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Young, not clueless

Author:
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By Bex Dudley

I need to preface this with a disclaimer. I am a white Brit and, for those reasons, this is not my story to tell. However, I am telling this because I am also a queer young person. My queerness means I feel at least a little of the pain the world is experiencing; my status as a young person, as I’ll explain later, is the reason I am writing this at all.

I want to tell you about the US Election Night as experienced at my uni.

I want to tell you about the weeks preceding. The Student Union at my university- a prestigious social and political sciences institute – decided to hold an event. Though we are, technically, an English university, holding this event was never questioned; partly because we have a high number of US students, partly because we are, by nature, all interested in politics and society; partly because why wouldn’t we hold an event? Of course we would.

Tickets to the event sold like wildfire. Often, the SU events are able to sell tickets on the door- but the Facebook page for this event informed us that this wouldn’t be an option, as capacity had already been reached. In the days before the event, that same page was filled with people trying to get tickets; they were selling for double the price on the day of the event. People were desperate to go to this – because we had all followed the build up, we all wanted to watch, to the second, what happened.

I want to tell you about the gathering we had- the ‘party’, as we called it – up until about halfway through the night. I wasn’t able to get a ticket for the SU event but, due to high interest, my accommodation- like many of the other accommodations at the university- held their own event.

We turned up for 9pm GMT, around 20 of us, probably more, with food and drink and blankets, ready and eager to watch. The atmosphere was good; we were happy, full of laughter and jokes. We cycled through the different news stations, banning Fox outright and eventually settling (somewhat dubiously) on CNN. At the SU, they had official political analysers; in halls, we picked each other’s brains, asking questions and debating answers.

We’d all done our research: we knew which states were important, and we knew how it was going to go. Ohio and Florida were key, we kept saying; and Hillary would get both of them. Of course she would. We had no doubt.

I don’t want to say what happened next.

I don’t want to tell you how the atmosphere slowly changed, as we realised that Trump was beginning to take Florida. We stopped asking questions, we stopped talking about much at all. Everyone had their phones out, looking for the latest statistics and percentages, trying to get up-to-the-second news, messaging people who might know a little more. I myself messaged people I knew at the SU. They said that the atmosphere there was similar- tense, sad, worried.

I don’t want to tell you what it felt to be like in a room full of a plethora of people, all of whom had their own reasons for dreading what was beginning to feel inevitable. The room was both still and restless; some people went to bed, or said they did- maybe it was just to get out of that room. People came back from their various nights out. One friend came back from a club, slightly tipsy- suddenly sober and full of disbelief when he looked at the screen. To one side of the room, a man in a smart suit rested his head in his hands, whilst the woman next to him paced up and down, swearing. That’s an image that will never leave me.

I don’t want to tell you how it felt to message my sleeping girlfriend, to try and break the news in a way that might not hurt too much. I found myself fixatedly scrolling through Twitter, watching as all the sadness and hurt and anger came spilling out. Having been up the whole night, the world seemed unreal- I chose to go to bed, feeling that conversation in lectures would revolve around one thing only, and that I couldn’t face that yet. I woke up at 2 in the afternoon, and that’s when it began to hit me – a heaviness, an emptiness.

I do not want to tell you how the next few days were: how it felt to watch the people I love and admire cry and hurt and rage. The people I consider strong, my rocks- they were all hurting too. There was no one to stand up and say this is what we do because there was too much emotion to do that, and, at that time, any suggestion of what to do seemed either impossible or pointless. The world, as we knew it, had collapsed: because, within that one night, everything we have been fighting became legitimised.

Back to the things I want to tell you. I want to take a step back. I want you to know three things.

Firstly, everyone in my account of the US Election- the people at the SU, the people in my halls, the countless stories I encountered on Twitter- were people incredibly invested in this election. Many people were incredibly academically clued up- Americans interested in their political system, politics students, economics students, social sciences students. Many more were socially clued up, painfully aware of the effects a Trump win would have for them- people of colour, migrant people, queer people, disabled people, every intersection of these.

Secondly, though I know that there would most likely have been Trump supporters, neither myself nor anyone I know came into contact with them. The change in the atmosphere both in my halls and in the SU strongly show that these were people who did not support Trump. The stories I saw on Twitter were anti-Trump.

