University is basically a haze of drunken mistakes, terrible sartorial choices and nutritionally questionable meals, which, years after the event, with rose-tinted glasses, you can then refer to as "the best years of your life". Or at least that used to be the case. Since the late 90s, for some reason, there was one person in your "friendship" group who carried a digital camera with them to document your entire three years together. The green vomit, the fluctuating weight, the comedy T-shirts: every fucking waking moment.
In honour of this desperate truth, we found our worst photo and posted it here with commentary so you can see what desperately sad, socially inept losers we were.
I mean every photo of me taken at university has been embarrassing in the very extreme, but this one truly takes the cake, because: well look at me. This truly captures me as the person I was – first week of university, dangerously obese, baby-faced, fat-handed, pale little idiot boy who thought XXL bright yellow Threadless t-shirts were a viable fashion choice, posing for a photo with a basketball and a piece of tin foil to go over my head. I mean: does any photo ever taken more say, "I have barely been out of my home town for more than one day" than this? Has a photograph, before or since, ever said "my mum still buys my underwear for me" with such almighty power? Would it surprise you to learn my sexual honour is intact in this photo, and would continue to be for about a year-and-a-half after it was taken? It would not. It would not. Imagine how action-packed my masturbatory schedule was, here. Imagine how many share-sized bags of crisps I am capable of eating to myself in this photograph. Imagine how much time I spent drawing robots. Imagine the state of the beefy boy-sized cargo trousers I would wear day in, day out.
I used to wheel this photograph out to show new people when I met them to sort of get an impressed "oh, wow, you used to look like someone gave diabetes to a doughnut, and now you don't" reactions (I had to stop this recently because I chunked on too much weight again and the reactionary faces are less impressive and far more harrowing now, and I am eating a lot of courgetti to counteract that), and I often say with it that this is my most embarrassing photo, but in a way it's the exact inverse: I wasn't happy being this dude, and over the course of university I changed entirely into someone else – cooking for myself and playing lots of football and generally getting a real late-in-the-day hormone boost which made me drop a ton of weight and change the entire shape of my face and I have pubes now, thanks, loads of them. Then after uni I was kind of happy and more complete and just comfortable with who I was, so in a way I'm proud I'm not this dorky basketball fatlad anymore and became something else, I'm kind of proud I turned from a potato into… a less potato, but then this is still a photo of me looking really fucking unshaggable while wearing a tin foil hat, so yeah. Sometimes you can't escape your past.
Ah yes, there she is. Back for a second year - a year older, two stone heavier and now with an added anxiety disorder!
This photo is both hideous and illustrative of every single Wednesday night: at Walkabout, doused with sweat and hurled drinks, grinding against some d and hoping for the best, while a Jack Wills bro towers over you with a mix of contempt and vague sexual interest.
What are you looking at Hannah? Eyes wide, begging for some divine intervention to remove you from your circumstances. Searching the skies for escape. Are you terrified at the prospect of another Jägerbomb or naively optimistic for the future? Or are you just praying to yourself: please say these are not the best days of your life?
I will just preface this by saying that I went to an international school in Zimbabwe before landing at Sussex Uni. There wasn't a ton of advertising around telling you what to buy and wear to be a sexy girl/goth girl/hippie girl/delete as necessary. I mostly worked with a mish-mash of Miss Sixty jeans, Converse All-Stars and those tops from New Look with things like "Gorgeous" written across the chest.
That's why I looked like this. It was September, and already so much colder than I was used to, hence the grey marl gloves and me wearing my older sister's hoodie over about four layers that you can't see. I bought that hat at one of those stalls in Brighton's North Laine. There is no excuse for those glasses frames.
On this night, we'd walked up from our dilapidated halls of residence to the forest just beyond the campus, for a bonfire. It was the first term of first year and I hadn't yet started the glow-up that would turn me from looking like a Dungeons & Dragons-playing member of the environmental club into a presentable and fuckable member of society.
