Constellations in My UNIverse

Constellations in My UNIverse

Well, to be honest, I never really dreamed of entering THIS UNIverse until I received my A-Levels results. I just studied and studied and pushed through A-Levels because I wasn’t really sure what else to do with my life. In the dusty corner of my mind, however, I’ve daydreamed about being a rich CEO! (I can see you nodding with a grin, Uvinya). I got the results, and my teacher was like “so why not apply to UoC?” That’s how my dream to enter ‘the UNIverse of University of Colombo’ started. Never did I imagine myself walking through the corridors of the FoA Labyrinth (getting lost sucks to be honest!), but well here I am! 

It’s not like I don’t regret my decision once in a while. Traveling from home to Colombo on a daily basis, almost five hours for a round trip, was exhausting. Walking from one corner of the university to another for the next lecture without even 5 minutes to spare made us wish we could teleport or phase through walls like Flash! The continuous assignments, the mid-semesters, the finals—it felt like an ENDLESS CYCLE of studying and forgetting all the crumbs of information that only started to make sense after carefully piecing them together. Then there were the strikes! Madness, I know! I don’t remember a single thing I studied (God Bless us!) But here we are, having made it through the first year alive.  

There were so many moments of frustration: staring at the computer screen as the cursor on Google Docs blinked mockingly when I was unsure how to begin an assignment; curling up in bed, pondering if my dreams would ever materialize or remain as mere daydreams (a round of applause for my teddy Jamie who has seen all my tears. Yes, I’ve actually named my teddy bear!). While I made good friends and had fun, there were moments when loneliness crept in, particularly for someone who values deep connections and was adjusting to a new environment with unfamiliar faces. It was tough, especially when memories of school flooded back, hitting me with waves of nostalgia… The academic burnout and stress only made things worse, causing me to disassociate and retreat even more into my own world. Returning home just to sleep and waking up early to leave home at 6 a.m. was tough—homesickness hit me hard. Some days, all I wanted was to run away from this UNIverse, abandon all the lectures, assignments, exhausting round trips, and retreat into my little art corner and just paint my heart out. 

But when I really think about it, I guess it was all worth it (I mean, honestly). I loved most of the course units I took. Well, I know I’m being biased, but when it comes to English, I think I loved it A BIT TOO MUCH (I know, I think I must love pain to make such an audacious statement.) But trust me when I say that I felt so alive in Prof. Dushyanthi’s Poetry lectures. There is one confession to be made: I never wanted to do linguistics which is why I ignored SESL at all costs. But English made sure that I couldn’t escape its wrath—it was compulsory for the first semester. However, Kaushi, you made me fall in love with the subject (School teachers, take notes). Transitioning from a school system where we were just students listening to distant teachers in most of the subjects to a university environment where lecturers actually LISTEN to you was a profound change. Here, in this UNIverse, we are IMPORTANT. 

Meeting good friends made university life bearable. The times I spent with them were truly magical. From getting lost in the identical corridors of the Labyrinth to that one random evening in the canteen when it was cloudy and humid outside, the lights dimmed, and we were all laughing, realizing how effortlessly we clicked. Then there were the spontaneous trips to art galleries when lectures were suddenly canceled, analyzing poetry at the back of the class because the lecture was a little too boring (okay, at the very front, if I’m being honest). Sudden café trips with a friend to escape the stressful uni life (Yes, Uvinya, you’re a wizard with directions). Recreating meme-worthy pictures of our favorite idols together,  Chamo doodling her anime characters on my slides, listening to the same song together on our own headphones. Even the quiet moments spent alone, walking around the uni, finding inspiration to pen some poetry—every moment was magical. 

