finalist diaries from Cambridge —

This academic year has been about completion and finalising perfect pieces of writing, but that did not happen here on the blog. I’ve got snippets of diary entries written at different points in the year that I’ve edited now (June)–  while graduate me wishes I blogged more here without finalist me worrying about it being perfect — I’m glad I documented it. Things ended differently (thankfully) + I found the words I needed.

| Michaelmas / a day in November/December 2019 

I’m not sure what this post is for, I had the thought of it last night as I was going to bed reading Seneca’s Phaedra – a play about incest. I did not sleep well.

But I think this is something I’d want to read later on and maybe some of you want to read now.

I’ve wanted to blog about University the whole time, there’s so much I’ve wanted to do, and there always is. I’m a little restless in the way I will be reading one thing, thinking about writing another and a half-written text message I need to complete and send and the spot stickers I need to order online. I am a little restless in never feeling what I am doing is enough or good enough. It has always been like this from what I remember.

Coming back to Cambridge for final year felt nostalgic before it had even ended. I suddenly viewed this place so differently. I finally asked myself, what can I do for myself here? The sense of it ending made me think of the things I wanted to do – not about what I felt I had to.

I spent first and second year just trying to get by, making sure I had *an* essay in – not necessarily the essay I wanted to write and make wonderful. I held myself back a lot. I didn’t want to take up space in a room and make it about my academic ideas or the questions I had because I worried about it not seeming to be the right ones. Now I am anxious realising I won’t be here again. I will not be able to do three years of my undergrad – or final year at Cambridge again. I wanted to come out of here a better writer, thinker, reader… I didn’t feel like that was happening. There’s been a lot of emotional growth, but also a loss of confidence, especially academic confidence.

I climbed a mountain in October. I finally applied for a travel grant. I finally confronted (via email) a racist comment. I asked my supervisor to talk to me about my writing. The specifics, sentence structure and length, my inability to use commas.

I stopped trying to be this student who had it all figured out, I stopped trying to be the student I thought they wanted. I began, doing, and asking for what I wanted – that attitude that made me apply here in the first place – thinking about what and the help I could get here.

Lent | A thought in March probably — dissertation deadlines + new papers 

I hope you’re being kind to yourselves, bathing in sunlight from your desks and makeshift work spaces, breathing in air whenever you can.

Lent cont/

I’ve alluded to feeling out of place here quite a bit.

In my third year this sense of out of place manifests differently. What do you do when you’re finally writing about the things that matter to you, but you carry with you the comments and idea that they don’t? That you’re being tricked — that as important as the ideas you have, and what you’re writing – maybe it belongs elsewhere/ and doesn’t quite matter here.

What do you do when you feel you can’t write yourself into academia — when you’ve been trained to think and feel that way? When you wish you could absorb the confidence of the brilliant scholars on twitter and jstor that you read– when you’ve really learnt a lot here, that it is within you, fuelling you, but it cannot be expressed just yet… there is still this perpetual sense that there is no room for you here and that you still lack the tools to articulate it.

When you lack the confidence to write yourself into this space and realise that is precisely the problem? After all what is here, and what is that space?

why am I abstracting something that is carved out// your words are the presence and the space is what you’re carving out here and elsewhere.

The writing that is familiar and powerful and resonates like nothing else is because they are a part of my experience, but this seems difficult to articulate for the academic space — but for you these spaces are all connected. And writing about what matters personally for so many, is making academia matter and making the most of it

I remember feeling like I could not channel this resonance, this rage and interconnectedness to be something effectual, academically.

/ this is not about decolonising the curriculum ——-this is about decolonising, breaking down my internalisation of a canon — the idea of things that are meant to be academic discourse — working through this internalisation.

How do I reconcile that with the immense privilege I have, of being in the company of books and brilliant minds, endless libraries…and knowing that to read, to admire, is not enough…that I am meant to produce some words of my own when it so often feels like I have none or the ones I have are not fitting?


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