When I was 18 and living in London I was Mr. Cool Guy. I ran this trendy blog and wore those thick grey T-shirts American Apparel used to sell and everything was great. Then I went to Cambridge and it was like being back at school. All the nightlife took place in people's tiny bedrooms and were shut down at midnight by the porters, who are like college security. Occasionally there would be a big night out, but that would still take place in college, like a school disco, and they would always be fancy dress, which was a nightmare because who brings like hundreds of weird clothes to university on the off-chance it might fit with a party theme? Everyone else, is the answer to that question. That's what this photo is of. What am I supposed to be here? A badly rendered Guitar Hero character? It's impossible to say.
But none of that is the bad part. The bad part is I became a real loser in this environment. Everyone else did hardcore bonding and partying and staying up till 9am and fucking each other and going on holiday together and I just sort of couldn't. I forgot how to talk to new people and when I did I would say universally awful things like "god there's so many people here". I was always the schmuck.
Uni was not a sad time for me. I had great library mates, great vegetarian dinner mates, great come over for tea and Garibaldi biscuits mates, but no real night out mates. I think people were trying to be super nice to me and invite me out, but I would throw it back in their faces and stay in and tweet ironic jokes about X Factor with my trendy London friends. What a dick. It's especially telling that I am in touch with almost no one from university, even though I see them all on Facebook, going to Crete without me.
Much is made of the potential for reinvention that university offers. With your ideas of self worth and social hierarchy smashed to dust, you can build yourself anew. But all that construction requires foundations. When I arrived at uni my personality had the constitution of mist. I was privileged but not posh enough for gilets; in love with drugs but prone to phoning my mum during comedowns; northern but not hard. Not hard at all.
Afloat in this identity crisis I clung to weed like a buoy. It gave me an excuse to be boring at house parties. I could make small talk with coursemates about champagne haze and vaporiser gas masks. Sometimes girls asked for twos on my joints. I was truly living the High Life.
I don't really smoke skunk anymore because it makes me feel like my brain has been shot with a beanbag. I have, however, developed mild breathing problems and a constant sense of low-level dread, so don't let anyone say uni can't change your life.
Hold on, Angus, why is that the most embarrassing photo of you at university? Yes, you've got a denim shirt on, but give it a rest, it was 2011! The Walkmen were still together! Oh and what? You're not DJing with vinyl? That isn't that embarrassing. At this stage it's almost more embarrassing to DJ with vinyl given the overbearing smugness of the entire culture. What, so you're just embarrassed because you're DJing at all? Sure, it's a pretty tired student cliche by this point, but give yourself a break, loads of people do that! What do you mean it's not embarrassing for any of those reasons? Well, then, why is it embarrassing?
Oh I see. It's embarrassing because you weren't DJing at all and in fact this photo exists because you were completely fucking spangled and asked the person who was DJing if you could hop behind the booth, put on their headphones and have your photo taken pretending to DJ, fully in knowledge that you, yourself, couldn't actually DJ. Right, that's why it's embarrassing.
This was taken the morning after the Queen's Jubilee in 2012 (hence the patriotic bunting I am clutching to my face). In the 24 hours before this photo was taken, I'd found out my great granny had died, quit my job of three years by texting my manager to say I had a bad case of scabies and could never return (this was a lie, my skin was not infested by little bugs, sorry Alison) and skipped my sixth lecture in a row to drink three bottles of cava in Hyde Park. When I woke up that morning I had a black eye from face-diving into my bedroom desk and a split knee from falling down the stairs at my halls, I was inches away from a breakdown that would go on to last months, and I had these really fucking ugly curtains.
Life got better, obviously. I now have nice-ish curtains, a job I want to keep, and I am too boring and sober to attain any injuries. Even so, I still look at this photo and think YO, WTF.
Just a bunch of lads, having a good time, before never talking to one another again.
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