Beginnings and Endings

This time of year always feels like a time for fresh starts. The weather is becoming colder and the air crisper, holidays are over and it’s time to get back to the everyday routine of life. It’s time for a new academic year; new notebooks, new pens, and a new intention to study hard and create healthy routines after the slow summer months.

The first year of university is a particularly notable fresh start. Everything from home is packed up and you’re starting a new phase of life. It’s something that you’ve been building up to for years – you’ve worked so hard and achieved so much to get there. It’s an exciting whirlwind of new faces, new subjects, perhaps new hobbies, a new home. You have new freedom, new responsibilities. It’s exciting!

But often it brings with it a sense of sadness as well. You might be having the best time; making new friends, joining societies, enjoying uni life. And if that’s the case, it can be difficult to accept that there might still be elements of homesickness, of feeling overwhelmed, or of just wishing you had a few familiar home comforts. It’s a strange feeling to know you’ve moved on to something good, something you’ve worked hard for, and still feel sadness for the people and places you’ve left behind.

In my first few weeks at uni, I was having the time of my life; but every time I saw the phone ring from my parents, I’d feel a wave of sadness and long after my mum’s cooking and watching TV on the sofa on a Sunday afternoon. What it took me a while to realise was that with every new beginning comes an ending of whatever went before. And as good as the new thing is, there’s still space for sadness and even grief for the places and the patterns you’re leaving behind. We are complex people, and feeling a whole range of emotions at once is par for the course of being human.

It’s important to accept the negative with the positive, and to mark the end of one thing as well as the beginning of the new. I found the rituals of saying goodbye to my home difficult, and often tried to brush over the fact that I was leaving, but it really helped to have moments that marked the transition and to recognise that moving on might be hard as well as brilliant. It helped when I allowed myself to slow down and recognise that I was struggling, and to talk to people about the lows as well as the highs.

What I’ve learned from that experience is that whether you’re moving homes, moving jobs, or starting any new phase of life, it’s important to give yourself permission to enjoy the highlights as well as experience the low times as and when they happen, and above all to give yourself time and space to adjust without putting pressure on yourself, knowing you are accepted and loved through it all.

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