Your College Aunts Week Four: Adapting to Covid
Back at it again with the romance and Covid questions
It’s week four and we can’t quite believe we are here. Xanthe’s finally had an actual supervision, went to the Histon Aldi for the first time and had a ‘normal’ night out at Revs. Meanwhile, Leila got her first Crushbridge and indirectly dislocated a friend’s shoulder. And of course just in time for week five blues, or, as we now know it, the start of a second national lockdown. With all this going on, it’s no surprise that this week’s column has some juicy questions.
Q1: Growing up I’ve always been the ‘good girl’. I’m a perfectionist and strived to present myself as the model student/daughter/friend, always being very agreeable, mature and responsible. Inwardly though I feel a bit resentful of all the expectations placed on me and wish I could just be a bit selfish and have some fun, though I’m held back by fear of mistakes or being judged negatively by my family and friends for acting so out of character. Any tips on how to overcome my fear and let my hair down?
There is a lot to breakdown here, so bear with me. The fear of being judged by others is a genuine one I can understand (I was so nervous about starting the podcast because I thought people would rinse me for it) but it’s ultimately a waste of mental energy. In the nicest way possible, no one thinks about you as much as you think they do. That is to say, much less judgement goes on purely because people have better things to do with their time. Those that do sit around judging others, you should pity. What incredibly sad lives they lead if that’s all they can derive pleasure from. So firstly, don’t limit your life because of judgement, instead, limit how much you worry about being judged.
Beyond that, I think you need to re-evaluate your concepts of ‘perfection, agreeable, mature and responsible’. The people who seem to have it ‘together’ (the perfection I guess you are striving for) generally don’t sweat the small stuff, because that, again talking about energy here, saps their time and resources. They also know how to making positive choices for themselves without being too selfish to the point of hurting others. I’m not sure I have this 100 per cent dialled in, but I think the best way to start is to look through your daily routine/commitments and ask yourself if the majority of it is what you really want to be doing. I’m not saying you should become a pure hedonist; if you hate one of your lectures or you have a seminar with a really draining teacher you should still go if you love your degree. Putting up with a minority of things you dislike in order to be able to do the majority of what you love is being mature about life. You can’t always have it your way. But if you find the majority of your daily routine is performative and joyless, change it.
Friends and family care for you, and so will understand that for your own happiness you need to make these positive changes, to be more carefree and content in yourself. Every other person on earth is allowed to grow and change, you are too. Expectations from others are not a sustainable way to motivate yourself in the long term, so shirk them before you grow a complex about needing external validation. You sound like you’re probably already your own harshest critic, so worry about how you judge your actions and work, rather than what your mum or dad or partner think. If people continue to place expectations on you, find new people. I know you can’t do that for your parents necessarily, but having friends who just allow you to be yourself and give you space is so vital. Otherwise, friends can create vicious circles of expectation and behaviour which are hard to escape as they get deeper ingrained.
I’m really sorry you’re feeling this, I’ve been there and it’s tough. But you’re an adult now and you have the agency to empower yourself to do as you damn well please. So do as you damn well please.
Q2: A fellow fresher at my college attempted to make some moves on me and I had no idea how to react so I freaked out and kind of just ran away (I’ve never dated anyone). I’m too embarrassed to face that person now. What do I do?
Okay sorry to be harsh, but grow up and realise it’s really not that bad. Trust me, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a big deal. You can either pretend it didn’t happen and slowly reintroduce this person into your life, or you can straight up say to them ‘Look, I’m sorry for freaking out, I just didn’t know how to react in the situation.’ I think you did the right thing; you shouldn’t have gotten with someone if you weren’t in the headspace for it, that’s just consent 101.
If you do actually like them, being honest is the right thing. You shouldn’t be embarrassed at finding a situation overwhelming; everyone does at times. If you don’t fancy them, then you should also be honest and lay that out there. You don’t have to crush their heart, but maybe drop the old ‘Hey I’m so sorry for being weird the other day, I felt like you were making moves and I’m just not in the space to have moves made on me rn.’ You don’t even need the ‘sorry’ in there.
This person probably isn’t madly in love with you, nor have they deep-ed it. I honestly just want to shake people sometimes and say “It’s only awkward because you’re choosing to feel awkward!” So get out of your own head, and just be an adult about it. You’ll look back and laugh at it in third year.
Q3: Someone in my household has said they’re not going to get a test if they have symptoms because they don’t want to isolate for two weeks – help!!
Woah, Woah, Woah! That sure does sound like a Covid-irresponsible statement to me. To the person who said this, if you’re reading this, I think we both know that if you get symptoms, the responsible thing to do is to get a test. Not getting a test in that situation because you don’t want to isolate is simply selfish. Yes, isolation is not a desirable activity for anyone, but if you get symptoms or a positive test, it is not only legally necessary that you isolate, but it’s also kind of just, you know, considerate.
To the person who sent this question in – you need to speak your mind. If you are uncomfortable with this prospect, you need to make your thoughts known. You’re living with this person and so if anyone gets Covid you will have to isolate together, so having a consensus on how things will work is definitely helpful. On the other hand, it’s important to note that this is a hypothetical situation and so whilst it may be anxiety-inducing to know that someone in your household is thinking in this way, you don’t currently have an actual problem to deal with. It’s therefore probably for the best that you try and stop thinking in hypotheticals, which isn’t the easiest when you’re living through such uncertain and unprecedented times. Try and ground yourself in the present and focus on what you can control instead.
I also think it’s important to say that just because someone says they’ll act in a particular way in a certain situation doesn’t mean that they’re actually going to follow through in reality. It’s not an easy time for anyone right now and we’re all reacting in different ways so we do need to empathise with this slightly and try not to approach Covid-related issues aggressively where possible.
Q4: I have been in isolation for two weeks and one of my best friends who I don’t live with hasn’t reached out once to check if I’m okay. I feel silly bringing it up but I also feel a bit hurt by this
As we discussed in the podcast this week, the current situation isn’t great for mental health and it may result in people acting out, or behaving in ways that you aren’t used to. Essentially, I’m saying that the reason behind someone not reaching out is often more a reflection of their own internal situation than it is of your relationship. That being said, friendships come with certain expectations and it’s perfectly valid that you expected your best friend to reach out – after all, they are your best friend.
However, I’ve always been against the idea that your friends should automatically know when they do something that’s upset you. Especially in this situation, I think you need to maturely express to your friend that you were upset by them not reaching out. It’s not silly to bring up if you do feel hurt. Isolation is tough and having a lack of contact from those who are meant to be close to you makes it all the more isolating. They’re not to blame for any difficulties you are experiencing in isolation, but their (virtual) presence could certainly go a long way to make your isolation just that bit easier. Framing your feelings in these terms is probably a good way to go about things.
Keeping that in mind, there is also literally nothing stopping you from reaching out to them. That might even be the better course of action to take, as they may have had a lot of their own stuff on and just unintentionally failed to keep up contact. Cambridge students tend to be busy as it is, but add the stress of Covid to that and I’d argue you get a situation where we’re all more self-absorbed than ever. You know the friendship, so you know the vibes, and therefore the best course of action to take. If you want contact to be maintained, you can’t be passive about it.
Well, that’s all from us this week…
If you haven’t already listened to our podcast, what are you doing? Seriously, we’re going into a national lockdown, what else are you going to do with your time?
Want some more Life During Covid content? Take a look at last week’s column.