‘This too shall pass’ and other clichés


I overthink things a lot.

My head is an exhausting place to live in. When I was younger, I couldn’t buy a toy without carefully inspecting every single specimen available of said toy before making an alarmingly well-informed decision about which one I was taking home, secure in the knowledge that I had most definitely chosen the teddy bear with the most symmetrical snout or the Barbie with the least tangles in her hair, only to agonise about it to the point of tears afterwards.

Not much has changed since I’ve gotten older. I replay seemingly innocuous exchanges over and over days after the entirely superfluous conversations occur. That joke wasn’t funny. I shook hands instead of hugging. I tripped, and everyone definitely saw. If you catch me staring off into space with a mildly horrified expression on my face, I’m probably experiencing the agony of running away from a boy I liked at a school disco in Year Seven afresh for the hundredth time.

What’s odd, though, is that something about Cambridge both speeds up and slows down my neurosis. In the same way that an essay crisis feels endless when you’ve been up all night with only two hundred words and cans of Blue Bolt for company, but you can’t even remember writing it the next day when you’re in a dubiously-carpeted nightclub, knocking back yet another ill-advised round of Jaegerbombs, when you’re here, things are felt with a painfully disproportionate intensity, and then before you know it, you forget it ever happened in the first place.

pain, like a snapchat story, is temporary

There’s no time to spend agonising over that drunk text I sent to the one person I really shouldn’t contact when grossly inebriated, or the nightmare of a supervision where my supervisor imitated a bird in flight and I laughed in his face (seriously he imitated a bird though), because there are always newer things in the pipeline to agonise and enjoy and struggle over and revel in. There’s so much to do and feel in such a short space of time that there just aren’t enough hours in the day to cling and obsess over one emotion. God knows my brain still tries, but the shelf life is shorter.

‘My Supervisor Is A Windhover’, by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1918)

People have said before that this isn’t a great thing. There’s something undeniably unhealthy about how volatile Cambridge makes you: one minute you’re up, one minute you’re down, with no time in between. But I think there’s still something strangely comforting about the Cambridge time warp. I’m midway through my degree, and at halfway hall, somewhere between sobbing into my seventh glass of wine and dancing my face off in euphoric bliss, torn between oh God so much has happened how can I do all this again once over and where has the time gone it’s all nearly over there’s no time left, I realised that Cambridge makes us acutely aware of time passing, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Doing eight-week term after eight-week term provides you with a bizarre kind of external objectivity which helps you recognise that everything you experience in the present will pass. If we can blow through what seems an entirely ridiculous breadth of information and knowledge like a hurricane on heat in one term and hold on to what are (mostly) positive memories at the end of it, we can pass through the really crappy moments with equal swiftness.

And thank Christ for that, because Week 5 is sucking the soul out of me, and I need it to be over. Three weeks left. Game on.