Caitlin is a third year Arts student, majoring in Creative Writing and English & Theatre Studies. “Just Like This” is a fortnightly column where she compares university to things that aren’t university.
A few weeks ago, I was talking to a friend of mine about which Orange is the New Black characters we most related to. I said Poussey’s girlfriend, because I have a ridiculous crush on Samira Wiley.
He said: “That’s probably slightly more fantasy than relatability though, huh.”
And he was, though a little crushing, slightly mostly right.
I get a tiny bit too invested in fantasy worlds, sometimes. I used to push myself against the back of my wardrobe to try to get to Narnia. When I was really small, I had an inconvenient number of imaginary friends – according to reports, friends and family were always getting into trouble for almost sitting on Simba or stepping through one of the Wiggles.
Yesterday morning, I had coffee with a new friend and we were talking about books we’d read as children. He mentioned Deltora Quest and I lost my mind a tiny bit.
“Do you remember the man made up of the dog cords? And the riddles? And that time the shape-shifter pretended to be Barda?”
It’s a bizarre kind of encounter, meeting someone who has had an obsession with the same fantasy worlds as you. We’d been to the same places and have some of the same memories, even though we’d never met before, because fantasy is a pretty real experience.
So what on middle earth does this have to do with that person you’ve been talking to on Tinder for ages?
Okay, so hear me out.
You know when you ‘meet’ someone online, and are sort of into them, but put off meeting in person for a bit too long? And then the tension builds up, and the expectations build up, and you project all your fantasies onto them because they’re real but only sort of, and then they become like a grown up version of the Simba that I wouldn’t let anyone sit on when I was a child?
(If you have no idea what I’m talking about, congrats on being a more grounded and rational person than I am. If you’re feeling it, good – let’s be imaginary mates.)
And then maybe you finally have a first date, and maybe the real Tinder Simba is quite nice, but he doesn’t get your jokes quite like fantasy Tinder Simba did. Or perhaps his mane is not as, I don’t know, voluminous.
Here is my hypothesis: starting university can be, sometimes, maybe, just like your first date with grown up Tinder Simba.
My ideas of what university would be like were based on stories about my friends’ siblings, stories from my parents about their good old days, and visits to my uni friends on weekends.
Here’s what those stories and experiences had in common:
– impressively worn-in leather jackets
– philosophical conversations with strangers
So my fantasy university experience looked like this:
Me (looking excellent and sounding intelligent) having drunken philosophical conversations in bars with smoking (in both ways) strangers wearing impressively worn-in leather jackets.
I was pretty okay with this vision.
But finally it was time to actually go on a date with uni, and there was some of that stuff, sometimes, but also – work? Like, I don’t know, assignments and stuff that I actually had to do? Once I even got a myki fine, and that definitely wasn’t in the fantasy plan. Sometimes I looked flustered and sounded unintelligent and I really couldn’t afford a leather jacket.
Maybe your expectations about uni didn’t involve leather jackets or bars or alcohol, and if that’s the case then see my earlier offer of congratulations. But maybe you expected to find it easier to make new friends, or simpler to stay on top of assignments, or didn’t realise how stressful the concept of paying bills would be until you actually moved out of home.
What I’m saying is: it’s okay if you’ve just started uni and it’s not what you expected. Sometimes manes can actually have too much volume, cigarettes are really bad for you, and there is a very good reason people get drunk before enduring philosophical conversations with strangers in bars.
And if you never give your Tinder Simba a chance to show his flaws, you’re never going to have a proper connection with him, either. The real experience of uni can be – I believe – worth shattering the fantasy for. Most of the time.
Oh! And one small disclaimer: I have never used Tinder except in my imagination, but I don’t know if I mentioned – my imagination’s pretty vivid.