Oxford / Updates

when the daylight comes

Spent half an hour I could scarcely afford earlier in the week watching (and re-watching) that video, along with the two others that came before it. It was something I had forgotten to expect for Valentine’s Day (though this isn’t directed to my year anymore, of course), which made the surprise all the more pleasurable.

(MCL’s the name of the house I was in in Pearson, and my year had started the Valentine’s Day tradition of getting all the boys to lip-sync a video dedication for all the girls.) I only know half the people in the house this year, of course, since they were my juniors last year, and by next year, I won’t know any at all, but even with the strange faces in this video, there was a brief, overwhelming rush of emotion. In a way that only someone who’s been there with me will understand, this video showcases some of the best things about Pearson while leaving out most of the negatives that frustrated me, so this video resonates in a very personal fashion.

What it also did was bring home how much of Pearson I do miss. Admittedly, it’s a refrain by now: the unfettered sea, the makeshift wilderness, the patchwork of accents; towards the end of the video, listening to the dedications in an assortment of accents felt, oddly, reminiscently, like returning home, and the ending shots of the beach, the brilliant sunset and the Pearson College drive, were evocative of the routines that had inadvertently been weaved into the tapestry of my UWC experience.

On the other side of the same coin, it reminded me of gratitude. I can’t refind Canadian nature in the middle of Oxford, but the university park is lovely in and of itself. Earlier in the week I had spent an hour in the park on an post-essay crisis high, after having impulsively decided to go feed ducks and swans. The swans were sublime creatures, all neck and elegance; they unceremoniously rejected the lettuce we brought but gobbled up the two loaves of bread cheerfully enough, and it was just an incredibly endearing experience. Then we took a leisurely stroll through the park and I am not afraid to admit that I made embarrassingly high-pitched noises every time we walked past a dog and its owner. It was a gently sunny afternoon as well, which was a gift in and of itself. I also saw a kid on a leash (or a lead, as my housemates corrected me repeatedly) – a leash; I found that hilarious. We also decided to climb a tree, though I got to about the third lowest branch before chickening out. Then we did log rolls on the pristine grassy fields, just because we could. It was inexplicably exhilarating, and we giggled like children after, while A watched exasperatedly by the sidelines. It was a simple, happy afternoon.

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Moments like these catch me unaware in Oxford – they persuade me of peace, even if it’s only for a little while. Usually, it’s a gorgeous dog on a leash that turns my head, or that time after a summer camp interview where I caught sight of a collared cat slinking around the low hedge running around a house, and I bade it to come over with a patient, outstretched hand. It curled around my legs and let me pet her velvety head for a few glorious minutes. Then it’s tutorials and I’m hanging on to my tutors’ every word (well … sometimes) and after, as I weave uncertainly through the labyrinths of doors that are most of the campus buildings, I try to hold on to that fleeting burst of motivation that the conversation with my tutor has inspired.

I was just about to say that I don’t think I’ve left college at all this week but I realized I went for a management consultancy introduction on Tuesday. That was surprisingly informative – it made management consultancy sound very intriguing and explained why it was so competitive and lucrative – and having the opportunity to listen to the panelist of finalists, all of whom had received job offers from major management consultancy firms, as well as the speaker, who himself had worked in the industry for a decade, was very edifying. Among the points they made about the selection process was the fact that one should strive to be relatable and likable, and indeed, all of them came across as very, very personable and likable. I suppose I was expecting a little arrogance of sorts, or an unconscious snootiness, but all of them struck me as cheerful, decent people who genuinely believed in management consultancy as a career for its intrinsic potential.

Among other things, I have had, again, significant, weighty conversations this week. These always ground me. I suffer through cycles of aimlessness, indecision and misdirection quite chronically, I do think, but conversations with people are inevitable anchors that reassure me. In all our own little ways, we are searching for that elusive moment of connection with the other.

In more mundane things, a little tactic I’ve used to enhance my productivity is to close my desktop mail client. Before I’d tended to feel compelled to check it whenever that little ping noise of incoming mail sounded. Now I’ll only check it in the kitchen when I’m eating and/or at night! Am also listening to my French radio more – almost compulsively – now. I admittedly count the days to my month-long sojourn with farm animals and French people.

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