Setting Myself On Fire > University

I made the executive decision to go to uni when I was seventeen. Seventeen year old self probably has her shit sorted better than twenty-two year old self, because if I knew then what I know now, I probably would’ve set myself on fire instead. Not my entire body – just a leg or something – and then I could roast marshmallows, drink tequila and be like “No uni deadlines though” while I slowly die. Which would be a more enjoyable time than what I am having right now.

Enrolling into university was a really momentous, feel-good moment. I received my acceptance letter, pinned it on the fridge and had a smug grin of satisfaction every time I walked past it. Sneaking to the fridge at 11 pm for Tim Tams used to be a guilt-ridden experience; not anymore! I’d eat my Tim Tam and stare at the fridge with pride. I’m Adulting! I’m doing something clever and cool and exciting with my life!

Even purchasing $600 worth of textbooks wasn’t enough to make me cringe. I touched their covers, inhaled the scent of the paper and fantasized about staying up until 2 AM reading them. I wish I was joking even a little bit.


The semester started, the workload slowly increased every week, but this was fine – I had everything totally under control. I had a study schedule (yeah, you heard that right). I attended a clinical placement orientation session, where our lecturer told us “PULL OUT NOW. ESPECIALLY IF YOU HAVE KIDS. JUST FUCK OFF AND BAKE SHIT”. My memory of that orientation session is pretty hazy, so the words used probably differed slightly/immensely, but if the look in her eyes could be translated into English language, that would have been pretty much exactly the point she was trying to portray.

That first semester was surprisingly fun. We were learning Nursey things, like how to take blood pressures and urine samples. I also had a course which contained about thirteen years worth of learning about physics, chemistry, microbiology and immunology, crammed into thirteen weeks. I was acing all my online quizzes with minimal help from Google, and I felt the warm, fuzzy, glowing feeling of knowing things that are clever. 

University even became a helpful tool when flirting with boys. Exam time came rolling in, and with them came my all-time favourite text message – “I’d really love to come hang out but I’m way too busy studying for exams :(” subtly followed by “My back is so sore. Stress tension, I guess”. Add those texts to the fact that every mans inner teenage self automatically associates the word “nurse” with “naughty”, and what do you have? A cute boy on your doorstep with Oreos and Massage Oil, offering to help you write flash cards and make out.

…Hang on Sera, this all sounds pretty great. What has happened between Massage Oil and Now to make you want to set your own flesh on fire? At what point did you rip the acceptance letter off the fridge so that you could enjoy your Tim Tams in peace? What series of unfortunate events could’ve taken place for you to seriously consider dropping uni and selling your vagina on eBay?


How do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways..


University, especially nursing at university, is high school for middle aged women.
Let that sink in.
I once witnessed a 43 year old woman say to her 35 year old friend “Have you seen her new boyfriend? He isn’t even that good-looking. She posted pictures on facebook and he’s like, ugly, I don’t even understand.”
On another occasion, a woman asked me what I was eating for lunch. When I responded with “a roast vegetable wrap”, she immediately transformed into Blair fucking Waldorf from Gossip Girl.

Over-enthusiastic, snorted-Valium-for-breakfast, stethoscope-lodged-in-my-asshole students. The ones that bring a suitcase to class filled with textbooks that you know damn well aren’t on the text list. The ones that, three days into the semester, will casually say “Omg I’m so stuck on question fifteen part d point eight of assignment seven. You know the assignment I’m talking about, right? The one that isn’t due for eleven years? Oh, you… haven’t started? Oh wa-ow. I’d be like, so nervous if I were you. GOOD LUCK!” *skips away into meadow of daisies whilst flipping the bird*
Yeah no, I haven’t started the assignment, I’m too busy writing an essay on how much I fucking hate you. No we can’t study at my house, because I stuck your photo on my wall so that I can throw pineapples at your face.

Uni lecturers that spent thirty years studying anatomy and physiology, and thirty seconds learning English before they got a job teaching people about anatomy and physiology.
Do you feel like pleasure and joy have left your life? Do you feel like the future is hopeless? Are you sad, blue and unhappy? It’s probably because you’re being taught about endothelial cells in Korean.

Weekly readings. You know, the ones that make you feel like your soul is being sucked through your eyeballs, and you’re told “If you don’t read this, you absolutely will not pass the course and your mother will contract leprosy?”

Sorry Ma.

Talking to inanimate objects. What’s more fun than talking to people when you have social anxiety? Being forced to have people observe you while you communicate with a lump of plastic.
We have mannequins/dummies in lab classes that are our patients, and we’re firmly instructed to communicate with them as if they were real people. Honestly, there’s no better way to prove how nursey and compassionate you are than by patting a fake person on the back and offering comforting words of reassurance while you stick a nasogastric tube inside their nosehole – “Stop struggling John! I will cut you!”
It’s also heaps of fun when your teacher jumps out of fucking nowhere, glares at you disapprovingly and says “You forgot to ask Miss Waters her pain score!” I did ask her, but I’m pretty sure she’s not a real person hey. I waited six years for a response, gave up, fucked off and had a latte.

Exam questions that start with – “Which answer is MOST correct?”. All of my fucking Nope. I will literally take every Nope I have ever Nope’d, wrap them up in Paper Nope, insert them into a snow machine and create a fucking Nope Blizzard. I will make it rain/snow on these Hoe’s.

Referencing. If I hadn’t just carelessly given all my Nope’s away, I’d insert them here. You know that feeling you get when you realise you didn’t rinse your Weet-Bix bowl? The Weet-Bix residue has cemented itself to the bowl and you have to spend the next thirty minutes/months scraping that fuckery off.
Referencing feels like someone painted your entire fucking house with Weet-Bix while you were on holiday.

The moment when you’re on a clinical placement and realise you’ve learnt (almost) nothing of value from a textbook. Sure, I can tell you all about synapse junctions and homeostasis, but a patient just slipped their hand inside the sleeve of my shirt and is tickling my armpit. The dementia patient in Room 305 keeps sneaking into room 307, stealing their toothbrush and telling them to get the fuck out of her house. Don’t worry though – I spent a really long time memorising the periodic table. I’ve got this covered.

If you’re really keen on having a good time, do all of those things whilst simultaneously being a Parent. Your child will definitely cooperate. “Oh, you’ve just returned home from night shift and have an exam in three hours? Awesome, because I’m going to throw up on you.” “Wait.. You said play quietly while you finish your assignment? Dude. My bad. I thought you said to paint the fridge with nail polish and give the cat a bath in the fish-tank.” 

You won’t be up until 2 AM reading textbooks and smelling paper. You will be up until 2 AM crying, breathing frantically into a brown paper bag and injecting red bull directly into your veins.
And if you’re anything like me, you’ll be dissecting a brain in lab class in the middle of Summer, and the heat will make the brain get all melty, and you’ll have brain melt on your gloves and then you’ll accidentally place your brain-melty-glove-hand on your textbook.. and it’ll never smell the same again.

Melty brain. You’re welcome.

Stay tuned for part two of me being a ranty asshole.

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