Collette Kerrigan

The week’s guest says it’s time to chill

From summer job to student slob, the task of slipping back into life at York after a long few months really isn’t too difficult. Though there are deadlines to be met and a budget to be kept to, it is a relative life of ease that we live inside the comfort of our quaint campus. Walking through a haze of 1960s buildings on a Monday morning, I am safe in the knowledge that Costcutter will still stock a welcome can of Relentless; that there are still more recycling bins in student kitchens than you can shake a stick at and that the Barney-coloured bendy bus is still slowly winding its way through the city walls. As I cross my fingers that the credit crunch hasn’t sent the price of home delivery sushi skyrocketing, there isn’t too much that can truly faze me.

Though I may give the impression of being somewhat fancy free, is it so wrong to embrace the few worry-free moments that are graced upon me as a student? At the risk of sounding old before my time, the age of distrust hovers over us when suspicion is second nature, and rightly so. Who can forget the digitally enhanced fireworks of the Chinese Olympics opening ceremony, for example? It’s not hard to see how trust becomes a far-fetched concept as we are told to question anything we see, hear or read.

This is the same for students. It goes without question that we keep our wits about us, whether that is taking out money at a cash machine or merely locking up a bike outside the library. Even the rape alarms in the fresher fair packs are a good idea- though more widely used as an unwelcome alarm clock. But there comes a time when the security conscious take things a little too far. “Beyond name labelling her food in the fridge”, explains one puzzled student, “my flatmate leaves milk outside her bedroom window so that I can’t take it… even though I’m lactose intolerant.”

Somewhere along the line, while our backs were turned, a plague of paranoia has taken hold of us and we are positively encouraged to “trust no one”. The park is now a branded haven for weirdos and paedophiles and even Santa is subjected to disapproving looks at the shopping centre each Christmas. It’s almost laughable that wearing a hoodie can label you an urban menace. But whether you are wary of attack or merely mindful of your calcium intake, there is little left that we aren’t anxious about. In fact, it has been said that more than one in three people in the UK suffer from paranoid thoughts. “I used to find it difficult to step outside of my room”, recalls one anonymous paranoiac. “If I heard someone laughing, I was always sure that it was at my expense. If I left the flat, I was certain that there was someone in there taking my things and stealing my work”.

Surrounded by fear and suspicion, it is no wonder that many people teeter on this fine line between prudence and paranoia. I once met a technophobe who refused to sign up to Facebook because she was convinced of “the government conspiracy to get all our information and track our social behaviour”. Surely it is simply time for us to loosen up a little. With only a few sacred years at Uni, this is the chance to embrace the heady days of our twenties. Probably our last chance to be a bit footloose. Leave the conspiracy theories for your thirties.

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