I'm going to engage in a good old-fashioned trip down memory lane: way back when we were still deeply uncool, nerdy, gangly university students. You know, when we thought we had life cracked in the first month and then events transpired to indicate how very much that was not the case.
It's a trial by fire, university life – living alone, coming to terms with our own identity, and sometimes it's difficult to know who you are anymore. Moving out of your hometown means that you have an opportunity to reinvent yourself. However, you feel necessary. That's a lot of power.
Things that you can omit or alter about yourself that other people have no way of knowing is true or not. You can, as many chose to, neglect your studies.
You can become a prep.
Indeed, you can become nerdier or less nerdy as your heart desires.
Lots of people seek nostalgia for their childhood and take up an old sport that they used to do when they were younger. Sometimes, they will remember that they're actually really good at it, and the athletic and academic validation will both conspire in their heads and create a new personality type.
The university athlete.
This is distinct from the college level or for fun' tiers of sports that you generally see in university. We're not talking the Frisbee golf, chess, and corf ball likes here. I mean university team A for football or rugby – even athletics in the off-season. They wear the special university stash like a second skin. Extra points if it's a weird color or monogrammed with their dodgy nickname from primary school. Watching them rock up to a sport formal is a sight to behold because none of them recognize each other without their hair up or mud up to their elbows.
They're generally fun-loving, keen and earnest, and above all, tribal in their attachment to other team members. However, unless you are blessed to know the gentle giants of the sports world, these guys are in their physical prime and the world is at their feet.
And don't they know it.
Unfortunately, as is the case with team sports (particularly combined with the individuals doing super competitive degrees like law or economics), people are their own worst enemies. Guys can get very aggressive, blustering, and laddish at the peaks of their careers. I get it. I'm sure the pressure is immense – on your own standards and the pushy parents that inevitable foster this attitude of do or die. But also, chill.
And that's not to even say that the guys are the worst. You often know that guys can be that way and know to look out for that in your interactions with sports lads. It's the girls that can be cliquey and underhand in quite an upsetting way. They band together and find a way to passive-aggressively make their kit stylish or introduce toxic drinking games to spice up the events. This is all to the end of making it more fashionable and socially acceptable to be getting rough and ready and generally 'unladylike' in the public sector.
We pretend it does, but society doesn't treat female athletes with the same awe as male athletes. I'm aware that this is a gendered concept that the women have to grapple with that guys don't, and that does reflect their conduct.
It can often be conflicting, confusing, and haphazardly feminist.
However, the matter is that the girls' sports team initiations can be just as dangerous as the guys. If not in the sheer alcoholic content, then in the catty, underhand psychological warfare. Again, women are more conditioned to compare themselves to each other and fight against each other than for one another, which further complicates the team dynamic.
Indeed, university athletes often have to sacrifice their academic studies in order to ensure they're on track to train regularly or make the scholarship, or further their own agenda. How do they have time?
Most of the time, they don't.
It's the classic Archie Comics trade-off: football, singing, or grades? In the end, those that try to have it all end up with less than they started with.
And yet how we try.
I don't begrudge the effort or the talent of university athletes.
But I wish they were a tad more chill – to others and (importantly), themselves.