Last Day In Halls Today!

You can really only live like this for a short amount of time… (1)

So it’s finally arrived. My last ever day in university halls. It’s been an experience and a half. However I think it’s about time that we moved onwards and upwards, into a real live house. A house with a dishwasher, no less. It’s one of those things that don’t appear to be terribly important, however living without one for a year really increases your appreciation of such a magical, practical object.

It’s a little bit strange though, to think I’m moving out of my flat. I mean, I can’t wait. I’m just so excited. The last couple of days have been just, well, perfect, despite the looming presence of my last exam. However, the sun’s been shining, and the weather has been warm, and so the desire to go to the beach simply outweighed any desire to stay at home, reading books. Helpfully, my last exam is my favourite module, and so I think it’s all going to be just lovely.

It’s been strange because its only in the last two or three days that I’ve finally fallen in love with where I am. The climate is lovely (except during the winter), and it’s just beautifully quaint, and fantastic. I haven’t fallen in love with it, all year. In fact, I’ve been wondering if I went to the right place for university; did I make the right decision? Ironically, I only decided that I have, about three days ago. But now first year is over, with the exception of one two-hour exam, and then I’m up, and out, back home, and before I know it, It’ll be moving into a brand new, wonderful, and lovely house. I cannot believe how lucky I feel today.

I’ve finished packing now, up to and including doing all my washing, and cardboard wrapping my external laptop monitor. It’s a very odd feeling to know I’m not ever coming back to this flat again, after tomorrow morning. It’s a feeling of almost being displaced. Because that’s what this whole year has felt like; the moving back and forth has been something of a struggle to me, in places. I think it’s been a learning curve too. The most important element however, has been to never, ever, try to pack more than you can lift onto a train. That is perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learnt this year. Packing light is really the only way to travel, if you’re a cheap skate student, and get the cheapest train tickets, and subsequently have to get four different trains. No one wants to be shifting heavy suitcases up and down train staircases. Nobody.

Anyway, I have to go to the beach again now. It’s just too beautiful to stay indoors, as much as I do love the blogosphere.

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(1) http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Education/Pix/pictures/2012/4/16/1334574443353/Filthy-student-kitchen–008.jpg

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To Read Or Not To Read; That Is the Question

I’ve often wondered about literary opinion, and how literary opinion differs between people. Everyone understands the world in a different way to somebody else, and so naturally, they will understand literature differently too. Literature, and one’s attitude and understanding towards it, depends on experiences. Experiences of education, literature, whether you enjoyed your lessons when you were in primary school, whether you have a natural love of reading. These are all key factors in understanding what literature is, and whether you enjoy it, or despise it.

I know people who have yet to finish an entire book, and I suspect there are people who go their whole lives barely reading books and magazines. This is of course, a life choice. Whether you want to read or not is entirely up to you; education demands a certain amount of reading. If you choose a literature, or essay based degree, you’ll find reading to be nonnegotiable. Arts courses tend to be much more vocational, and this choice depends very much on the style of learning one is accustomed to.

Philosophy of the Mind (1)

It’s difficult to know how you’ll feel about different kinds of literature, until you experience it. For example, I don’t like all kinds of literature. I really dislike mythical Greek and Roman texts, as well as finding James Joyce’s Ulysses utterly intolerable. Some regard it as an example of the greatest literary creation of all time. I think it is a grammatical abomination, and something that is so complicated that it begins to lose its point, because it’s completely inaccessible. Conversely however, I thoroughly enjoy T.S Eliot, who is well-known for regarding literature as an elite pursuit and past time.

Philosophy is something else that is considered highbrow, and rarely brought down to an accessible level. It is complicated because it involves thinking about the makings of the universe, and theorizing on that most illusive of characters, knowledge. However it’s less complex than some think; it’s a matter of having a good teacher and a simple reader, to introduce someone to the rudimentary elements of philosophy. There’s no need to over-complicate things, and dive straight into analysis on Plato’s dialogues.

