The papers, the readings, the lectures — it’s finally all over for Hilary term!
It seems trite to say that I didn’t have enough time to write for myself, or read for leisure, or explore Oxford the way I wanted to, but this was just a really tough term for me: half of it I spent ill, and the other half was spent playing catch up.
Maybe I need a few more days to let it all simmer. To get some real perspective. In any case, I’ll spend some of this break in Amsterdam with great friends and then Paris (this is a big deal for me, even if it’s really easy to type out … coming to Oxford was my first time out of the States). I love to travel even if I haven’t done very much of it, and I feel more than grateful that I have this opportunity to do it.
I’ll even spend some time back at Swarthmore. It’s snowing there again today and I always wish I could see the campus when it looks as perfect as I imagine it. There have been some really beautiful, really sunny days in Oxford lately though — March has been a hopeful month so far.
And I worked a lot this term. I learned a lot.
I think it was sitting in my final philosophy tutorial yesterday afternoon, listening to my tutor talk about Kant’s metaphysics when it hit me how open my mind was, how well and how simply I was processing ideas, feelings, words. Maybe that’s exactly always how it works and this was just a moment where I was aware of it, where I was conscious of my own consciousness. Lucidity is extremely important to me and I feel like the difference between last term and this one is that I’m just really sentient, in a way that makes Oxford natural and makes me feel the cold and the sun and how tired I am and how happy I am.
But I’m also aware of how quickly time is going by.
My sister said “I have this theory: time is actually speeding up as the years go by. It has to be, there’s no other explanation … I don’t know how else to tell you … time is speeding up … My reasoning is just, like, time feels shorter … The particles of the universe are expanding!”
I have no idea what she’s saying, but I understand completely what she means. The older I get, the more urgent everything seems and the more merciless the hours are. I remember how I realised this when I was about 11 and my dad saying I could ice-skate for just another hour more felt like I had no time and so much time to skate at the very same time. My anxiety grew when I spent a few minutes staring at the watch he gave me just months earlier and calculating just how many precious seconds I was wasting.
Of course, now that my papers are all handed in, it feels like I have all the time in the world.
More than anything, though, this term was about falling down and getting back up again (literally, I tripped and face-planted right at the foot of my tutor …). Figuring out what makes me feel good and what I can do without. How to plow through impossible deadlines and still make time to enjoy conversation with people and walk with purpose and stop for a minute and let the sun settle on my face.
I’m trying very hard not to look back and see anything as a mistake. Not because I’m abroad or because it upsets me or because I should always look forward or it’s better to forget anything awful ever happened, but because I don’t want to regret anything, ever. Which doesn’t mean I’ll idealize myself into perfection, it just means everything and anything is an experience (as per the philosopher David Hume, I guess…) and whatever someone calls a mistake, I should think of as a way to learn and keep moving. Not because “I only live once,” either, but because me thinking, is me living, and me living isn’t about the limitations of my life.
But being here … this year, this past term, the next few months … these are all defining experiences. I want to make sure not to see them in terms of time … not to measure them as beginning or end points … but to take everything as it comes. To make decisions as I go along and to reflect and imagine on the strands of my existence. Spatiality, temporality … these concepts can’t even begin to organise the way my mind has begun to actually function or make sense of the way I want to see myself in the world. So I shouldn’t force it then. I shouldn’t waste precious seconds thinking about how precious those seconds are.
This doesn’t mean I want to float through my life. I just want to take all my experiences, all my hopes and dreams and fears, and carry them always so I can do the things that that make a difference. If I’m honest with myself and doing the things that I think are good and right and impactful, then that load will always be light.