Words by Alice Wade
Photography by Hasadri Freeman
The University of Leeds is the country’s queen bee of ultra-nineties esteemed culture. Tracksuits, hoops and slightly neurotic Britney vibes are what fund the fashion of the Leeds community. And it’s this that has emphasised my close-up vision of my own life as a rather ridiculous, low budget, English sitcom. We’re all living in the veil of the sitcom. Remembering the best bits and blurring the boring with the laughter and drama that university life brings us. Is this university experience something we’re designed to have? Is it natural or even necessary that we spend some time in our lives living entirely sloth like? Alongside the idle lives of other students, constantly bouncing around one another in constant chaos and drunken giggles? It seems the only work we push ourselves for is hidden and smushed beneath layers of drug injected nights and days.
Much like the happy go lucky lives of those in Friends, we are all surpassing the boring reality of work and responsibility, existing instead in the far more exciting relationships forming around us. When we sit down to watch an episode of Friends, we’re hit only by the luxury of mooching around with fun pals, embarking on the disasters and excitements of romantic potentialities. The lockdown has given me a further magnified view of this absurd existence with an even greater emphasis on our dilution of all responsibility.
But is it a waste of time? Do we need to live in the pre-dream like sleep paralysis of youth? Perhaps university is an essential close up on all the ‘best bits’ before we even really know what that means. The workless life is most magnified through the lens of twenty-year olds, but is this bettering British society? Before the age of eighteen we’re taught through lists, numbers and rule books designed by people who fundamentally corrupt our trust in authority and oppress us socially. So, when the reins are passed or rather, thrown down when we hit uni, we’re all a bit messed up. We’ve all been cooped up in parentally tasered pens, going to school and ‘working’ from exercise books for our entire lives so far. University rids us of these shackles whilst pretty much allowing us to do it work free. Perhaps I’m speaking from the privileged perspective of an arts students, but it seems pretty clear to me that when we think of uni, few of us are thinking about the actual studying. And really, how bizarre is that? When we think of Friends or other sitcoms, where’s the work? The study? Perhaps we can remotely recall all the occupations of our favourite characters but their work on screen is almost completely redundant. Instead we follow their relationships and hardships outside the workplace. It’s easy to forget that these TV shows are supposed to mimic real life and so what we see is really only reflective of a minimal count for their lives. And university experience seems to mirror this idleness, the on-screen life of no work. For most of us, what we consider the ‘university experience’ is the people, the emotions, the fun. Essentially all the ‘best bits’ or, perhaps for a better way to word it, the most dramatic scenes in our lives. The serial sitcom of the student
The university narrative is completely and utterly hedonistic. It bounces us back from repelling our parents by allowing us to temporarily re-write the rule books. Whether this is necessarily a good thing I can’t quite tell. Certainly, the release of pressure and a reflective period in which we are almost completely irresponsible and self-serving seems important. Almost never again will we live every day in the dramatic, hilarious episodes we do now. It seems all we can really do, is drink on up and take the time to relax in this life chapter titled ‘the student years’.