Your College Aunts Week 2: New Term, New Me?

Expectations… let’s talk about them

Week one is over? Already? Wow. Time certainly has a weird way of moving when you seem to be living the same day every day. Nevertheless, your aunts are back and ready to get to the bottom of those pesky problems of yours.

How have our weeks been? That’s very kind of you to ask! Aside from doing her work, Amira had an exciting surprise this week, as her rabbit gave birth to a litter of babies! You want pictures? Okay fine, I guess we could all do with a little bit of cuteness to brighten up our days.

So fluffy!

Leila’s week hasn’t had quite as much cuteness, but it hasn’t been bad either. Her skincare addiction seems to have kicked back in, and she’s a little too thrilled with her new bed desk. Most importantly, in the midst of all that craziness, she recorded the first podcast of term with Gleb which comes out on Thursday! We’re teasing again but, in the meantime, make sure you’re all caught up on all of last term’s episodes. On that note, let’s dive into the column!

Q1: I wanted to start this year on top of my work but I’m already behind and I feel sad

Haven’t we all been there. Picture this: you’re sat in bed thinking about all the ways you aren’t reaching your ‘full potential’ and all the things you think you should be doing, but aren’t when it hits you! You just need to make a few changes and suddenly… bam! You will have everything you’ve ever wanted or, should I say, everything you think you’ve ever wanted. You start to plan out all the new things you’re going to do to fulfil this goal and start imagining just how great your new life is going to be. You feel excited, motivated, renewed, and it really shows! You commit to these changes, you start to implement them and all is going to plan… for three days, that is, when suddenly you’re back to your old ways, feeling awful for having ‘failed’ in your great mission of self-reinvention. And this is exactly where the problem lies. You can’t expect progress to occur overnight, nor can you expect it to be linear without any setbacks. Forming new habits is a long process, and probably one you should do a bit of research into first, so don’t be so hard on yourself. On a deeper level, I’d probably say you need to think about whether your existence is too centred on your work and try and gain a little perspective.

All that’s left is to try and offer you some more practical tips to potentially help you address this and feel better:

  1. Communicate your difficulties: is there a reason you’re behind? Are you finding anything particular difficult? Is there something your supervisor or tutor could help with? Make the best use possible of the resources around you. If you don’t ask, you don’t get, and this is one of the areas where brutal honesty will work in your favour.
  2. Lower your expectations. Seriously. Stop expecting yourself to work like a machine and produce incredible work irrespective of context – you are, quite literally, setting yourself up for disappointment and burnout. Be kind to yourself. You are the only constant in your own life so you may as well treat yourself well. If you wouldn’t expect it of other people, why expect it of yourself?
  3. Remind yourself of your strengths. When self-doubt kicks in, sometimes we have to remind ourselves who we are and give ourselves an ego-boost. It might sound narcissistic, but I promise it’s really just boosting your self-esteem. Think about any difficult situations you got through in the past or any achievements you have. It’s so easy to focus on the negatives and forget that the strength necessary to bring us where we are today lies within us. Have a little more faith.

Q2: I’m a fresher and I feel quite lost. I don’t really know how to make the best use of my time or what I should be doing. 

First of all, I want to emphasise how normal this is and not just for freshers. I think feeling ‘lost’ is probably a fairly universal feeling at the moment. Our daily reality can change drastically in 24 hours and there is very little that we can do on the individual level about this. It’s scary, it’s anxiety-inducing, it’s far from ideal, and feeling at a loss is a perfectly normal response! Only once you accept the validity and normality of your current feelings can you work with them. I don’t think we need to dwell on this aspect any further so, instead, let’s think about how to navigate feeling lost. Haha, get it? Navigating when you’re lost? Okay, I’ll stop.

The reality is, there is no singular way to make the ‘best’ use of your time. It’s incredibly subjective and only you can (and should) decide on what is best for you. As long as you are living in a way that is not harming you or those around you, I’d say it’s pretty hard to go wrong. The beautiful thing about being alone and away from the outside world is that you can (to an extent) do whatever you want without fear of judgment. So what’s stopping you? Paint a picture for the hell of it, read that trashy YA novel your household would judge you for reading, get into knitting- do whatever you want to! Take time to reflect on the things that make you happy and just do them! Yes, this situation limits our social life and the activities we can actually legally engage in but it does make certain activities easier to partake in. Just because you have more free time doesn’t mean that you need to become more conventionally productive. Maintaining a balanced internal reality is perhaps the most important thing we can do at the moment and, sometimes, that requires us doing very little. Resting is a good use of your time. Listen to your body and trust that you are better placed than anyone else to decide what the ‘best use’ of your time is.

Q3: Quarantine has made me realise that I love my family but don’t really like them, living at home is far too stressful

This far into lockdown, with no sign of us being allowed back out any time soon most people might be feeling like they have probably had enough family time so let’s take a moment, to be honest, and reflect upon some uncomfortable, maybe even unpleasant, family “quality time.” Let me be clear, ‘like’ and ‘love’ are two totally different things. We love a lot of things in our life. But love is also an easy word to toss around and is used more out of habit than out of real emotional commitment. We loved our dinner, we loved a movie, we loved the sunset etc. But like takes a bit more thought, it somehow seems more committal because it is just not quite so positively endorsing. It is also completely possible for you to like someone but not love them. My mind often flickers back to a conversation my mother had with the parents of a notoriously difficult child I went to school with, who freely admitted that “we do love her but sometimes we really don’t like her.”

So, you have realised that you don’t like your relatives?  For many people, not living up to societal expectations is a major personal letdown which is difficult to get over. These don’t necessarily have to be huge expectations, as hoping for any expectation to be met inevitably sets you up for disappointment. Liking your family is one of those expectations which, while expected, does not translate directly into reality. All I can offer are some coping mechanisms and suggestions on what to do to lessen the sense of let down when you realise you really don’t like your family or a specific family member:

  1. Keep the time with the family or family member down to a minimum.
  2. Don’t hope that things might be different. If they are, great, it’s an added bonus, but don’t take it to the bank that they have changed or it will be like this from now on.
  3. Have an exit plan.
  4. Don’t question what you did or didn’t do to that family member to make them act this way. They are responsible for their actions, not you.

Most people reading this might think that it goes against everything ingrained in us to not like one’s family. Often it is embarrassing for people to admit when they come to this realisation because, realistically, there is nothing more important than family. But sometimes it is okay to step outside your head for a few moments and ask yourself: if we weren’t related, would they be my friend? And it is completely okay if the answer is no.

Well, that’s all from us this week…

The theme for weeks three and four is “Breaking up and Locking It Down.”  Yup, you heard right, we’re returning to romance and dating, but more explicitly this time. Us Cambridge students may well be smart, but it seems something hasn’t quite clicked when it comes to navigating dating and love. Fear not, for Your College Aunts are here to offer some advice, but mainly some perspective, on the seeming tragedy that is your love life… wait, maybe I’m projecting. Anyway, get submitting, we know you’ve got questions so why not air them out anonymously?

If you haven’t already listened to our podcast, what are you doing? Seriously, it’s a remote term, what else are you doing with your time? And, while you’re at it you may as well give us a follow on Instagram (@yourcollegeaunts).


Your College Aunts x

Have any worries?

Here is the link for next week, submit to your heart’s content.

Want to be the next Gleb?

Did you ever find yourself listening to the podcast last term thinking that you could’ve added something interesting to the discussion? Well, here’s your chance to be a guest on the podcast! All you need to do is fill out this form proposing a theme for an episode and tell us why you think you would be a great guest. Go on, apply! What have you got to lose?

Featured image credit: Leila Lawrence and Amira Nandhla