I consider literature to be one of my greatest loves, and I consider almost everything to be literature. I think that the well-written blog can be considered literature of all sorts; some blogs can be understood as literotica, some can be understood as beautiful prose. New writing is the writing that will one day be considered classic, and will belong to the modern cannon, and so I think it’s important to look at new literature, read magazines, of all kinds; fashion, photography, literary; they’re all part of a modern culture that will, like all cultures before it, be revered by future generations.

It’s all about enjoyment, you see. Culture is formulated through the things that people enjoy; a city with a strong opera programme tends to become linked to the opera as a pursuit and therefore becomes a cultural construct. To this end, we create our own culture. I’d like to think we do, at least.

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(1) http://philosophy.uchicago.edu/workshops/_files/Philosophy-of-Mind-Workshop.jpg

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On Excellence

I’ve been busy revising incessantly this week, and so I got to thinking, as I often do at this time of year, about the nature of ignorance, by way of the fact that every time I revise, I realise how little I know about my course. Admittedly, I’m only a lowly fresher, bottom of the higher education food chain, however, it is daunting to realise that you know relatively little. I think it also makes you realise how good your lecturers really are; they’re the best, and to be the best, you have to dedicate your life to your chosen specialty.

I don’t know yet, if I will ever become an expert in the field of English, however I’d like to think I’ll become an expert in my chosen field, whatever that may be. I don’t think it makes you ignorant to not know everything about something. It makes you ignorant if you don’t want to know. And I do want to know, however I’m just not sure if I’m able to dedicate my life completely to academia, at this point. I think I’d love to be working in the city in a few years, perhaps acquiring some more vocational qualifications, ready to make my way in the world as a professional in a field that I have yet to choose. Although, I’m not so worried about choosing yet; I still have two years in which to live in my university bubble. That safe place, where all you have to do is learn, and attend weekly parties.

It’s this revision you see; it makes me all contemplative and strangely perceptive about the world. An unfortunate side effect of exams for me is illness. Stress brings me out in ear infections, viral infections, stomach bugs, anything really. My body seems to decide to hate me on the exact week where a fully functioning ear and clear sinuses would be an added bonus. But I suppose beggars can’t be choosers, and I hope that this year will prove an exception to a time-honoured tradition.

Anyway, I must be off. There’s ecocriticism to revise, and critical theory essays to trawl through…

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Notes Backwards

We’ve all wondered what we’d say, if we could travel back in time, and tell ourselves what to do. I thought I’d blog about it today, on account of the weather being simply terrible, which is making me all reflective, and thoughtful.

Knowledge, and university courses. In the pursuit of knowledge, there are several things a person must know. The first, is that learning stuff, the big stuff, isn’t easy, and unless you’re bless with a photographic memory, something I dearly wish I had, you will spend an inordinate amount of time reading, rereading, and note-taking, before you can confidently declare to understand something. Moreover, somebody will always know more than you about something. This is inevitable, but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t attempt to be absolutely the very best, at everything you try to do. You should take the university course you love, because otherwise you’ll be extremely resentful of it, and it’ll make it one thousand times more difficult to finish it.

Art. Art is important. It’s important because we like to build things, create things. We must remember to write, read, draw, and dance, throughout the exams, and throughout the long working weeks, because otherwise life becomes well, incredibly boring. It’s also never too late to be something you’ve dreamt of being, even if you find you’re just a little older than the others. That just means you’re more mature.

Body. You think you’re fat now, however hindsight suggests you were wonderfully slim. As Baz Luhrmann quite rightly says, “you are not as fat as you imagine”. Take care of the body. Get some exercise, even if you hate it, and remember not to eat too much rubbish. Some junk food however is good for the soul, and so eating some of it is strongly encouraged. As is the eating of broccoli.

Success. Being an awkward child, you don’t know what you want to be yet, however you do know that it’s going to be something incredibly high-flying, and difficult to manage. The aspiration will seem like it’s a really long way away when you get a reality check, and sadly have to check into the real world for a while, however you ought to just keep going, and find new ways to pursue things. Thinking outside the box is really very, very important.

