This month, July 2014, marks exactly ten years since I graduated.
I remember the day I received my degree results. I was working as a temp for a joinery company in Keighley in Yorkshire and I dashed home during my lunch to see if the postman had been (these were the days before reliable online marks).
I remember telling an office full of thoroughly disinterested strangers that I’d got my degree and that I was made up with the results I got. I didn’t care that they didn’t care – ultimately, I’d done my degree for me. Despite so many personal set backs, I’d fought back and fought on and made it over the finish line.
Besides, I’d bagged and tagged me the greatest prize of all whilst I was at Uni – my husband.
There is a reunion arranged for my graduating year this weekend and alas, I can’t make it.
I feel a bit torn really about the prospect of going back. In a way, it would be nice to see the place where I first met my husband, and where we shared our first kiss.
However, it will always carry some horrible and rather unpleasant memories for me too.
It’s worth noting the sort of person I was at the beginning of my course and where my life was.
In September 2001, I was very newly engaged to the First Love and was madly in love with him. I was excited about starting a degree course and with the prospect of living away from my home town and on my own. I felt one step closer to attaining the life we’d planned together. I had to get rid of my car (couldn’t afford it as a student and didn’t need it as I was living on campus) too, which was something of a wrench.
I couldn’t wait to start being a student.
I was terribly green, naive and starry eyed. I had my arms thrown wide open to welcome the world and I was young, skinny and reasonably pretty. I had it all.
The first year wasn’t bad. I had a couple of personal issues to deal with which stopped me from enjoying myself as much as I’d actually have liked, but I plodded on.
I finished the first year with a month long trip to America to stay with some of my family over there. Then on my return, I had the prospect of starting my second year with my wonderful fiancé beginning at the same Uni. We would essentially be living together and that for me was a glorious, wonderful dream.
My whole future was beautifully mapped out.
I was going to get my degree and whilst my fiancé was finishing his, I’d get us a house, I’d get a job and we’d save up to get married up in Scotland as we’d planned. I’d wear a white dress and arrive on horse back and he’d wear a kilt and be waiting for me by the shore of a great loch, just as we’d planned.
Then we’d come home to our lovely house and have many, many babies and live happily ever after.
What could go wrong?
Everything did. As soon as my 2nd year began, my fiancé was off like a grey hound out the trap and I didn’t see him for dust, leaving me horribly desolate and heartbroken.
My dream lay in tatters at my feet and for the first time, I was afraid of the future. It had been the most attainable dream imaginable: settle down and marry the guy I loved. I wasn’t asking for millions in the bank or talent or beauty. Just the basics.
So there I was, heading towards the end of year two in a bit of a state.
“Ain’t it crazy how you think you’ve got your whole life planned, just to find that it was never ever in your hands. Change.” – Change, Sugababes
I’d started seeing someone else (my Forever Love) in the hope that getting back on the horse would motivate me to carry on. Falling for him and ultimately transferring a much better version of the above dream onto him was a very unexpected benefit and joy.
I’d not made great friend choices either, which was pretty much my luck entirely. It felt like I had to pay for Thomas by going to hell and back at the hands of others, over and over. Basically, I was a bit of an idiot magnet.
Uni doesn’t really carry many great memories for me. It wasn’t the party-party-party mayhem and non-stop laugh I had dreamt it would be. It was where I had my heart broken over and over.
But it was also where I met Jackie, Christine, Kat, Richard and Joanne (amongst others) who are good friends to this day. It was where I got work experience that ultimately got me my current employment and it was where I decided to become a writer.
The experiences I had whilst I was there inspired my pen and made it move emotionally across the page in big loopy writing.
It was where I first saw Thomas’ smiling face when he first met me and where I first came across his kindness and his wonderful, unswerving love and devotion.
I remember being treated horribly in front of a load of people, one of which was Thomas, by someone I cared about and so I left a night out early because of it.
Thomas (who’d also seen said person abuse me earlier on that same day) caught up with me and pleaded with me not to leave, saying that the person who had just humiliated and abused me in front of all those people was an idiot if they couldn’t realise how wonderful I was.
I remember thinking then that his girlfriend was very lucky to have a guy like him watching out for her.
By June 2004 when I left halls and Uni for the last time, my world was very different. I was emotionally damaged, but healing and a lot wiser than I ever thought possible. I had a new car, which I loaded up with my belongings to ferry across the Pennines and into Yorkshire instead of back home to St. Helens. I had a new house, a new fiancé and a sizeable student loan to pay off. I crossed over into Yorkshire blindly, with no clue as to what awaited me in all actuality, other than the hope of a new life and a lot of love therein.
My dreams were not totally ruined in the end, I guess. I never thought for a moment I’d end up in Yorkshire though! Or that I’d live in Bronte country for a while or end up working where I do or be mates with the people I am now and experience the things I have.
I got a job, a house, a pretty awesome and totally bonkers wedding day (in St. Helens, not Scotland) and a house full of gorgeous children (all mine by the way, I’m not the child catcher or anything). I just levelled up on the person I was meant to do it all with I suppose.
Yet the unpleasantness of all that misery and heartache lingers inside the fabric of that campus. It’s there in the concrete, brick and stone. There are walls that heard and saw terrible things, there are rooms there that heard me cry for days. There was a truly terrible price I had to pay for the happiness I have now and the soul of that Uni remembers it.
I just don’t want us to ever be back together again so we can both remember the sad times in stereo and amplify the distantly remembered pain between us.
My alma mater and I are better apart I think and I’ll just try to hold onto the few good memories I have of the place instead.