Just Like This: In Which Uni is Just Like a Sparkly Toilet Room



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.

My very least favourite place at uni is the sparkly grey room in the Union House toilets.

I don’t know about the men’s toilets (I intended to go in to do some research, but in the end I didn’t have the balls*), but the women’s ones are set up thusly:

There is a handwashing room (pretty standard for a public toilet). There is a room full of cubicles (also, very standard). But connecting the two of these rooms is a stress-inducing cell of hell.

It’s a tiny room with a swinging door at either end. The light is grotesque and strips any colour from your skin, and as you extend your dead-looking arm to push open the door in front, maybe someone will open it from the other side and hit you in the face! Maybe someone will open the door behind you and whack you in the back of the head!

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Nowhere else have I ever experienced such intense moments of anxiety (and that’s including the time I did a speech in front of 2000 people while trying to pretend I didn’t have menstrual cramps). And did I mention it sparkles?

Being at university is a bit like being in this sparkly hell-cell, sometimes.

Sometimes the swinging doors of imminent pain are like assessments – last week, I had three literature assignments due on the one day. I was sitting at a computer with one essay and three hours to go, and maybe the deadline was going to come swinging round and hit me in the face! Maybe, later on, my hurried and potentially shoddy referencing was going to come back and whack me in the back of the head!

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But uni is also like the grey room of hell in this way: uni can sometimes feel a little bit like limbo.

Being in your twenties is odd, I’m finding; because for the first time ever, my friends and I are all doing very different things with our lives. I have friends working full time jobs, I have friends studying postgrad, I have friends travelling overseas, I have friends getting married…

Okay, so basically it’s just important to me that you know I have friends.

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But what I’m getting at is, sometimes I’m sitting in the back of a lecture theatre, hoping the possums don’t defecate on me (PSA: do not sit in the back row of the Baldwin Spencer theatre), thinking: everyone else seems to have their lives together and I don’t know what the hell I’m doing next. I am neither using the toilet, nor am I washing my hands; I am in a sparkly grey limbo, and the light is doing unflattering things to my skin tone.

Where uni has the advantage over the actual grey limbo room, though, is that other people can help you out. A bonus to having over-achieving friends with varied experiences (did I mention I have friends?) is that you can talk to them about the pros and cons of their life decisions.

Enter, oh-so-conveniently, the post earlier this week in which some Unimelb Adventure staff writers shared exactly that kind of info!

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I also find it helpful to remember that actually, very few people feel like they have their life sorted out. The togetherness of other people’s lives is pretty much a total illusion. If you’d like someone to prove this to you, I’ll be the one emerging from the BS theatre on a Monday afternoon smelling slightly of possums.

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Although if you, too, are greatly stressed by the arbitrary hell-cell in Union House – I can’t help you. You’re on your own in there. Not because I don’t care; there’s just no room in there for two people at a time.

– Caitlin


*This was just an opportunistic pun; of course, it should go without saying that you shouldn’t actually have to have balls to be welcome in a male toilet.

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