Self Confidence. Another Baz Luhrmann quote. “Do not congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either.” I find these to be rather wise words, and he has a point. Remember not to get complacent, and don’t think that you know everything. When you get to university you will be humbled by everyone and everything, including your peers, how daunting the real world seems, and how little you really know about your degree. Just remember it’s only the beginning, work hard to understand more, and use the library often. Do not be disappointed if you don’t just sail through, straight away. There’s no reward, if it’s too easy.

I think that summarises my wise words of the day. I think it’s useful, sometimes, to remember what you’ve learnt. It makes you feel wise, and more mature than you were when you first started out, even if it was only really six months ago.  The video by Baz Luhrmann is something I find incredibly useful too, have a listen!

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I Only Fell Over Once Today

I’m quite pleased with myself at the moment, because I got through an entire dance class this morning without once collapsing and begging to go back to sleep. I only fell over once. This is something I consider to be a huge achievement. When I began I could only tackle about twenty minutes of intensive conditioning, which is something I dare you all to try. It looks effortless, until you try it yourself, and you are transformed to a sweaty, pink, strained version of yourself. A helpful hint is that you shouldn’t look in any kind of reflective device for about thirty minutes after finishing this deceptive workout.

Easy, right? Go, on, try it. I dare you. (1)

It’s similar to Pilates, in that you scoff at people who do it, thinking that they don’t actually partake in ‘real’ exercise. I think they just work hard, knowing that they’re building muscles we didn’t know existed. Who knew about this ‘work zone’? I think it’s been a fantastically well-kept secret. Or perhaps I’m simply ignorant to such things.

As the day wore on, I felt the need to revise a multitude of English related things, whilst all the time cursing the existence of exams, and wishing we only had to do coursework to fulfill the terms of the degree. I think this is a rather faraway fantasy at the moment, however. The problem with being proficient in exam taking is that the higher education institution you attend makes you continue to take them. There are institutions across the country that increasingly use alternative methods of assessment. I, alas, do not belong to any of them.

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So I’ve been in my bedroom throughout a beautifully sunny day, on the basis that I have an entire syllabus to trawl my way through before my exam week begins. I am a little offended by the four exams that have been crammed into one working week, however it seems there’s very little I can do about it, and unfortunately moaning doesn’t seem to have any impact. I suspect that if moaning could cancel an unpleasant event, I’d have escaped many unfortunate occurrences in my lifetime.

However, I do find ways of revising that some people find incredibly boring. I write everything down, in a beautiful project book. I like to colour things in, and therefore I find it necessary to purchase a shiny new notebook, and try to make a new start when I try to revise. I also buy and write out numerous packets of beautiful key cards, that I can’t bring myself to throw away when my exams are finished because they’re just so beautiful. I find that using old text books, and so on, only serves to remind the poor student of the pain they experienced the first time they tried to learn the material. At least with new pages and new books, we can feel as though we’re starting again, instead of just going back to something that mentally feels, well, a bit dark and oppressive.

I want to wish everyone else taking exams on every level good luck, for this upcoming exam period! I’m sure you’ll all do fantastically.

(:

(1) http://bellevuewachiropractic.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/Pilates.jpg

(2) http://www.cartoonstock.com/newscartoons/cartoonists/rma/lowres/rman10110l.jpg

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On the Publishing Industry

As far as the publishing industry goes, I know very little about it. I know that I would like to be involved in it. And I know that it is incredibly difficult to get into the big publishing companies, purely because they’re just so competitive. The problem is less about your own aptitude for something, as opposed to finding a position that will allow you to pursue the career of your choice. Because in the corporate world, your dreams are just the same as another applicant, and you both want everything in the position.

