Why I Nearly Dropped Out of My Dream University and How I Rediscovered My Self-Belief

 

I feel as though this post should come with a bit of a warning. It’s about 90% word dump and 10% structure. I’m not really sure what the topic is, or what the theme is, or what I hope to achieve with writing it other than sharing a little more of my story with you. I began to write about my recently renewed sense of self-belief and confidence in my own future but it prompted me to reflect on what caused me to lose it in the first place.

 

 

 

Recently something is happening, and it feels a little bit strange. I’ve started to believe in myself. Really, truly have faith in my own abilities and in the talents that make me special ~ because we are all special. For a while now I’ve felt a little bit at a loss, unsure of what it is that I actually want to do with my life or why I really even need to choose. Once upon a time I was a very confident little girl with big plans. They weren’t dreams, that implies there was something fantasy about then. I was going to ‘be’ anything I wanted to be. An actress, an author, a lawyer. Then I grew up and the older I got the more I started to doubt myself, to size up the competition in a way that made me feel three inches tall. It was more than just a fear of the process though, I knew deep down it wasn’t really the path I wanted to tread but that’s difficult to say aloud when you’re already half way down the road.

Being creative and academic is both a gift and a curse. I’m not going to sit here and whine about being multi-talented (because I am, and I am not afraid to own that any more) but sometimes I have thought about about how much simpler life may be if I wasn’t expected to be such a higher achiever. I know, boo hoo. I was – and am – incredibly lucky because I come from a family who I know would support me whether I chose to be a rocket scientist, or an artist, or a stay at home mum. That’s because each of those roles have their equal importance in the world and getting higher grades does not make anyone more entitled or more worthy. It does, however, open a lot of doors. And sometimes when there are lots of doors open you don’t quite know which to shut and which to leap through.

 

 

 

A sense of uncertainty about my own future probably began when I was 17 or 18. I was at a point in my life where everyone began asking what exactly it was I was planning on doing with it. Simultaneously, I was struggling with being bullied (more on that later) and with my earliest experiences of depression and anxiety (and that – it’s all fun and games over here!). Which came first, I don’t know.

By around the age of 15 I’d decided that I was going to be a barrister and I chose my A-Levels accordingly, spending my summer holidays shadowing Silks. I’d applied to read English with a view to taking a conversion course later because that’s what some guy in a wig earning a lot of money had told me to do. I wrote a witty personal statement comparing 50 Shades to the Marquis de Sade and interviewed at a Cambridge but even then something didn’t feel totally right about it all. Eventually I accepted a place at Bristol but didn’t quite make the cut come results day – missing my offer was a blessing in disguise.

I moved to London, which is where I had always intended to settle, and got a – albeit very mundane – job. I reapplied to the LSE to study Law and Anthropology and was genuinely elated when I got an unconditional offer and an academic scholarship. I had all these ideas about how university would be the best years of my life where I would make a group of forever friends and head into a sparkling career. Honestly, I hated it from day 1. After working fifty hours a week I struggled with the lack of structure and I missed having a salary rather than a student loan. I’d always been somewhere at the top of my class and then suddenly I was surrounded by thousands of incredibly intelligent people and I felt a bit like I’d been put among them by accident. My whole life I’d been racking up academic accolades and yet my own self-worth plummeted – if I’m not the ‘clever one’, then who am I? By the time November crept round I was on a strong dose of Prozac and barely meeting the bare minimum attendance.

I don’t blame that all on uni – my body has never particularly liked Winter, as other SAD sufferers will understand – but I do think the complete sense of loss and hopelessness I felt partly came from feeling as though I’d made a big fat mistake. I realised that I was clinging on to a plan that 15 year old Beth had conjured up whilst feeling like a totally different person and I was embarrassed to admit that I’d got it all wrong and actually I had no idea what I wanted to do. It also felt too late to change my mind, and to an extent it was. I knew that I was really missing creativity from my life – art is something I always go to when I’m feeling low – and I got as far as being invited to interview at Central Saint Martins before I realised I’d have to stick it out at LSE. Dropping out would have meant at least £8K of debt after the first term alone and I still didn’t really know what I wanted to do anyway.

