Voluntarily Out of Depth

This week marks the start of the second semester of my second year at uni – I’m officially half way through my degree!

The new semester means I’ve just started 3 new modules. And for two of them, I am completely out of my depth. I knew I would be, and that’s why I chose them. One of my modules isn’t even in either of my departments – I study English & History, but I was able to choose one in the Archaeology department for the history side of my degree.

I realised quite how out of my depth I was in my first lecture for my module in archaeology – on the Sumerians. The lecturer threw out a question and I sat there completely nonplussed until an actual archaeology student a few seats down from me shouted out an answer that was probably obvious to around 90% of the people in that room. I can guarantee you that his response would never have crossed my mind.

But it’s all part of the experience. The other module in which I feel I’m completely out of my depth is one on cinema & the making of modern India. I can safely say I have never in my life studied anything about India, and I’ve never even seen a Bollywood film. Thankfully though, the majority of students doing this module are equally out of their depth (the exception being my Indian friend & housemate who’s taking it with me, which is great). Our lecturer asked in our first seminar, just out of interest, why we’d all taken the module if we’d never had anything to do with the subject matter.

All of us pretty much agreed with our answers: why not?

The only reason I’m not entirely out of depth with my English module this semester (on Medieval Narratives, if you’re wondering) is because I happened to choose a history module last semester on the medieval period. That module gave me the opportunity to become familiar with a lot of what we’re covering in the English module. (Reading Middle English is still going to be a challenge though!)

I always think that I came to university to learn about things I hadn’t come across before. I wanted a bunch of new experiences. And new experiences are going to throw you out of your depth – but that’s not a bad thing. I mean, it makes life more interesting, for one. Voluntarily learning about things you’ve not come across before broadens your horizons, and, as my lecturer for the India module pointed out, it makes you more interesting as a person.

Being voluntarily out of my depth is something I try to embrace in a lot of ways – it’s about conquering new challenges, figuring out different methods of approach. I like the challenge.

The Loss of a Friend

This is the story of a friendship I had for over a decade, before, almost a year ago now, it sort of fell apart. I met this girl in primary school in Year 2, just before we both turned seven. I’ll call her M. We were only 15 days apart in age – she was older than me – but we always found it funny that I was so much taller than her. It turned out she’d just moved in to a house at the end of my road.

Safe to say we became really close friends pretty quickly, and I was really grateful to have her friendship, because I found primary school quite frustrating – I didn’t feel like I fit in with the majority of my peers, and I hated the school we were at. We didn’t agree on everything, so we challenged each other sometimes, but we easily passed over any disagreements.

Three years later, M told me while we were at school one day that her dad had been offered a position in Singapore and her whole family was moving there, probably for two years. In the end they only stayed there for just over one year, and she came back to England for the rest of our final year in primary school, but had to return to a different school because ours had downsized and didn’t have any places open.

To be honest, we stayed pretty close while she was abroad – we Skyped a lot, wrote letters, whatever. (Yes, we wrote actual letters. We are both a year older than Google, and thus grew up before the social media era.) She came back for a brief visit somewhere in the middle. It wasn’t until she came back for good that I felt like something had changed. She was different somehow, and we argued more.

Nevertheless, we started secondary school together, and our Year 7 timetables matched exactly. We had every class together and were in the same form group, and we were thick as thieves again. Year 8 was a struggle, at least from my perspective. We were in different cohorts this year (our year group was split in half and generally you only saw your own cohort in classes). The people she began to hang out with were very different to the people I would hang out with, and that year I met another girl who I also became really close with (that friendship had a weird melt down the year before this one).

I think M was initially jealous when she saw me getting to be closer friends with this other girl. I always remember a weird day after school on a Friday, when I was walking home with this new friend instead of M, when M came up behind us and tried to persuade me that I needed to go back to school with her because I’d left my PE kit in my locker. I knew I’d taken it home the day before so this made zero sense – but it fit in with M’s personality. She had this strange habit of somewhat neglecting her existing friends for a while, then when they started to pull away, reverting straight back to playing the best friend.

I’d say that from that point onward, our friendship was turbulent. We continued to have some mutual friends and some very different friends. We had very different attitudes towards things like school and relationships. She never told me as much as she used to about her life. I can’t really explain the logic behind us staying friends as long as we did, but there were many times where I thought that was it, friendship over.

Fast forward to 2015, we were in sixth form and had been friends for ten years. In January we both decided to sign up for the school’s Iceland trip the following October (yes, the one I blogged about). We were both really excited about it, and planned to share dorms together as we always did on school trips we shared. That didn’t end up happening as the rooms were in threes, and M decided to room with two other girls instead. I was put with one girl who I do get on with, and one who I’d never been fond of and had some strong peculiarities like choosing to dye her hair purple in the sink halfway through the week.

The week was brilliant, but I didn’t spend all that much of it with M. I spent a lot of the time on the coach reading etc, and did a lot of the activities with other people on the trip.

The real kicker came a couple of weeks after we came back: her 18th birthday came and went, and she had a party for it – but didn’t invite me or tell me about it. I think that was the point where I realised that we clearly viewed our friendship differently. As far as I could tell, to her I had become that old reliable friend who would always be there. To me, I expect as much from a friendship as I put into it.

I’d finally reached the point, after eleven years, where I was bored of her random little lies, tired of her strange manipulative personality, and where I realised that the best thing for me was to simply get rid of the expectations. If, I reasoned, I no longer viewed her as a friend, then she couldn’t disappoint me by failing to be one. So that’s what I did. I celebrated my eighteenth birthday without her, and soon she stopped making excuses for not walking to school in the mornings as she had done for a good while now. I purposely left the house ten minutes earlier than usual so that if she did knock, I wouldn’t be there to answer it.

We fell into a routine of avoiding each other. There had been no confrontation, no argument, nothing explosive. I took her off Snapchat, stopped following her on Facebook (and more recently unfriended her for good). I don’t use my old Instagram account all that much any more, so I stopped seeing her on there. We had very different timetables for Year 13, and didn’t end up in form together very much, never had study periods together, and didn’t take the same enrichment activities.

So that was kind of it, for me. After a couple of months she started trying to reach out again, via WhatsApp. I don’t know why, and I wasn’t interested in knowing why. She tried starting a conversation a couple of times, and each time I replied only to answer whatever question she’d asked and then deleted it. I asked nothing more from her.

The last time we spoke in person was during lunch at school. It was a strange conversation – I asked how the extension her parents were having done was going, something I couldn’t miss, living six doors down. She said I should come round when it was finished. (It’s still not finished.) I was noncommittal. She made her excuses and left. After that, we had a brief WhatsApp conversation about what universities we were going to, and that was that.

I don’t know if, had she invited me to her eighteenth birthday, we would still be friends. I somehow doubt it. The feeling that I was finally reaching the last of my patience with a friend who consistently lied to me and went back on her promises had been creeping up for a while. Really, what I took from the whole experience was that if someone wants to be your friend, they should act like it. Friendships should be reciprocal, and if they’re not, then there’s going to be a reason for it, whether you find out what it is or not.

I guess that old saying about friendships is true, some friends do only come into your life for a season. It just turned out that this particular season lasted eleven years. But the last ten months or so where we haven’t been friends and I’ve maintained a good distance from her have been really beneficial for me, as mean as it might sound. I’ve been able to become more confident in myself, I’ve been happier, and I haven’t had an argument with a friend since.

Sometimes I wonder what her side of the story would have been. Does she think I just froze her out? Does she know that I felt like she was a crappy friend? Does she know that her eighteenth birthday was the final straw? I’ll probably never know.

Katy x