Lastly, I want you to know that the majority- or, more likely, all- of those people could be classified as ‘young people’.

These three facts are important because, a few days after the election I saw a comment on Facebook, from someone claiming that ‘young people don’t have a clue’, the context of which implied that young people who didn’t want Trump to win didn’t have a clue. I am pretty thick-skinned. I can deal with a lot of things on social media- but this comment made me angry, because my experiences were so strongly the opposite.

I want to tell you that that comment is wrong. I want to tell you that I was surrounded by incredibly clued up young people, young people who academically or socially- or, most often, both– were incredibly aware of what was going on. I want you to know that these people were faced with the facts, and that, though I cannot speak for them all, overall, they strongly didn’t want Trump.

I need you to know that.

other people feel this too

Author:
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By Bex Dudley

I have been living in London for just over a week, now.

It has been a busy one. Perhaps busy is an understatement. In the last week alone, there has been tea, introductions, lots of walking, registration, induction, welcome events, a ghost bus tour, more introductions, library visits, ice skating, exploring London, a study tour, more introductions, more walking, the Tate Modern, charity fundraising, Freshers Fair, a rugby taster session, more introductions… I do not think that is even nearly comprehensive. It has been busier than busy, the type of week where you reach the end of each day and think back over it, then think that could not really have been this morning!

Freshers week, or at least, Freshers week as I have experienced it, has been a weird one. Full of people and socialising, above anything else- meeting people, chatting, the same conversations over and over as you try to navigate what seems to be a whole city of new people. What’s your name? Are you an undergrad? First year? What course? Halls? Which ones? Where are you from? It has also been full of a lot of happiness and laughter. There have been some fantastic things- ice skating, a Bake Off party, making dinner with my flatmate, chatting and laughing with new people who just seem to click. It’s been a great week, and I know that. However, there have been some darker moments too, and I think that’s what makes it so weird, because those times seem so at odds with the rest of it. There have been times- particularly the evenings/nights- when everything else seems to dissipate, leaving a wonderful mixture of sadness and exhaustion and loneliness and anxiety. I have spent so much time wondering whether I will ever really feel comfortable here, whether I have really made the right choice, whether the people I am missing could ever possibly miss me half as much as I miss them, whether it is worse when the people I am missing are sad (and I can’t hold them) or when they’re happy (and I can’t celebrate with them), whether this city will ever feel anything like home, whether I will ever stop feeling so tired, whether it is just me feeling this way.

It is because of this last one, I think, that I am so resolute in writing this blog post. Experience with mental health has proven to me, time and time again, that other people feel this too. So, although social media is full of happy smiling faces, I am guessing, there are other people feeling a lot like me, asking the same questions, curled up on their respective uni beds, feeling that odd sense of loneliness when one is surrounded by hundreds of people. To all those people, this is me saying, I am here. I am feeling this. And actually, I think this is ‘normal’. I think we are, probably, the majority- no matter what social media seems to be implying. And, I think, eventually we will be okay. We just need to make it through this bit, utilising whatever support and strength we have, focusing on the out breaths.

I think, too, it is important to say that Freshers is not a one size fits all experience. I have not been out clubbing once this week. I like it enough- but I do not always deal well with crowded spaces and dark lights and alcohol/hangovers and people I don’t know, and I need to be settled somewhere, and with people I know very well, in order to enjoy it. I have been feeling the pressure to go clubbing, because that has seemed to be the ‘point’ of Freshers. However, I have also been self-aware, and realised that clubbing really isn’t what I need right now. Maybe I am ‘missing out’, maybe I’m not getting the ‘true Freshers experience’. I’m not so sure though. I know I’ve had a great week, even if it hasn’t involved drinking and dancing every night. I’ve quite definitely had a better week than I would have had had I forced myself to do something I really don’t feel comfortable doing. This is another reach out, to anyone in a similar position, to say it’s okay. We’re okay. We’re making this work for us, and that’s more than okay, that’s beautiful, because we are beautiful.

I think, what I am trying to say, most of all, is that is has been a very brilliant week- but that there have been wobbly times too. And that is okay. You belong here, and everything you feel is okay.

This blog was originally published on Bex’s personal blog here: https://itsbexnotrebecca.wordpress.com/2016/09/26/other-people-feel-this-too/

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