Oxford / Scotland / Updates

the ecstasy, the being here [backdated post!]

written at 4.30 am at London, Stansted, March 10:

It feels like my vacation has gotten off to a cracking start already, because I spent five hours this evening typing in my written notes for political theory and UK politics, cloistered away in the library.

Was intending to get a lot more done, since my bus out of Oxford only left at 1 am, but I am an inexcusably poor packer, considering the number of times I’ve had to pack up my room and cross continents – I suspect for all my lip service to minimalist packing, I am a inveterate hoarder of objects, a fact made painfully clear to me on my six trips up and down my house (six flights of stairs) and back and forth across college. En route down with what must have been at least 20 kg of absolute junk (half my belongings I have not even touched this term), I promised myself to throw out every single odd-and-end I own and then half my clothes. I do own a substantial amount of clothes, it seems, what with the fact that I did my laundry twice this term – the second time was earlier this morning because I had a few dirty articles of clothing I could not pack – and the fact that I had left half a package of clothes at a friend’s apartment for a whole term and did not even miss them until I retrieved them. (But after having gotten them, it was like having a bunch of new clothes, which was very exciting!)

I have packed quite light (lighter than winter vac, at least – I think?) for what will be a full Easter away from Oxford, though. Still insufficiently light for easyjet cabin luggage, but considering that I’m spending those five weeks in two places and expecting to do light farm labour on top of having to study, I am moderately satisfied with myself. I do worry about the minimal number of books I have brought along, but I reassure myself with the thought that it is not the number of books but the amount of effort. (Also Internet – which I hope I will reliably have.)

In any case, through sheer inertia and an inexplicable surge of moroseness last night, packing did not occur. Felt absolutely drained and reluctant to engage in last-night-of-term festivities, so I deliberately fell asleep for a couple of hours, and then moped and puttered around in the kitchen for a bit before crashing at A’s for the night. College was dreadful today after departures. I sat stunned in my room by all the silence for a little in the afternoon (after having sought some solace in assorted company at brunch) before mustering the energy to finish packing. There was some last-minute panic regarding my razor, contact lens solutions and the general size of my duffel bag given that I hadn’t paid to check in my bag when I bought my flight tickets. It was a spot of poor planning, I admit – I eventually paid for extra luggage (I would have earlier had I realize that the £30 charge for amending flight details did not apply to adding additional luggage, which was only £18 return) but by then had already left my razor (clearly an essential item) in storage, so was a bit put off.

But I spent a long while in the evening quietly coming to terms with the extent to which I have fallen hard into Oxford this term; certainly the attachment has coalesced into a far more defined phenomenon in comparison to my muted awareness of solitude (or some facsimile of) at the end of last term. I tried to still, and when that did not work, ignore the clamoring that insisted on fighting its way to the surface – it was a disquieting, odd and entirely surprising emotion, all the more so for its orphanage. There wasn’t quite anyone I knew to direct it to – and to be ruthlessly honest, no one I wanted to direct it to, because this amount of attachment to a single person would be a scary and unwise thing. In spite of the increasing amount of time I have been spending with people (and the decreasing amount of time I have therefore been spending on work, unfortunately), the inevitable dependence on that social intimacy had slipped my attention.

Part of it is, of course, the contingent of parents descending upon the houses en masse, armed to do laundry and clean up rooms as a sort of termly parental ritual, and the burgeoning anticipation of home and sleep and home-cooked meals that floods the college. I felt this last term, to a lesser degree, the jarring realization of an external world with equal (if not far more!) claim on the imaginations and realities of people you have seen every day for two months. Or maybe it is some wistfulness about the structure in their lives, the shuttling between two defined spheres of existence – home and college/university – even as I think I have more or less consciously enforced a disruption of such clean distinctions. Still, it is always good to be reminded of what I (am) miss(ing) – I think; it is psychologically healthy.

These days I tell myself so many things repeatedly it’s hard to distinguish between the things I say because they are true and the things I say because I want them to be true. It is a fine art, tricking yourself into wanting the things you want yourself to want (free will = ability to have second-order desires about your first-order desires?). The phrase Leonard’s mom says to Penny to make her cry, an external locus of identity recurs. It seems there is nothing I can say I want with as much certainty as a first. That sounds a little silly, but is it, really?

I don’t think the term has been bad to me, though. Work seems to have gone fairly decently (and I only hope to capitalize on that over Easter); Michaelmas collections have gone respectably enough; have gotten more involved in college life. Have stopped cooking quite as often or as elaborately – I intend for the trend to continue next term. It does seem more economical, and I am finding hall food less offensive. I do want to spend less money next term. Take better, more structured notes. Perhaps try and get a little more involved with university life, but that depends on how comfortable I feel with revision after Easter. Appreciate people more.

I am ravenous at the moment. Quite contrary to my overall sentiments as expressed in the above paragraph, week 8 rapidly fell to pieces, I think, as evidenced by a sharp deterioration in eating habits. I had two cup noodles on Friday night (because I was too lazy to cook and nothing in Tesco actually appealed to me and I basically thought fuck it I’m going for instant noodles) and then two salmon fillets and then pasta with bacon and tomato sauce, which was pretty good, actually, but it was bad because I ate a ton of my feelings (ahaha) and then an actual KFC zinger meal earlier tonight (but that was because it was late and Tesco was closed and the pasta I had saved from the night before for dinner was thrown out accidentally in the packing rush, which was very sad). Am remedying it in terms of quality but exacerbating the excess quantity situation by eating an egg-mayo-tomato-rocket sandwich from Pret at London Stansted. I want steak. I don’t know why I thought getting a sandwich without meat was a good idea. But eating out reminds me of why I cook, all the time – paying £2.99 for two slices of bread and leaves and an egg-mayo I could make better is aggravating, even though I know that factors in labour and transport costs and the 90 minutes rent of the comfy seat I am occupying.

This is going to be it for now, I think – check-in opens in 15 minutes and then I will spend the next two hours either napping like a hobo or typing in notes. I will hopefully post more exciting things about Scotland and France soon.

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