered changing my mind and stopping my youth reviews… this time because I’ve realised that my blog covers almost everything in this year onwards…

… but I feel like I should go on. I’ve come this far, and it will just work out so well that in theory, barring disaster or delay, I’ll be writing my review of my 21st year on my 21st birthday.

Last time, we finished at my 19th birthday in rather tedious year spent working in a card shop. The beauty of things now was the fact that I was about to go on holiday, for the first time in a very long time. I have failed to mention all the holidays I’ve been on in these reviews, not because I didn’t enjoy them, but mainly because the memories of them have just not been that vivid. I had only been abroad twice in my life, once to Spain when I was 7, and once to Portugal when I was 8. So I was really looking forward to this one. And to make it even more of an adventure, I was going to be travelling by coach.

This is probably most people’s idea of a nightmare. 36 hours driving. Driving and more driving. And trying to sleep while the coach is driving. Yet, I love travelling, and to go by coach would be such a different experience. And how cool would it be to stop in service stations along the way in all different countries.

In truth, the actual journey was not far from my expectations. It was uncomfortable trying to sleep on the coach, but it was made up for it by being able to take a stroll around a massive BP service station in Belgium at 4am. Then there were the fantastic electrical storms as we were driving through the night. So there was a real sense of achievement and anticipation by the time we finally pulled up in glorious sunshine and shocking warmth high in the Austrian Tyrol, a beautiful town called Mayrhofen. It was such a different place to anywhere I’d been on holiday before. I’d nagged to go somewhere different from the usual beach holidays… and so where better to go than a landlocked country!

I knew it was going to be a good holiday. We only had 10 days there, as the other four days making it two weeks were going to be spent travelling. So it was going to have to spent well. There was plenty to see, of course…

Not a day was wasted. Hikes in the mountains, rides on breathtakingly high cable cars, and visits to many cool villages and towns, finishing on the final night with a barbeque at the hotel, where I sang and played guitar for all the staff and other holidaymakers. I got a great reception, so much so that the tour reps were telling me I should apply for one of the jobs out there next year as I’m the kind of person they employ to entertain everyone. Gave me something to think about…

But life back at home was waiting. I worked the final few weeks in my job, and took great pleasure in saying goodbye to my evil manager for one final time.

It was now late August. I knew I was going to university, but I still hadn’t really accepted it. My mum had been buying things for weeks, which she said I was going to take with me. But I didn’t want to think about it. So the phone rang, to make me…

It was the university’s accomodation office, telling me that they had passed my file over to their leasing department, who rent out houses on behalf of the private sector. It would be just like living in university property, I was assured. And it would be cheaper. OK… I was just pleased with the fact that I wasn’t going to have to live in the halls of residence. I was hoping to get one of the University of Hull’s student houses… as I didn’t fancy living with hundreds of students. I wanted to live with just five or six, who I could get to know well. So that part of my wish had come true, or so it seemed.

I blinked, and it was September 11th, 2004 – the day of my departure from my home. The place I currently lived in was my real home, despite the fact that I had not yet spent more years in it than I had in the other house that I moved from when I was 11. It was the place where I’d grown up, the base from which I became a Real Person. Now, all of a sudden, I was going to be leaving it.

It came as such a shock to me because of the fact that I’d been living in denial, and then semi-denial right up until the night before. It was only then that I realised just exactly what I had thrown myself into. I was going to be living on my own. No more family interaction. No more shoving responsibility onto someone else for those unwashed dishes. No more chucking clothes into a pile for someone else to wash them. It was now going to be all me, me, me.

So it was not surprising that there were enormous amounts of tears shed as I said my goodbyes to my brothers, sisters, nephew and the rest of my family. I was going away from them for an enormous length of time. Yet, for some reason, I was totally exaggerating the situation. Of course, being away from them for a few months was much longer than ever before. But for some reason I was acting as if I’d never see them again. It was probably just the shock of the disconnection. I’d always been a big fan of home sweet home…

So me, my mum and dad, and lots of my stuff, drove down the motorway, destined for Hull. A place I didn’t really know apart from the university. I literally had no idea whatsoever what was going to be there. Every tune that came out of the radio seemed to set me off connecting it to some event at home, making me utterly homesick, and start crying again. I thought I was bad, but my mum in the back was much worse…

Not a journey I’d like to repeat again. It felt utterly symbolic – a metaphor of life. Mum and dad had helped me pack my bags, and they’d drove me to my destination. Then it was going to be up to me what moves I made next. They had to cut the ties at some point, let me stand on my own two feet.