I persevered and whilst I will never look back on my first year with any sense of fondness I am proud that I saw it through – the good grades I somehow achieved were just a bonus. Come second year, I made promises to myself that I’d make the most of it and learn to love it but they were fairly empty ones. At the end of the first term of second year I started my blog and it was only then that I really felt motivated to get up in the morning. At university I felt incredibly lonely and as though I didn’t fit in, but I’d found an online community where I could connect with people who seemed to ‘get’ me, and have since become offline friends.

 

 

 

I owe a lot to this little site – and to all of you who read it – because it’s where I finally felt like I had a place and a clear purpose. I could cope with uni because I had something much better to distract myself with. I let vac schemes and training contract deadlines slip past and although I felt a sense of panic this Summer when the Facebook updates from my cohort began to roll in detailing the graduate positions they’d secured, it only pushed me harder.

I’m only a few weeks away from beginning my final year and although I’m under no pretence that it’s all going to be sunshine and rainbows I do feel as though I’ve got a sense of strength that I couldn’t find before.

I don’t quite know where I will end up but I feel at peace with that now – choosing wonder over fear. I feel fulfilled by the level of creativity in my life, but also by the tasks that keep my brain wired at a million miles an hour on a day to day basis. I’ve began to set my alarm earlier and earlier because I want to get up in the morning. I get to be my own accountant, my own lawyer, my own editor and fundamentally my own boss. I feel a real sense of calm at knowing that deep down I have the confidence to run with the endless possibilities and do what makes my soul happy. I’ve started to say to myself ‘Actually, I can. And I will.’ and this time I believe it too.

 

 

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20 Comments

  1. August 29, 2017 / 10:24 pm

    Yaas, you can and you WILL! So glad you’re in a better place now, sounds like a rollercoaster. I totally get what you mean about the academic/creative thing and not knowing whether you’ve made the right decision etcetc. I just graduated and now I’m about to start the GDL but I’m still thinking about all the other things I wanted to spend my life doing like publishing, writing, marketing, social media & more (basically anything and everything else lol). Haven’t found my sense of peace yet but your post has inspired me to try find it sooner rather than later! Hope your last year goes well, I know you’ll smash your final year!

    • Beth Sandland
      August 30, 2017 / 9:42 am

      Thanks for your lovely comment Laura. It sounds like you’re smashing it anyway but definitely just do whatever it is that makes you happy! I think that’s the tough thing when you’ve got lots of options is working out which is right for you. x

  2. August 29, 2017 / 10:39 pm

    Beth you’ve written that perfectly! I felt so similar when I started uni, the lack of routine and everyone else’s intelligence really did intimidate me. But I’m so happy you stuck at it! Good luck in your final year! ❤️

    • Beth Sandland
      August 30, 2017 / 9:43 am

      Thanks Kirby. So glad it resonated! xx

  3. Becca Witchell
    August 30, 2017 / 1:39 pm

    Just want to let you know this post really inspired me as I have struggled a bit with being lonely at university. Also it’s so nice to see your blog growing and maturing with every post, well done xx

    • Beth Sandland
      August 30, 2017 / 8:36 pm

      I hope you’re okay Becca. It can be really tough – make sure you talk about it. 💛 xx

  4. August 30, 2017 / 2:05 pm

    Such a beautifully written post Beth! It’s like you’ve gone inside my head & summed up exactly how I’ve felt in the past. So proud of you & can’t wait to see what your final year holds for you. The world is your oyster – this really is just the beginning for you! xxx

