Miserable uni orphans: The numbing reality of not going home for summer
You’re the next generation Tracy Beaker: Mum’s not coming
Summer is finally here, and everyone is flocking to their destitute home-towns. Everyone, except you. Did you not get the memo?
Exams are over, you’ve got your results, and in a moment of madness, you thought you’d linger round campus a bit longer regardless. So why aren’t you going home? You do realise there are pets, food, and free loading opportunities there, right?
Perhaps you have to suffer a summer placement. Perhaps your parents jumped at you moving out and are swanning round the world. Or perhaps you’re the austere “If I’m paying, I’m staying” sort when it comes to summer rents. Either way, you’ve seen everyone else being loaded into their parents’ cars while you watch on, like the last puppy in the pet store, never to be taken home. And now you’re alone.
Phase one: Celebration
Your initial reaction was celebration. Finally the house-mate you can’t stand has moved out, and you’ll never have to see them again. No more false smiles and half hearted attempts at civility, no more passive aggressive notes to tear from your door, no more unavoidable eavesdropping on everyone’s sex lives. The TV is yours, the radio is yours, all the food your house-mates didn’t take is also yours.
But once the food is gone and the novelty of watching all the trashy TV you want has worn off, you begin to realise just how alone you are.
Phase two: Loneliness
If you step outside, there is now a ghost town where once there was an endless stream of familiar faces going to and from lectures. The closest you’ve come to conversation this week has been an exchange of niceties with builders. Even then, any arse will satisfy them, so “good morning” has now been reduced to scuttling past on the other side of the street, praying you go unnoticed.
For the first time in your life you find yourself looking forward to the weekly shop in the hope you get a friendly cashier, who might ask you if you found everything you were looking for. If you’re lucky, they’ll also give you the opportunity to croak a lie about your plans for the weekend.
Phase three: Boredom
With loneliness inevitably comes boredom, the third phase of your isolation. There’s only so many reruns of Friends you can watch in a day. You might manage a chapter or two of your book before you heave a sigh and close it again. It might be the hottest day of the year, but your crippling boredom will leave you numb to its pleasures, and you’ll end up enjoying it from indoors. Frankly, you’re bored to death here by yourself and bloody miserable.
The nights are the worst. Any activities you might have considered in the day time have ceased to be an option, and now you really are running out of things to do.
But that’s not the only thing the night brings.
Phase four: Paranoia
The police have recently erected a sign in your street telling you to be on your guard, as crime tends to increase in your area at this time of year. While they probably didn’t mean to scare you, they definitely did, and now every creak, bump, and single sound coming from outside your room is a burglar, or a ghost, or a murderer. Potentially all three.
The front door locks itself, but you’re going to double lock it anyway, even if it means you can’t get out of the house without a key, just to be on the safe side. On top of that, you’ve also started locking the door to your bedroom, which you will only leave when strictly necessary to create a triple barrier for anyone who even thinks about robbing you.
Phase five: Wilson
Your virtually abandoned uni town has become your desert island, and you’ve become Tom Hanks. It’s not just yourself you’re talking to now, but also inanimate objects: your food, your shoes, the shower – anything which can’t talk back to you and tell you how weird you’re being.
Phase six: Clingy
Realising the depths to which you’ve sunk, you start to get clingy. Mum gets a call at least once a day, and you’ve been updating your friends daily on all the mundane events of your summer. You text them to say how rubbish it is to be here alone, hoping they’ll get the hint and invite you to stay with them. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to spend the rest of the summer this way, couch surfing until your people return to you at uni.
Phase seven: Recluse
By this point, you’ve resigned yourself to the independent lifestyle. You’re watching a series a day on Netflix, maybe you’ve started a blog moaning about everything wrong with the world, watching the sun drift past your window and feeling sorry for yourself. It wasn’t that long ago you were counting down the days until the end of uni, and now you’re counting down the days until the start, just so you can see some familiar faces.
Going from the hyper-social routine of semester to the seclusion of the holidays is a radical change. Spare a thought for the house-mates you left behind this summer as they try to prove to mum and dad they can make it alone, or as they come home to an empty house every night after selling their soul for a summer placement, which it turns out just involves making tea.
And for those braving the isolation of their uni towns this summer, good luck. There’s just over three months to go now until your next face to face conversation.