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The problem is acquiring experience and having enough initiative to search for the highly competitive internships that do exist out there. I think being aware of them is part of the challenge, and then finding out where to go from there is naturally difficult, but not completely impossible. I personally felt better about the whole prospect of searching for a job after attending some employability events, and realising that networking as opposed to simply qualifications, is the way forwards.

However, a note on talent; I feel that everyone has one, and it just takes longer to come out in some people. It’s always there, and I do honestly believe, even though I am known for being a tad cynical, that everyone has something. It’s hard to compete with people who have a huge amount of talent, all the time, but I think that’s just a part of the world we inhabit today. Once upon a time, people found a career and worked in it until they retired, however today, we’ll all have a number of different careers, and we’ll be wanting to move on, and upwards in the world, until we retire. There’s more of a hunger to be rich and famous today than there ever was; we all want to be something, or someone, or at the very least, we want to be rich and famous.

I don’t really know how I will go about being somebody, however I think my business which has started well, and I hope it continues to go well, will help with this. It’s not always easy, phoning and emailing everyone you know to tell them about it, but eventually you have to be accepted somewhere; it’s a law of averages. Eventually, someone has to say “Yes!”. Eventually however, is not a specified time frame, and everyone I’ve spoken to says that perseverance is key. Networking is also key. Talking and communication is key. It’s almost comparable to the Deathly Hallows, really; the three ingredients to worldwide domination.

So there we are. I love the idea of belonging to this industry, no matter which bit of it. I’d like to be involved in PR, and maybe even consultancy, but it’s so difficult to really define what it is I’d like to do. Which is natural, and it’s why people of my generation tend to have a multitude of careers, and areas of expertise. The agony of choice; that’s what’s made our lives both more delightful, and more difficult, all at the same time.

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(1) http://www.consumercareinc.com/grey_business_group.jpg

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Learning to Dance Again

I mentioned recently that I have been experimenting with other forms of exercise, really just to see if I enjoy different things more, because I’m not a natural gym bunny. I never have been, and I have always strenuously objected against all forms of exercise. I am admittedly, very poor at dance, because I lack certain important things, such as rhythm and coordination, and thanks to my Dad, I have inherited two profoundly left feet.

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However, I like to dance. That’s the problem. I only ever dance in public when I’m at some kind of social gathering, and to dance before midnight, I have to do it in a darkened room with a locked door, for fear of terrifying any passers-by with my elephantine feet. But I do dance, privately, and I’d like to be able to dance properly again, possibly in public, or at least without feeling boundless amounts of humiliation, whenever I try. There is a beauty, in dance, I think.

The challenges of dancing are numerous, not least of which because they demand fitness and commitment. One does not simply ‘fall into’ being able to dance. The best dancers dance every day, from the age of four or less, and they are amazing at it. One of my flatmates is one a dance course, and her commitment is fantastic. I wish I had that kind of commitment to what can only really be described as physical poetry. From a literary perspective then, ballet is the physical form of poetry, and the Romanticism movement. I have no real idea how to relate myself to dance, because I’ve only ever been able to relate myself to the written word, and to literary movement.

Anyway, to spare you my over-dramatic perceptions and opinions on ballet, I think it would be prudent to look at the health benefits of such activity. It naturally gives you a wonderful, toned and strong physique, and increase your cardiac strength and endurance, because you are constantly using all the muscles in your body. I like the idea of this; I find exercise that involves deep breathing boring, and I positively despise yoga; I often wonder how pointing one’s bottom in the air can be conducive to any kind of exercise at all. Ballet however encourages breathing, but also lots of moving and physical use. The use of a body to express things is wonderful, if you have the courage to do it properly.

So that’s my trend for the week, and I’ve been working on it for a couple of weeks now. All these things require some courage to admit to the blogosphere, but as one very talented and admirable fellow bloggee states in many of her posts, it is important to be honest, because after all, what is the point in existing behind a facade that simply isn’t real? There isn’t one, and I suspect it’s much easier to be honest about one’s complete lack of elegance, than it is to be completely honest about personal issues.