    • Beth Sandland
      August 30, 2017 / 8:39 pm

      Thanks Chels. ❤️ This is such a lovely message xxx

  5. August 31, 2017 / 4:54 pm

    Go on gal!! I just graduated in July, and had countless moments where I wanted to drop out! Honestly it’s so so worth it in the end and it’ll fly by 🙂 x
    http://www.cocoamay.co.uk

    • Beth Sandland
      September 1, 2017 / 9:16 am

      Congratulations Catherine 🙌🏼 thanks so much lovely x

  6. August 31, 2017 / 9:07 pm

    Seriously good post and you look absolutely gorgeous! Banging outfit babe xxxx

  7. August 31, 2017 / 11:36 pm

    This is such a wonderfully honest post Beth, I couldn’t agree more with the message of it that it’s OK to not want to know exactly what you want to do. Especially being at LSE I feel like so many people there have their lives planned out from day 1 which stressed me out as well. And I know what you mean about being both academic and creative and struggling to decide on a career path because there’s so many doors that are open – I am the same! Sometimes I still get people who are shocked that I want to go into fashion journalism as I’ve had such an academic background but I think at the end of the day the most important thing is to follow what you’re most passionate about and then your dream career will be right in front of you. Xxxx

    • Beth Sandland
      September 1, 2017 / 9:17 am

      Thanks Nina. Definitely! I’m a big advocate that everyone should just do what makes them happy. Sounds cheesy but we’ve only got one life, so why spend it being miserable? The best job is one that doesn’t feel like work and if for you that’s fashion then go for it! Xxx

  8. September 12, 2017 / 1:43 pm

    I’ve been stuck on your blog for at least the last hour. Love how open and honest and relatable your posts are xx

    • Beth Sandland
      September 12, 2017 / 2:48 pm

      This comment genuinely made my day Nia! So glad you’re enjoying it. Being honest/relatable is always my goal even just for the sake of the few who read it and think ‘yes! That’s me too!’ Xxx

  9. October 3, 2017 / 9:29 pm

    I loved this post a lot and it resonates a lot with me. I’ve never really settled on a career path myself, not have I really known where I’m going next, and recently I’ve been struggling with this. It was a really comforting thing to hear that someone else gets this feeling. You’ve worked so hard to get where you are and you should be really proud of that. Reading this post has given me a little bit of faith that in time, things will turn out OK. Thank you so much for sharing xx

    • Beth Sandland
      October 4, 2017 / 2:27 pm

      Thanks so much for your comment Charlotte. Things will ABSOLUTELY turn out okay – in fact I’m sure they’ll turn out to be fantastic. Just do what makes you happy xx

  10. October 3, 2017 / 10:15 pm

    Beth it was a fresh of fresh air to read your wonderfully honest post! I have been going through a similar place in my head after beginning university, worrying if I was going down the wrong path because I have really struggled with my first year. It really ate at my happiness and wellbeing but I am still desperate to achieve what I have dreamed of doing. I am just finding the university part very hard. I too feel like I don’t fit in very well and I blog too and I completely understand that lovely feeling of having the opportunity to communicate and make friendships with all the other lovely bloggers out there! I just want to say in a nut shell, I’m so glad that I’m not the only one! Thank you for the inspiring boost with this post lovely! You have given me the extra fuel to my strength to take on the challenges of uni ahead and get my flippin floppin degree I have dreamed of achieving! <3

    • Beth Sandland
      October 4, 2017 / 2:28 pm

      Thanks for your lovely comment Ellie! It can be really tough but just focus on balance and making time for the things that make you happy too. You’ll ACE that flippin flipping degree 👊🏼 x

  11. October 27, 2017 / 11:44 am

    This is such a lovely post. I can totally relate to starting Uni and feeling out of place because everyone there is just as good as you. it sounds obnoxious but when you’re used to things a certain way uni can be a huge change. A couple of months ago I started my MA at LCF and I’m absolutely loving it so far. I just hope when deadline season comes around I have the same confidence and self belief!

    Abigail Alice x

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