So I guess I owe them an ode—these people who have become a part of my tiny UNIverse. Udani Akki, with whom I have the most interesting and deep conversations about the universe, God, astrology—the very topics that interest a philosophy-obsessed poet like me. She is that caring sister who always checks on me and sends long voice notes when I am feeling a little insecure. Uvinya, who sends me long, detailed analyses of my poems and paintings, always asking what inspired me (You should know how much it means to me.) Senali, the first friend I connected with at Uni, and who has been by my side ever since—you give the best motivation sometimes, hope you know that. Theru, you totally rock on screen. Don’t let anyone take you for granted, because girl, you deserve so much more! Chamo, who listens to me yap about BTS and then makes sure I listen to her yap about NCT and Genshin. True, I love the art style in genshin but you really won’t convince me that easily to jump into a new addiction! Savi, who sits quietly in the corner and tries to be sarcastic, I know how caring and observant you are!. Vibs, I love your dedication and know you will be going to places. I miss our deep talks. If only life didn’t make us so busy. Ashfa, who understands me on an emotional level. Barani and Sarah, I hope you both keep on writing. Mithu, hope you know how much I love your singing. Kusali, who shares my Kdrama obsession but always waits until all the episodes are uploaded to binge-watch (You should be sued. Kidding!) Building theories and predicting plots of ‘Lovely Runner’ with you was wonderful. (I wish the scriptwriter kept up with our theories, haha). Last but not least, all the seniors who have been so friendly and have been there to advise and motivate me, I hope you know how much I appreciate you. 

My Rotaract journey is undeniably a huge part of my UNIverse. I was able to put my writing skills to use by sharing my poetry and writing two articles for ‘Beyond the Labels’ to be published in the Editorial. One of my favorite moments was crafting a short crime thriller script for the PR of ‘Forensic Inquest’ project and watching my batchmates bring it to life—it was absolutely thrilling! Who could forget Rota Awurudu where most of our gang participated in not one event but sat in a circle, gossiping and taking pictures as usual. We also ventured out to a nearby café (not so nearby if you travel by foot) like some Modern Manikes visiting relatives, gosh. Uvinya, you must be thinking I forgot about your cappuccino disaster, but oh girl, I didn’t. Oh! Chamo, remember the last Installation? Running in the rain from FoA to the NAT, water up to our ankles, our umbrella trying to fly from our grasp—makes me laugh every time I think about it. The biggest highlight of my Rotaract journey? Getting selected as a Co-Director for the International Service Avenue and our entire gang making it onto the Board!

All in all, the year 2023/24 has been incredibly hectic, with me entering this entirely new UNIverse that was alien to me. It was a year of breaking free from my comfort zones, trying new things, meeting new people, networking—and most importantly, trying to figure out where exactly I fit in all of it. My poetry, long neglected, suddenly became my refuge amidst confusion and swirling emotions. I was back at it again, writing, sharing it with those who loved my work, and even winning a few awards along the way. With each stroke of my paintbrush, I felt all my worries fade away. I guess I rediscovered my passions. Through all the ups and downs of finding my place, I poured my heart into my art and poetry. Somehow, in this vast UNIverse, I think I have carved out my own little constellation.

As I reflect on this first year, I realize how much I’ve grown. I’ve learned to balance the chaos of academic life with my personal passions, and in doing so, I’ve discovered a resilience I didn’t know I had. I’ve found joy in the little things—like the quiet moments in nature, listening to my favorite music while gazing at the sky on the way to uni, walking around the campus with friends, and the thrill of seeing each artwork come to life. Each challenge, each anxiety inducing assignments, each triumph in class has shaped me into someone who is more confident and self-assured.

Looking ahead, I am excited for what the next year holds. I plan to dive deeper into my studies, exploring new subjects and pushing my academic boundaries. I’m eager to continue my journey with Rotaract, taking on more responsibilities and hopefully leading new projects that can make a difference. And of course, I’ll keep writing and painting, allowing my creative side to flourish alongside my academic pursuits.

I’ll end this with a short quote from my favorite Kdrama, Twinkling Watermelon: Viva La Vida! Long Live Life!

Rtr. Michelle Perera

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