I arrived at my new house. I met my new housemates: a tall oaf, and a small, surprisingly stupid fool. I knew I wouldn’t like them, but I made the claim on the best room of the house, and set about unpacking the stuff from the car. I couldn’t resist a tear, and again, neither could my mum. It was just an awful feeling that I was preparing the room I was going to be spending my next year of life in. It was better than my old bedroom, as I’d only ever lived in a really small room that, literally, was a room with a bed in and no more. It was pretty neat to have room to actually swing a cat in.

But the parents had to go in the end. They left at about 7pm, having spent all the day with me. My new housemates had earlier asked me to go out with them, but I point blank refused. I was too tired, and I had no interest in going out with total strangers. So when my parents left, the house was empty. It was bad enough watching them leave, with such a horrendously long departure, punctuated with hugs and tears… but then to go back into the house, shut the door and be all on my own… that was bad.

For the first time in my life, no one to talk to. No one to listen to. Just me, to make my own entertainment, and make my own future. Not even a telly to watch. No internet to go on, as there was no phone line. No radio. So I had to get my computer on and listen to some music.

I put depressing music on, and you can’t get any more morose than Everybody Hurts by REM. By the time the song had finished, I was simply wondering what on Earth I was doing here. Last night I had been safe in my own bed. Now I’m in the middle of bloody nowhere, left to fend for myself. The abrupt change was disturbing…

So I kept the mood of change going by putting on some music. My sister had bought be Franz Ferdinand’s album as a going away present. Now that changed the mood. What a cracking album. And I had so little else to do. Oh, apart from read the newspaper my dad had bought. The Independent, September 11th 2004, with its lead story from Robert Fisk about how we shouldn’t have allowed the events of 9/11 to change our world. I read the paper for the rest of the night, which gave me something to do, and was a useful distraction from my thoughts. I have kept this newspaper for posterity…

My mobile phone rang, and it was my mum, who had arrived home. It was not a good idea for her to ring, as it was a traumatic experiece. She seemed very worried, but there was nothing she could do. I wonder how she felt. I later received another call from an aunty of mine who I’d never spoken to on the phone before… but it seemed to put me at my ease that people cared, and I was going to have do them proud.

So I went to bed. They would be proud of that.

I was rudely awoken during the night to the return of my house”mates”, who called me a twat on several occasions for daring to not go out with them. They were drunk of course, and had brought back take aways, which were just thrown all over the living room, as I discovered to my horror the next morning.

Sunday morning couldn’t come too soon, and it was a horrendous thought that my life here had now begun, and I was going to be sharing it with a pair of fuckwits. The house still had three empty rooms, and I had no choice but to hope that better people would move in to make the misery go away.

I can’t even remember what I did on the Sunday, but I know it didn’t involve the morons. I was just waiting for the next week to begin so I could meet other people on my course and in my department. I wanted to craft a social life that didn’t involve the pillocks in my house. That was very important to me. It would be the only way I could settle down to some degree. Pun intended.

So my new life did not get off in the way I’d hoped it would. It was, to put it mildly, disasterous. My housemates were horrible pigs, making a mess everywhere they went, and worse were constantly nagging me to go out to them to the various events in Freshers week. I had no interest in spending a fortune at events I wouldn’t enjoy. Things were not going too badly in the various introductory meetings I’d been having with my tutors and fellow students on my course. I had a feeling I’d be able to get on with most of them, which gave me some reassurance that things couldn’t get much worse.

But by Thursday, I’d had enough. After one utterly tedious three hour session in which I was told about “study skills”, which was a coded phrase for a rant against the “lower classes” by one of the senior lecturers, and then being told that attendance was expected at the same session tomorrow morning, I wanted to get out. Freshers week had been an utter waste of time. I wanted to get cracking with the real work, but instead I was being forced to wait, and suffer the continual partying of the dickheads who were called my housemates. Worse was the fact that one of my housemates had effectively moved in his girlfriend, after she had decided that she didn’t like the house she was living in. So she was going to be living with us. Great.

