It is more than anyone will ever tell you it is. They tell you it is hard work, when in reality it is more difficult than you can imagine and at times so stressful giving up is more tempting than pressing a big red button that has danger written all over it. Therefore they tell you that you will need to be determined when actually you need to be willing to get up after falling down for what feels like the one hundredth time in just one day. They tell you that you will learn a lot when in reality you learn so much you feel as if your brain might explode. They tell you it will surprise you. University will be nothing you expect it to be, but everything you need it to be. Strangers quickly become friends for life and things you’d never have dared to do become the things you do on a daily basis. They tell you that you have to love your subject. In that particular case they are right. They tell you they’ll be the best years of your life and while you face all the challenges and trip on all the hurdles you might begin to doubt them. Except, when you sit down, look back through the photos, remember the good times and look at the person you’re becoming, you realise it’s all worth it. Studying at degree level is worth it, worth all of it.
As I wrote my dissertation I fell gradually in love with India’s dynamic history and with the story of Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar. Dip in and out if you please. Read as much or as little as you want. My only hope is that I can draw at least a little attention towards Ambedkar; a man whose story should serve as inspiration to all of us.
Note: For the purpose of this dissertation I wrote in the past tense, but many people living in India today, still live as untouchables and are still limited by their caste, a caste they are born into and did not choose. Ambedkar’s movement was a beginning, but the story is still far from ending.
I am no expert, but I think I’ve been suffering from a serious case of the infamous winter blues.
January and February, through no real fault of their own, have very bad reputations. January signifies the end of the holiday season and our return to every day life. It is as we struggle through January’s wind and rain that we begin to realise just how far away the summer really is. February is infamous because by February most of us notice we’ve already failed the New Year Resolutions we were determined to keep. It always tends to be a struggle for us single folk, no matter how much we claim we love the single life and completely oppose Valentine’s Day.
As someone who has always been just as fond of the winter as the summer, normally I wouldn’t sympathise. (Snow, wooly jumpers, wellington boots, yummy Christmas leftovers, what’s to complain about?) This year, for the first time, I understand. Since coming back to Cardiff I’ve spent an unjustifiable amount of time in my onesie, drinking wine, eating chocolate and ice cream, cuddling my hot water bottle, watching TV in bed, singing love ballads and wishing I were Bridget Jones. I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time complaining about slow internet connectivity, my lack of boyfriend, the cold, the wind, the rain, and my subsequent lack of determination.
Then last Friday, Cardiff woke up to sunshine. Me and my flatmate spent the day making the most of it. Sat on a bench, eating hot cross buns in the sun, I found myself smiling hugely. When we left the pub after getting cocktails that evening and it was raining again, I didn’t even grumble. I walked home alongside her, sharing her umbrella and singing songs from various musicals. It failed to bother me when it rained Saturday night because I was babysitting in a warm house, on a sofa, curled up with a cat, a cup of tea and two lovely children who introduced me to the infuriating world of Flappy Bird. When it was raining on Sunday, I was in the library, feeling abnormally determined and powering through reading for the history seminars of the week.
I am sure that days like today can be blamed for winter blues Wales-wide. To say that the walk into the university was difficult would be an understatement: Gale force winds pushed me forwards, backwards, sideways and very nearly straight into someone’s dustbin. BUT, university today was well worth the journey. I went to two and a half hours of music lectures which were probably the most interesting lectures I’ve been to since coming to Cardiff. In the afternoon I had a meeting with my history lecturer, who in just half an hour, managed to make me feel like I could conquer the world. I couldn’t tell you what it was he said that gave me so much enthusiasm, but I left his office wanting to run home, boil the kettle, make tea and immediately start writing my essay.
Now, I’m sat smiling hugely and wondering what on earth I had to moan about. I’m not really sure where this determination came from… exposure to sunlight, introduction to Flappy Birds? How ever it got here I hope it stays. As for the winter blues, no matter how much rain I have to power through this week, I hope I’ve seen the back of them.
One minute I’m ridiculously excited over a quote from a book on an interesting historical topic or I’m so engrossed in writing the opinionated conclusion to my essay that I forget it isn’t cool to be caught enjoying coursework. The next minute I’m stood in my room singing Mozart’s Agnus Dei, loving it and deciding that singing is what I want to do for the rest of my life.
Since the age of 5 I’ve been telling people I want to be an author or as I get older, a journalist: Younger Bronwen stapled pieces of A5 paper together, designed front covers in felt-tip and crayon and then wrote numerous ‘Chapter Ones’ for what she planned would be hugely successful novels. She bought note pads and then ripped out half the pages just because she decided the story she’d written inside wasn’t worthy of publishing.
When I discovered singing at the age of 9 suddenly, that was all I wanted to do. One performance on stage turned into two, which turned into three and before I knew it I was addicted. Performing on stage isn’t comparable to anything else I’ve done or I think, anything I will ever do. Nothing annoys me more than a frog in my throat or a cold that stops me singing. Nothing clears my head more than an hour spent at the piano singing and playing until I forget what on Earth I had to escape from in the first place. Or of course a few minutes in the spotlight scared out of my socks, but up on cloud nine.
My first meeting with my tutor this year ended with a discussion about the future; about what I planned to do when I left University and ventured out into the big wide world. I could go on to study Journalism; review musical concerts, lead political debates, write agony aunt columns. I could study Post Graduate Music at a conservatoire in the hope of becoming a professional performer. I realised just how hard the decision is going to be. For one thing I still go through days when both singing and writing are stressing me out so much that I don’t want to face either of them. Who knows? Maybe I’ll decide I want to do something completely different.
All I know is, it’s time for breakfast and I need food for thought. Hot Cross Buns it is.