Wellness – in the broadest sense of the word – is something we should all aspire to.
It means being healthy, both mentally and physically. Active. At peace. Balanced.
Now in my mid (*ahem* late *ahem*) 20s, I’m pretty into the whole thing.
I work out five times a week. I follow a plant-based diet. I barely drink, I don’t smoke, I freak out if I don’t get a least six hours sleep.
Rewind back five years, however, and I was a different person altogether.
During my BA, I was out-out five times a week (apart from the odd semester when we used to do 14 nights in a row – far more impressive than any marathon), I drank every day, I consumed a lot of things that definitely aren’t part of a well lifestyle.
My best friends today are people I met outside nightclubs, drunk in bad Indian restaurants, or coursemates I found myself going to Dusk (the best 2-4-1 cocktail bar in Yorkshire) with every night.
Many of them are still living that life. They’re complete wreck-heads. And even though I’m awfully beige in comparison, I still love them for their ability to get into work for 9am after getting in at 5am, and be up for doing it all again by 5pm.
The point about university, aside from the degree, is making lifelong connections. It’s about pushing yourself to experience new things, meet new people, grab every opportunity.
I learned to row at York and spent many ridiculous mornings on the icy river at 6am, defrosting rigours with my bare hands, after a night out which ended about three hours earlier. That might explain why I caught so many crabs in the first term (no, not an STD – it’s where your oar gets stuck in a wave). I hasten to add, on weeks when we had drinking bans ahead of races, I didn’t drink…instead, I switched cocktails for Red Bulls and probably lost my head more than usual.
I burned the candle at both ends, drinking about three Monsters a day – as well as espresso – and filling up on sesame snaps and sherbet dips from Costcutter. I’d live off tinned tomatoes, sauerkraut, vinegar crisps and boxed wine that my dad would leave whenever he came to visit.
And when I came back home for the holidays, I’d pass out. The moment I stopped moving and drinking, I got colds.
But it was worth it because that heady period probably will turn out to have been the best days of my life.
Would I allow myself to be funnelled with rum in a damp boat shed today? Would I be cool with everyone snorting coke off the mirrors in my bedroom? Would I want to stay up for 24 hours before heading off on holiday today? No, I would die. Today, I’m more into circuits than I am strawpeados.
At 20, however, it’s your duty to see what miracles the body is capable of performing.
I’m by no means partied out but when you start to creep closer to 30, your metabolism starts slowing down and you start to value money, muscle and memory above booze and the competitive aspect of staying out the latest.
I’m drunk after two pints and I’m hungover after one. The sugar content alone is enough to put me off getting laggo on the regular.
And apparently, that’s how loads of freshers feel today.
More and more 18-24-year-olds are swerving the booze and increasing numbers are calling for freshers’ weeks to come to an end so they can get down to work.
At York, they’d have been social pariahs. In fact, I wouldn’t have known them – teetotalers never made it anywhere near our social circles, let alone anyone who seriously thought that social events were secondary to learning.
After all, university life is about social learning as much as anything else. Learning how to forge lasting relationships and how to juggle partying and working are the two most important life lessons anyone could learn.
And while no, it’s not cool to sleep with randomers every night of the week or wake up in your own sick, there is something to be said for embracing your inner hedonist while you can.
If you’re heading off to uni for the first time, ignore Instagram. Ignore the bloggers. Ignore all the wellness stuff.
Get messy and get involved. Don’t waste your precious responsibility-free years on trying to be the healthiest, fittest or slimmest.
That’s what the next decade is for. After all, wellness can be both time and materially expensive – and you need a job, not a student loan, for that.