It is only when I hear of those in the position I was a year ago I remember my joy opening my emails, neglecting my A levels for a little bit to venture into critics, historians, books and essays suitable to discuss at an interview at the University of Cambridge. I remember how much I wanted to be where I am and how much I believed I should be.
Getting through to this – almost completed my first term at Cambridge – was constant reminders. Reminders that a flaw and inevitable trait of human nature is our discontentment and impatience, we want everything until the moment we have it. And we desire everything that we do not have. Yet, the positions we are in today which we have become to hate, resent, and complain of – are choices we have made.
The restrictive academic syllabus I now complain of for being ethnocentric and elitist with too much reading in too little time, was something I chose to study. The university place I occupy came with the struggle of convincing my parents it was worth moving away an hour and a bit from home.
It is just that in the newness, the discomfort and homesickness I forgot.
It is when I take ownership, am assertive and a little brash I remember. When i defend my absence at lectures and the accusations that I am not doing enough work, I confidently assert that I am doing what interests me and every lecture and reading list isn’t wholly relevant. I chose to be here and I will chose to read, write about and listen to the things that interest me; where my passions lie, where my anger and emotion emerge. Though that usually requires reading novels in a day or two if I’m lucky and spending a little more time creating my own secondary reading list, it is worth it. It is worth moulding the hour that follows rather than attending my supervision simply to be present.
I am here and you’re there because you and I chose to be and because it is meant to be. Don’t kill yourself in the process of doing what you love because you’ve forgotten, or because it seems a little difficult and you’re an ungrateful human being. Remember that it is a choice and you do not have to do or (always) read what is expected of you, create your own expectations. Enjoy your subject; it is your education, your hard work, your reading.
While higher education can be incredibly restrictive and some things are rigid and compulsury, there is more room to move around than you think. If you think of something that isn’t on the reading list, email your supervisor, bring it up in your supervisions, write a weeks essay on it – be brave and take academic risks. Show your disinterest in what is given to you by proposing a well researched alternative.
After all, you’ve come all this way, you’ve gone through the tests, the interviews and defeated the undermining and self doubt.
Carry on and conquer.
We can talk all day about empowering ourselves, but it is when we empower ourselves within the supposed (non existent) capacities and limits that it begins…
p.s. I do not mean to say skip lectures and write essays that are nothing to do with the syllabus at all!