I’ll let you know if I become graceful. Then we’ll be sure that miracles can happen…

(:

(1) http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/38/Two_dancers.jpg/250px-Two_dancers.jpg

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University Life Collides With Reality

Monday morning has arrived again, with the same reluctant manner as usual; a busy week, dominated by revision, essay hand ins, and lectures. However it is the last morning of term, which does provide a modicum of relief. The next Monday will be spent shopping, and the Monday after that will be spent at work; a return to the working world, to my job, back at home. Home and work feels remarkably different to university life; a person goes through a whole adjustment phase, every time they move back to the place they came from. It’s a constant movement, and a person is constantly in flux, preparing to move.

This form of nomadic lifestyle is at best, confusing; by the time one has adapted to living on campus properly, it is time to start looking for a house for the second year; this is done working on presumptions such as your friends will remain the same as they were last year, and you will pass the year, in order to progress onto the next one. Location is central to where a person wants to live. Near campus, or in town; in a village, or in a nearby city. Transport costs have to be taken into account; are lectures within walking distance of the house, or will you have to take the bus in? This is all fundamental to choosing a nice house, and when you’ve found a house that is acceptable, whether you can put the deposit down before anybody else gets to it first. (1)

Anyway, I’m preparing for my next trip home; I’m incredibly excited, because I simply cannot wait to see my Mum and Dad again; three months pass by, where I have to do my own washing and cook my own food; the magnitude of this is unrecognisable, until you have to actually do it, yourself. I have a flatmate who had never used a washing machine before, and to the day, we haven’t seen him cook. Life skills are learnt in a crash course of university life, ironically in the same week as Freshers. During Freshers, we have one priority: meet people, make friends, form bonds. The second priority is how many parties can be crammed into one week, or in our case, into two. It’s possibly one of the most turbulent periods of anyone’s life; all routine is poured down the drain in favour of partying.

Once you get over this particular period however, you can start to recognise opportunities; employability courses, endless societies, cheap gym membership. University offers far more than a bar full of cheap liquor, and offers access to people from all walks of life, people whose research is quite literally at the forefront of their fields. That is an extremely unique opportunity to have. Those who remain as drunkards on campus for a year tend to fall behind, at some point, whilst the rest of us sit in our rooms, at our desks, and ponder what on earth will happen, when we have to leave the safety, of the bubble. I mean, we might have to get a job, and everything.

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(1) http://thebackpew.com/backpew/images/lordsaveme.jpg (Credit to Jeff Larson)

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On Knowledge, Books, and Post-modernity

We all have something that we collect, something that we cherish; some people collect stamps, others collect antiques; some collect photographs, and some people just collect friends. I collect books; I have a couple of hundred of them, in all shapes and sizes. I love the “new book smell” and I love how they all sit together on my bookshelves, looking out over my room. I like the order, and the consistency; I love that they all, in one way or another, relate together, and are essentially the same. I like the continuity there.

Post-modernity however (I’ve been reading introductions to it all day), would disagree with my “unified” bookshelf; it would create “the other”. It would differentiate between genre, and the time in which it was published. Post-modernity essentially subverts the essence of an object in order to form a critique of itself, making post-modernity a paradox that cannot be unraveled, because the definition of something is the playground of its subversion. “There is nothing outside the text.”- Jacques Derrida.

Trust somebody to make a mess. It's a beautiful example of postmodern art however, by Marcus A. Jansen. This is however not quite the same as post-modernity, which has a broader focus in society and politics.

You see, I like to play with paradoxes, but the challenge I have is that I’m not logically minded; I end up having to make spider maps so I know what I mean, and what I think. The same thing applies for when I’ve read a complex essay. It seems that my brain resembles a computer; sometimes you have to use the disk defragmenter to clean up all those little nuggets of knowledge, otherwise the computer might slow down, heat up, or just outright explode. I often suspect the latter.

