Being an NPC is nice

I look around the grand cavernous mouth of my first ever lecture theatre, and not a single face do I recognise. Not one single face in that field of faces lit sharply by the too bright alternating white and yellow lights. 

Do you know what this means?

This means no one knows me.

No longer is my form defined by the chiselled year-hardened cage of shy kid try hard perfectionist gets good grades only because she’s pampered doesn’t know how to joke can’t take a joke. I’m a blob, liquid and squishy and gurgling. I’m a small pale moon wavering against the twin mammoth screens’ harsh white light. I’m an NPC.

I came from a high school where I knew everyone inside and out. (Well, not everyone, and not that well, but you get what I mean.) If I achieved something and something that allowed me to achieve that something hadn’t been available to someone else, I would spend the next days or weeks or months drowning and gulping in intense guilt. If someone else achieved something because, or if they simply just did, have something I didn’t, I would spend the next days or weeks or months enviously obsessing over why the whole meritocracy system built on fairness isn’t actually fair. Even if those people were my friends. Driven into my flesh all over were barbed anchors strung tight to a thousand criss-crossing wires that threaded me with the lives of everyone around me. A spiky spider web I couldn’t escape.

Toxic. I know. 

Obviously, I didn’t want to be that person. I scrubbed at the life histories and comparisons and scales of worth etched into the concrete of my head until the air was choked with chalk dust and the obsessions somewhat paler, still there but somewhat less. Give me a few years to clean it away. I eased those spiky anchors from my flesh one at a time, slowly, hissing in pain all the way. 

Then I went to uni and

all the spikes fell away by themselves. Painlessly. 

(i love you unimelb.)

Why? Because suddenly, there was nothing for those itsy bitsy little painful wires to connect to. There was nothing for me to compare myself to. I didn’t know anyone at all. And even when I started to get to know people, the sheer amount of diversity present in the room was not a trigger for whatever mental problems I had before; ironically, it was another balm. To realise that I could never log every detail of every person’s life just because there are so many people and so many lives, so many combinations of subjects and majors and jobs and interests and dorm rooms and academic achievements and personal histories up till this moment where two faces meet. To realise that never again could I measure everything using homogeneous units.

From the tiny, suffocating, padded-down, ranked-me-on-one-linear-scale-along-with-everyone-else high school environment to now this. The world had spun and exploded into a million iridescent shards and blasted away all my obsessions as if they had never been. Leaving me clean. 

Even now, when it’s the end of week 4 and half my tutors have pinned name to face, when tentative friendships/alliances/acquaintances have wobbled into being in all my classes, when this subtle familiar uncomfortable reassuring warmth of knowing and being known has settled on my shoulders once more, when my NPC days have already come and gone – I am still grateful for the freshness uni gave me in those first few days. The absolute liberation.

That’s my intro to uni story. For those older than me: can you relate? Or have I just outed myself as someone totally not healthy and not normal?? And for those younger: hopefully your intro to uni presents you with just as much freedom as it did/is doing for me. 

Yours truly, 


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