I went home. I got on the National Express, and went home. I didn’t care about the cost, or how stupid it would look that I’d be back home after all those tears were shed the previous Saturday. I just wanted to be home so I could prepare all over again. I wanted to start again, after the false start of the last week. I would then be ready to face them all over again, now with new realistic expectations of what I’d encounter over the next year. I envisaged a battle ahead…

It was strange to be back home… I couldn’t dare get settled down again. I just had to wait until I could go back. And it was soon back around.

There was, however, a pleasant surprise when I returned. Two new housemates. Better still, they were definitely going to be people I would get on with. In a bizarre twist of fate, one of them was on the exact same course as me. They were both clearly much more sensible than the muppets who were already here, and they made me realise things were going to improve. I don’t know whether my first judgements are spot on, or if it’s the other way round, I make a decision based on my prejudices and stick to it to make it work… but whatever, I started to make my first real friends of the academic year.

Then, suddenly, as is the norm in life… things took off. The academic year began properly, and I suddenly had a whole new way of working to adapt to. University is obviously very different from anything else in the educational world, and it’s a sign of the failure to prepare students for it that so many drop out, find it difficult, or resort to plagiarism. It is strange to go from almost no private study with A-Levels, apart from homework, to 90% reading, writing and preparing for tutorials, lectures and seminars in my own time. To have just 6 hours of proper time in university seemed like complete and utter freedom. Of course, I soon realised that I had to make up for it, and I adapted well, but I’m sure the same isn’t the case for everyone.

Then there was the fact that I realised that I had been looking after myself for weeks now… and hadn’t really missed home. In fact, I was starting to enjoy my brand new independence. After all those years at home, and now I had become entirely self-sufficient in just a few days.

Meanwhile, the idiotic housemates had not made such a transition. They seemed to expect their mum to be there clearing up their rubbish. The tension rose, and it was now blindingly obvious to me that I could not possibly get along with these people. However, circumstances which involved the two evil housemates actually brought along two further people who I would later become friends with. So, in a way, I have something to thank the morons for. How odd…

So I now had four very good friends, and several others in my modules. I felt very comfortable now, and soon I was wondering what I was worrying about. That us, until one of my tutors had a go at my whole group for a bunch of bad essay marks. In truth, my mark of 60%, a borderline 2:1, was nothing to get excited about, but I didn’t deserve to listen to the criticism when it wasn’t aimed at me. That kind of gave me the impression that others were struggling somewhat, and shortly after a few of them dropped out the course altogether.

Essays went, and exams soon arrived. I had no idea what to expect, and when I look back at the preparation I did, it was woefully inadequate. Once again, another symptom of the difficult transition to university life. The exams were scary, but as there were only two, they were soon over, and it was Christmas yet again.

Christmas – good. Family – good. But life – not good. Although I took the decision to go to university to expand my life, I didn’t really understand that I was trying to solve the question in my head about what to do with my life beyond that… without even thinking about it. Yet suddenly, over that Christmas, in one of my numerous depressive cycles, I decided I had to write about it. To put all the thoughts in my head down to paper. I had been reading other people’s blogs on the internet for a couple of years, but now I decided to use the technology to my advantage. It wouldn’t really be a blog… it would be more like a journal… my journey through adulthood. And it would be for me. As I’ve said before, I don’t really care if no one else reads this, as it’s not really for others. It’s so I know what I’m doing and what I’m planning to do, and to see how I’ve changed in thought processes.

So I wrote Me: Chapter II… a post which still surprises me every time I read it. In effect, it is now an incredibly brief summary of all my Youth Reviews, but the surprise comes from the fact that it is a powerful expression of my thoughts on how I’d, rather inadvertantly, started a new life, and finally had the chance to express my individuality, something nurtured and learned over 19 years, in my own way.

From that point on, most of the important bits, and the more trivial, have been documented in this blog. This makes things a little easier. It’s also beautiful in that it details hundreds of things that the chances are I would have totally forgotten. This is rather neat.

