The monotony can be jarring. I think when you are young, you always get the tendency to fidget. Knowing that a large proportion of your life is being decided in the next few years, and that the rest of it is going to be much less exciting (potentially), it does make you itch. Not necessarily for anything in particular, actually quite the opposite. You just don’t want to get settled down too quickly and so you move and flit more in your decision making.
You won’t eat dinner at the same time every day, and you’ll set an alarm but you’re definitely sleeping in most mornings. You can be persuaded to go out and do things that you otherwise wouldn’t even entertain. You are more inclined to travel, because you don’t think you have seen or experienced enough yet. You are constantly reminded that other people ARE, and that you can see it on any social networking app you have on your phone. Photographs, anecdotes, throw backs and videos of the best parts of everything, from nearly 2,000 “friends”. We are all guilty of it.
Every day for the past two-and-a-half years, you have been told that the world of work (and inevitably routine) is very far away. Every essay can be done half an hour before the deadline and you can balance your time by making 60 per cent of your lectures and 100 per cent of everything else you would much rather be doing. You can pretty much do what you want, eat what you feel like and wake up (and nap) whenever you feel it is necessary.
Oh, but then the real world hits you. The prospect of getting a decent degree looms and you make your way to the library. You remember that you need to have breakfast in the morning and make time to pack a lunch. It becomes clear that pasta is going to be a bigger part of your weekly shop than alcohol for the foreseeable future. You have a bed time, because you have to get up early and do work. Reading is a thing, and you haven’t done enough of it. Graduation is just around the corner, and whether you have a job or not, you have to leave the idea of being a student behind.
Sitting in the library, at a desk, for five or more hours a day is the monotony. The slow conclusion that dawns on every finalist: this is what the rest of my life is going to be like. It has been a good run, and the nights out have been fantastic, but this is all ending and I wasn’t ready. I have convinced myself that I am ready to go, that long days of reading and writing about thinkers is not for me, and that the last good bits are already over.
The truth is that without it, I’d probably be a bit of wreck. I haven’t made the most of my lectures and taken the knowledge that I should have done. I have learnt a lot since I’ve been here, but maybe I should have taken it more seriously. There are so many new things that I didn’t get the chance to do or gave up on. Many relationships that I failed to cultivate, or made mistakes with – things I said that I could take back, but that isn’t how this works.
The positive thing is that this feels like a peak. Whether this is just a camp on the way to the summit, or if there is a sharp drop coming, at least I felt the high. The sense of bliss from knowing that something, anything came good with the effort that you put in. And that is what I am going to remember, not this feeling of loss.
So I am jittery, I am itching to leave in once sense and fidgeting in another about what is going to happen. I guess it is the sort of thing that could be quite normal at this age. The only thing that I do know for sure is that regardless of how monotonous and all-consuming this work feels at the moment, it stands at the culmination of the end of my time at university. It is the important last element.
Getting that scroll of paper may be a chore, and these two months will be the most mentally intensive of my life, but it comes with a reward. And some of that reward has come good already. If nothing else, I am going to enjoy this period of learning because it might be the last, at least academic, in a while.
Every time my eyes are starting to close in the library, I am going to read this through again and realise that I’m lucky to be here. And now it’s time to stop taking it for granted and embrace it. Only a little while longer, keep the faith.