Graduation: a Three-Year Retrospective

Yesterday, I graduated from university. Almost disappointingly, graduation wasn’t all that Buffy the Vampire Slayer made it out to be. There was no evil Mayor threatening to kill me and the Scooby Gang. There was no eclipse, no basilisk-esque demon, no great battle, and the principal didn’t get eaten.

Clearly, UK Universities don’t do things in quite the same way as a fictional American High School located on top of a Hellmouth. Instead, there was a lot of queuing, a lot of photographs, and an awful lot of ceremonial parading ( though I’m pretty sure I saw someone carrying a sword).

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“My God. He’s gonna do the entire speech.” “Man, just ascend already.”

It’s not in my nature to get too philosophical about graduation, and I don’t want to write a heartfelt blog that reads like an Oscars acceptance speech. But I want to use this as an opportunity to take stock of what I’ve achieved over the last three years, and not just in terms of blogging. University has been more than just learning biochemistry. It’s been throwing myself in at the deep end, facing my fears, and discovering that there is no escaping the fact that I am indeed the big nerd I always suspected myself to be.

First year was the year of socialising. It was the time when I was supposed to “come out of my shell”. Now, I’m not sure there ever was a “shell” to come out of: just an introverted personality who found socialising hard. Sometimes, it’s still hard, it’s still tiring, but it’s less of a “big scary thing” now than it was then. Living with five (at the time) complete strangers, and meeting new people pretty much non-stop for at least a month couldn’t have been further from my comfort zone. But I found a balance between taking time out for myself (I got through seven seasons of Supernatural plus the entire A Song of Ice and Fire series) and embracing that social life university throws you into. I didn’t have to “become someone else” or be the life of the party. I just needed to be bold enough to get involved and even bolder still to take the time out for myself that I needed.

Second year was the year of writing. With the realisation that I hadn’t really joined any societies in first year, came the realisation that I should probably change that. So I joined Redbrick, and started writing for the science and technology section. Around the same time, I started this blog, and… well, you probably know the rest of that story. It was at the end of the year that I became an online editor for Redbrick, which became one of the best things I did at university. Getting into writing was a huge thing for me, and it gave me the creative outlet I had needed since giving up studying English Literature. I also got to spend a lot of time getting into Titansgrave, Tabletop and Critical Role on Geek and Sundry, and this opened a whole new gateway into tabletop gaming and RPGs.

Third year was the big one: it was the year of saying yes. I attended my first convention: EGX 2015 in Birmingham. It was insane – in a good way. I also attended MCM London Comic Con, which was insane in a bad way. I missed one of the panels I had meant to attend, I was alone, I was overwhelmed, and by the end of it, I was deflated.  But it wasn’t the last I would see of the convention, as I returned to MCM London Comic Con earlier this year, and this time, it went amazingly. I met so many wonderful people, and I even had a chat with Hannah Waddingham (Septa Unella from Game of Thrones).

I did work experience with the local newspaper, and interviewed far more strangers than 13-year-old me could have ever imagined speaking to. I continued as online editor of Redbrick Sci & Tech. I wrote articles for Gaming, TV and News. I learnt a foxtrot routine and took part in a ballroom dancing competition called “Strictly Brum Dancing”.

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Previous dancing experience: Dancing Stage Euromix on PS1

I decided to start my own radio show on Burn FM called The Geek Show. I co-hosted The Geek Show with Roshni and we talked for hours on end with guests about everything from fantasy books to the LGBTQ community in tabletop gaming. It wasn’t all smooth-sailing: there were technical difficulties, jumbled sentences, and at least once, radio silence. For an introvert like me, it was also exhausting. But it was worth it. And people actually listened to it. Through the show I discovered people who love all the same geeky stuff as I do, who also love watching voice actors play Dungeons & Dragons, and who over-analyse every episode of Game of Thrones.

I did a couple of Twitch streams, just because I could. One of them went well, and I was surprised. The second one, in my mind, went terribly. I’d burnt myself out between the radio show, editing and spending time with friends. The stream ended early and I think I probably curled up into a ball with a book and a cup of tea afterwards. It was a bit of a failure and a sign that I might have been taking on too much. This taught me how to manage my time – not just to squash as much into my time as possible, but to make time to rest, not to bite off more than I could chew. This year, I also took part in my first roleplaying game, and it was great. I’ve since joined my first Dungeons & Dragons campaign.

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A real photo of me after that second Twitch stream.

These last three years, I have not stopped evolving. I’ve been bolder, more pro-active, and I’ve put myself in situations I’m uncomfortable with. At times, I’ve pushed myself too far, and things have gone wrong. But I’ve always been moving forward. I’ve found out what my passions are, what interests me, and what drives me. I’ve also found out the kind of people I like to spend my time with, but also learnt when to rely on myself.

I think 13-year-old me would be pleased. She might be a little sad that I didn’t ascend the social hierarchy to become popular in school, and that graduation didn’t involve slaying any vampires. But all in all, I think she’d be ok with where I am now.

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Bonus graduation photo: who needs demons when there are bears?

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