I spend an awful lot of time pondering how my lecturers have spent as much time as they have in the research lab; how they’ve understood all these magical things, how they’ve written groundbreaking papers about the forefront of literary criticism. I can barely understand my introductory postmodern research, and I’ve already made six diagrams about Derrida. It is humbling when you realise that you know absolutely nothing at all, in comparison with what they already know. Even they don’t know everything; nobody does, but they know more than most of us ever will do. This is mainly however because it’s their career choice; it’s what they wanted to do. I like that they can inspire you to enjoy a text purely because they’re so passionate about it that they can present you with facets of it that you couldn’t hope to find on your own.

So, back to my beautiful bookshelf. I love the order, and the tidiness of it. I like it’s superficially orderly ways. But what I like the most, and the reason that I will continue to collect them, is that behind that smoke and mirrors facade of order, and logic, is a world that can’t ever be fully dissected. It can be examined and explored hundreds of times, but no one will ever know every secret of every book. And I like that behind this simple exterior, is a rich, decadent world. But what I like the most is that by looking at this world, I will obtain a degree, alongside invaluable skills in analysis, close reading, and research. And I really do enjoy it, too.

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(1) http://www.contemporary-art-dialogue.com/image-files/postmodern-art-surreal.jpg

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On Survival

So today, I’m taking a brief diversion from my T.S Eliot series, because I read a rather inspiring article in The Guardian which made me think carefully about the nature of survival, and the very different perceptions of it from culture to culture. The developed world, the world which has Starbucks coffee on every other street corner, deems survival as an almost decadent indulgence; “Oh, I simply couldn’t live without my four by four”, or “I’m just starving…”. The article however presented a rather more interesting perception of survival; it was all about the boys of war-torn Afghanistan, who quite literally, walked to Europe, crossing vast amounts of land, traversing mountains, and clinging to the chassis of assorted lorries.

These boys are certainly not undertaking the journey for any charitable purpose; they are running away, paying gargantuan sums of money to smugglers, to escape the Taliban, or endless poverty, or the constant bombing of their villages. Like every other human, they have the fight or flight response, and unfortunately, it’s hard to fight a cause that is illogical. In the same way as arguing with a three-year-old is pointless, it is pointless to attempt intellectual argument against fundamentalism. Neither of these things are rational.

The startling thing of course is the fact that whilst I’m vigorously exercising, researching, thinking about things to take to Kilimanjaro, etc, these boys, who barely have a pair of shoes, are literally just doing it, climbing the mountains, and travelling in any way that they can, because that truly is the only way that they will survive the journey from their own damaged country. No one voluntarily traverses the Italian portion of the Alps, without shoes, medicine, food or shelter. However, this statement in essence, cannot be true, because people do it, if not regularly, then often; it is not an unheard of occurrence. This is startling because in our world, that is to say, the “civilised” western world, the thought of doing something so fundamentally dangerous is tantamount to declaring one’s own insanity.

One of the young boys who travel (1)

We continually, as adolescents in particular, moan about how bad our lives are; our student loans aren’t large enough, our boyfriends don’t love us enough, and our parents are always completely unreasonable. And to a certain extent, we are entitled as teenagers, to moan a little bit; to realise slowly that we aren’t the centre of the universe. It’s a rite of passage to know that, however these teenagers never had the chance to be ungrateful, because they were thrown into an unimaginably intense world of pain, where their parents don’t survive long enough to be able to ground them. That privilege was removed from them by extremism and foreign intervention.

Their education is also of paramount importance to them; something that as financial markets narrow, becomes even more important. We don’t tend to notice how privileged we are, and more often than not, will moan about getting up early, our homework, and something that a girl said about us, to someone who we thought was our friend. The boys who walk across Europe seek education as ferociously as they seek food; it is inspirational to read their stories, and to hear such unshakeable commitment, is fascinating.

These kids are inspirational, please have a read through!

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jan/29/out-afghanistan-boys-stories-europe?fb=native&CMP=FBCNETTXT9038

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(1) http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/u/

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