The 15 Year Time Machine (Things I Wish I Could Tell My Student Self) – Sarah Green

We’ve got a treat for you today friends. We’re hearing from Sarah: she’s a photographer, a musician, Mum to two beautiful girls, my church big sister, and she’s well and truly on team I Am.

A couple of weeks ago, Sarah found some journals that she wrote just as she was becoming an adult – as she was at uni and finding her feet doing this life thing. She’s got some thoughts that have been so valuable to me, and I wanted to share. Over to you, Sarah!

15 years ago… A world where Facebook and the iPhone had yet to be invented, dial-up internet was still fairly common (only 1% of British households had wifi), and MSN Messenger was king.  Also, I was at University.

Looking back now, as a 35 year old mum of 2, I thought I had a reasonable recollection of that time in life – I remember being homesick in my first year, hating where I lived in my 3rd year, and general random things from student life like working for the Student’s Union and our rather eccentric lecturers.  I even remember some of the Music Tech course I did! The other week though I found myself having to search for a pen drive and came across an old one that amongst other things had some journals on it from my student years. I didn’t realise these files still existed – I’ve had a few different computers since then and hadn’t seen them in years.  Once I cracked which password I was using back then I sat and read a couple… it was both fascinating and uncomfortable reading! They start at the beginning of my second year, a year which I largely remember as being quite good, but I was shocked to read just how many different and strong emotions were going on with me at that time. I’d forgotten some of the struggles I had with wanting to be back home but then not always enjoying it when I was.  Here’s an excerpt that I wrote one Christmas whilst back home with childhood friends who had not gone to University:

I have been bouncing between feeling average and feeling depressed all day.  Some of the time I am fine – then others I go back to feeling really down and worthless.  It’s very topsy-turvy and hardly a mature thing – but that seems to sum me up at the moment.  I don’t know where I am in life, what I’m doing, or sometimes what day it is. I kinda drift about trying to live life and experience it fully but ultimately I feel that everyone else does a much better job of that than me.  I actually feel sort of jealous when I see that other people of my age group have it so much more together and I don’t – I know that’s not good, jealousy is wrong I know… but I just look at others and to me it enhances my failings.  They are living their dream and I am still in the education rut – is it any wonder I feel younger than my peers… they have jobs and I still study. I was meant to be making the most of these holidays but that has swiftly gone down the drain along with my illusions of grandeur, fun and excitement.  I am entirely broke now … this limits what I can do, where I can go – and really the value of my time. Those with money are the ones who can afford to have the social life necessary for building relationships – I find that without money I can’t go to the places where people go to have fun. … I can’t afford anything.  And the disgusting thing is – I chose this. I could jack it in now – get a respectable job and feel like I fitted in with the status-quo… but no – I have chosen the long road… the student road… the poverty road.

Can you relate to any of that?  I was not quite 20 when I wrote that and in hindsight those young adult years can be tough – whether we realise it or not we’re trying to figure out who we are and what we’re doing with our lives, and so are most of those around us.  Reading back on my thoughts is like jumping in a time machine to remember the good, bad, and ugly of what feels now like “forever-ago”. If I could, I would sit my student self down and try to offer some encouraging words. What would I say?  Well it might go something like this:

“Try and stop worrying.  Yup, you’ve only got a slightly better handle on this in the last 15 years but I can confirm that even when you have zero clue, God has got your back and makes everything work for good.

Stop comparing yourself to those around you!  You’re all on your own individual paths and journeys.  You often feel like you don’t fit but you have so many more friends still to make in so many places!  Friends can be forever or just for a season, both are valuable, and God will bring the right people across your path.

Uni feels like forever because it’s so intense and you can’t see past the end of it, but it’s actually really short.  Aim to try and remember as much as you can past the exam to which it pertains! This period of poverty is temporary! One day you will have more money, and you’ll be able to travel a bit and enjoy a few more luxuries.

Things will get better.  You’ll feel happier, more stable and more secure.  The stuff you’ve always wanted in life – marriage, kids, a house – that all happens and even better than you dreamed, so enjoy the time beforehand.  Those people who have families early don’t have the same freedoms you can enjoy right now. Plus, your future husband… well he’s currently still in year 8, so you’ll have to be patient for a bit!!  He’s worth the wait though so keep trusting God.

Knowing the difference between church and God will save your faith many many times – you’ll see Christians do all sorts of rubbish things, but God is always good.  Keep that distinction clear and firm.

There’s an uncertain feeling you sometimes get with people or situations – that’s your gift of discernment.  You can trust it, rather than always assuming there’s something wrong with you for not feeling the same as those around you.

Try not to put people on pedestals, particularly Christian leaders and teachers etc.  They are all human and some of them are actually only in it for their own gain. Read the bible instead of other books.  It’s hard but if you can get someone to teach you how to approach it you’ll do a better job and it’ll help you turn your discernment from feelings to something you can understand.

Take the limits off of yourself and life – you can and will achieve so much more than you think right now.  There’s huge potential locked up inside you just waiting for the right season in life. Dare to believe in yourself a little bit more.

Lay off the sugar a bit.”

Fast forward just 3 months from the journal entry that Christmas, and I had made one of the biggest decisions I’d ever made in my life… I was going to stay in Cambridge and not move back home after Uni.  God somehow got through to this homesick girl, in such a way that she woke up one morning and realised not only that she could live wherever in the world she wanted, but that actually she’d really come to like her University city.  And so that Christmas turned out to be the last full holiday I spent back home. God has this way – if we let Him – of getting through to us and getting us to where we need to be, despite all of our insecurities and inner turmoils.  So even though I can’t go back and encourage my younger self it doesn’t matter – we made it this far! Instead I can take most of what I wrote and tell it to myself now. I might also add “spend less time on Facebook”…

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