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How Scarlett O'Hara and my UEA friends are inspiring me to shine

PUBLISHED: 13:37 23 May 2017 | UPDATED: 13:39 23 May 2017

In this image released by Turner Classic Movies, Clark Gable, left, appears in character as Rhett Butler and Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara, in the film

In this image released by Turner Classic Movies, Clark Gable, left, appears in character as Rhett Butler and Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara, in the film "Gone with the Wind." 75 years after the premiere of the movie, Gone with the Wind, research is shedding light on the racial tensions that existed at the time between the producer and City of Atlanta officials. Picture: AP Photo/Turner Classic Movies

The man in the crowd does not wear black as do those around him, he wears yellow. He is the burst of a colour, for it is when amongst one’s peers that he thrives, stands tallest and shines brightest – and there is no higher podium in a young person’s life than that of the university.

It is the environment where talents are discovered and nurtured, where dreams are assembled. This is certainly true of the University Of East Anglia. The connections available here are incredible, from the student newspaper to the innumerable societies to the Livewire radio network: if there is something that really sparks your interest, someone will fuel that inner fire.

I have seen how much opportunity there is to excel here and I am surrounded by like-minded students. The student body of UEA is a colourful tide of happy swiftness, and as much as I want to swim with that current I also want to surf on top of it.

I surge forward with the momentum of their ambition, but I hope to use that as a slingshot. It is while being at university that I have discovered the drive for achievement, a competitive energy to make good of my opportunities. I want to create a legacy.

Appropriately for a Creative Writing student, I derive a great deal of strength from books, from the vigour and valour of fictional lives. The most important books in my life have been those that illustrate hardship and champion the rewards of perseverance: the likes of Bill Masen in The Day Of The Triffids and Nick Andros in The Stand.

But towering above them all stands Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind. With a sharp tongue and damnable stubbornness, that emerald-eyed heroine held the unbreakable posture I have adopted since I first met her at the age of 18.

Surviving the dislocation of the American Civil War, triumphing over poverty and hunger, hers is a life aflame with tragedy. Yet the resolve Scarlett bears to surmount such wicked austerity is encased in a single line: “‘I haven’t done so bad,’ she thought, lifting her chin and smiling.” This belief has become my saving grace.

Whenever I feel that I am not good enough, when I feel the weight of the world darkening my outlook, I remind myself that I haven’t done so bad. I remind myself that I am valuable. I have friends here at university who I love with my heart and mind, who support me, but I have come to understand the importance of loving oneself.

To believe in one’s self-worth is amazingly important, because it is this belief which empowers an ability to succeed in the challenges of life. I am of value. Tell yourself this. Say it aloud, say it now. I am of value.

I have something that enriches the lives of those around me: I am brilliant, I stand tall and shine. I want to succeed, I want to create something of worth, I want to leave behind me the memory of good work done. If that desire seems egotistical, then I am willing to accept this assessment for it shall not burden my ambitions. My shoulders are held high and my chin is lifted; I need only smile and remind myself, I haven’t done so bad.

It is being at university that I am the recipient of so much love and warmth, that I am never far from someone I can talk to and share a laugh with. My friends here are extraordinary, they are the torch I hold in my hands to ensure I am never alone in the dark.

I am the recipient of such illuminating kindness and it is this light that I wish to reciprocate. I want to shine.

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