This also makes things quite easy. I’m not going to repeat what’s already there, but give an overview of life from then on…

2005 was a welcome arrival. But the return to Hull was not. Things were now particularly bad in my house, with numerous confrontations with the Evil housemate, a number of which are detailed in the blog. This put me in a very depressed state of mind, and January was a particularly difficult time. Once more I was wondering what on Earth all this was for.

The lead up to Easter was no better. The tensions in the house were now extraordinarily high, to the point that I wouldn’t go anywhere near the Ugly one. It was just so much simpler to co-ordinate my life around avoiding him. Yet, this had become extremely difficult due to the fact that he didn’t go into lectures any more. It was really affecting my mental state, so it was important that the other two housemates who were my friends had solidarity with me. If they had been just as bad, I would have had to leave. I had a late night talking to one of my housemates about the stress the whole situation was causing me… and at that point I had given it only a few more weeks before I would have to take action and leave if things got worse.

It was in early March when I took the decision to apply to go to summer camp in the USA. I had thought about it the year before, but my mum wouldn’t let me go. This year, she’d almost have no choice. Thankfully, it came with her blessing this time. I suspect I would have applied anyway, but it was made much easier to have backing, and also crucial lifts to the airport! This was something I had no actual idea what I was going to end up doing. Plus, it was my first real thoughts that maybe I’d enjoy a career working with kids. Given that I had no previous experience of doing so, I had to fill the form up with references to my brothers and sisters. But I felt confident, and after the interview, the good news came through that I had been selected…

Essays were in my mind during Easter, and exams came shortly after. Suddenly the academic year was over. Better still, the Evil/Ugly Housemate had left earlier than that, leading to many celebrations and a huge lifting of the pressure in my head. It was only from that point on that I could start to enjoy university. Chalk it all down to experience I guess, but I feel that it was such a waste to not be able to enjoy my first year of uni, the only one that doesn’t count towards the final degree classification and so the pressure is not that serious.

May soon ended, and I was jetting off to the USA at the beginning of June. As experiences of life go, this was one of the most unusual I’d ever encountered. The transatlantic flight was an experience in itself, and the realisation of the US culture being slightly more different from British culture than I expected was a very interesting observation.

When I look back I’m totally amazed at my ability to adapt. No sooner had I arrived in the US, I had discovered exactly what my job in the summer camp would entail: singing, entertaining, playing games, making up games, supervising, organising, and many more… and I had done almost none of this before. Yet, I did it all, and did it pretty well. I loved every minute of it, probably much more than the US staff. I was notorious for not taking my nights off, and spending my day off in the camp still with the kids, because I loved it that much. I wanted to get every minute out of it as I could; it just didn’t feel like work to me. Meanwhile, the US staff couldn’t wait to get out of there as soon as their free time began.

My year came to a rather unusual end. I was about to turn 20, and yet couldn’t really care about it. Age had become irrelevant out there. Yet I had spent all of my year worrying about the fact that I was about to finish my teenagehood. This was originally quite a depressing thought, but in the end I came to accept it. Plus, this would be my first ever birthday away from home. No party, no celebration… just one phone call home, at my expense!

20. Another year over, and in rather more unusual circumstances than any other. I had always been a free thinker, but now I had finally become a free individual. The break in my life to go to university, when I look back now, was very difficult, but totally necessary. It was, at last, the culmination of my youth, to finally break away and to live for myself. It was hard to accept, but only because it was a step into the unknown. But I was finally ready for it… even if I didn’t realise it. I wouldn’t have been able to adapt so well to it otherwise.

I looked ahead. Would another year really matter to me? Could anything else possibly change with my life, now I could finally think of myself as a free adult? Did I still have some “growing up” to do? Only time, as it so always does, would tell…

Leave a comment


  1. These reviews will be great to look back on in years to come; they must have taken a while..!

  2. They take upwards of two hours, and I’ve surprised myself that I’ve actually been able to keep posting them. Only got one left now as well, plus a couple of other tricks up my sleeve…

    It’s been an interesting delve into the memory though. I keep remembering things and thinking “why didn’t I write about that” so I guess it’s always going to be a little biased in favour of those memorable events, which are not necessarily the most important. So many things happen that seem to be very small and yet are way more important than other details. Weird how the brain works…

  1. A Passport Is Important | A Grown Up Now. In Theory.

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