For most of the last two months, I’ve been separated from two dear friends. Yes, I do mean Blue Moon and Disaronno. I decided that as per my annual tradition, I’d give up alcohol for Lent and it wasn’t particularly difficult. I learned that it was easy to have a perfectly acceptable night out without a drink in you; my good friend’s 21st in Glasgow was one of the best nights I’ve ever had (and one where I’m exceptionally glad no liquor passed these fair lips). There was even a joyful excitement about asking for a J20 in Beacon Bar. Sacrificing things for Lent is something I’ve done for about 10 years, and it’s not out of some naïve piety. My mother had always done it, instilling in me early on that you only truly appreciate the value of some- thing to you when you have to go without it for a long period of time. That mantra is something I’ve held dear since, and this year I decided I’d do alcohol.
Being at a university like this one, I thought it’d be a challenge and something that’d make me appreciate a drink, whilst also allowing me to donate the money I would have spent on beer to a couple of charities dear to my heart – Alzheimer’s UK and Cancer Research. Giving up alcohol wasn’t the only sacrifice I made in the last few weeks though. Whilst I was at home during the Easter Break, I decided I’d go and help my mum do some collections for Marie Curie cancer care in Croydon town centre. As cancer has so badly affected my family, it was a cause close to my heart, and it was only two hours collecting money in the town’s shopping centre – how hard could that be? Yet, as the time approached for me to go, a wave of nervousness washed over me. A strange feeling for sure, as I’m someone who always presents themselves as incredibly self-assured and has pestered this town’s good residents for the last three years with copies of this news- paper. As I got closer and closer to Superdrug, the butterflies seemed to amplify, and I felt myself growing uneasy and jumpy. There was no need for me to, and it was a feeling I couldn’t explain, but it was there, nagging away. What if I don’t collect any money? What if people just walk past as if I’m not there? What if I fail? These inchoate feelings of being a disappointment were not aided by the hat all collectors are expected to don, but those doubts soon dissipated and were replaced with pure contentment. A steady stream of customers came through the store and made do- nations of varying sizes across the two hours, meaning that when I checked the time, it was disappointing to realise I’d only got five minutes left. It was incredibly refreshing to have pleasant conversations with members of the public I’d never have met otherwise. I’d raised money for a charity that aims to provide palliative care to those in acute need and to families who often have nowhere else to turn. And at the end of it, what had it cost me? Two hours of my time in which I probably would have done nothing of real use to the rest of society. Binging our favourite TV series is nice and all, but it’s not really giving anything back. Yet on this occasion I talked to people directly affected by cancer, talked to people just going about their day and collected some cash along the way. And you know what, at the end of it I felt the happiest I’d felt in weeks.
Now, I’m not telling you all this because I want some sort of town- wide pat on the back. I’ve relayed these anecdotes because I felt they taught me something incredibly important. We live in a society where we’ve got everything we need at the tip of our fingers – indeed, there are times when I question whether it would be entirely possible to live our lives within the confines of our homes and never leave. We’ve come to lose the value of things and that needs to change. We need to get out and embrace spending time with people we don’t know in settings that we might not always be comfortable with. The day I was collecting for Marie Curie, I didn’t look at my phone for about six hours and guess what? The world didn’t end because I’d not looked at the same memes in 10 minutes or wasted my time watching other people’s Instagram stories. So I put a challenge to you. Make a sacrifice in the coming weeks as we approach exams, no matter small. How about a social media detox for a few days? Or giving up coffee for a week? From my experiences over the last few weeks, you’ll be surprised how much more it makes you appreciate the things you’ve given up but also everything else around you. And let me tell you, the first few sips of Blue Moon always taste that bit sweeter when you feel like you’ve earned it