A Week in Crisis: The First Essay
Week Five Blues? More like Week Twos.
There are many daunting things about Cambridge.
The depressingly phallic dominance of the UL, for one. And then there’s the Cambridge workload. I’m an Arts Student, so naturally people look at me in bafflement. “Workload? Aren’t your lectures optional?” Try being a NatSci, Medic, Engineer, or Mathmo, they’ll tell you. “We have so many more contact hours than you”.
Whilst it’s true that lectures are optional, you won’t have much contextual understanding of the course without them. I’m pretty sure I don’t have the mental capacity to stumble through Sir Gawain and The Green Knight without the aid of an introductory lecture or two. Plus, if you don’t attend any, you’ll miss out on all the fun of having a favourite lecturer that makes 9AMs bearable.
This just in: contact hours are a godsend. Never have I felt more productive than during a supervision or class, engaging in the lively cut and thrust of debate (basically having gotten completely the wrong end of the stick with the reading list.) When you’re not in a supervision, you generally have something to do for a supervision, and time alone in a room or library with a wifi connection can only mean one thing. Crisis.
If you’re one of those demigods who make us mere mortals feel unworthy purely by having life together, or something equally ridiculous, chances are you’ll be unfamiliar with this concept. But for the rest of us, here’s how a week in crisis looks and feels.
This will be the most optimism you’ll feel until you’ve finally emailed the thing, in all its crap, clunky glory, to your supervisor. Today, all is well. You’ve got a reading list you’re probably kidding yourself that you’ll finish, and one of the questions seems to require less mental gymnastics than the others. It’ll be fine. You’ll get round to it.
Not tonight, no, because there’s something on at the Union and you need to read everyone’s articles in The Tab. And someone’s probably hosting pres. But it’s Day 1. You’ll be fine.
The day when you realise that everyone else has their life together a bit more than you.
You head to the college library, unable to face the English Faculty or the caverns of the UL. Naturally, iDiscover won’t play ball and you realise it’s either a trek to Sidgwick or squinting at one of the online copies.
A bit of exercise never harmed anybody.
After spending about half an hour with a torch in some obscure Medieval section of the UL, it’s time to feel productive by going to a lecture that only bears some relevance to the course. Nothing too taxing.
Or you could just go and buy your body weight in alcohol and Babybels from Sainsbury’s.
It’s perhaps time to panic. A bit.
You know it’s come to something when you feel victorious finding a topical Cambridge Companion in the college library. After spending a few hours writing notes that only bear slight relevance to the question, you attempt an introduction.
It’s quickly realised (or was in my case) that I’d used up all my creative juices on ‘2, 4, 6, 8 / Ready to matriculate’ early last week, and that my sentences sounded a lot less Dr Johnson and a lot more Dr Seuss.
Right. Day 4, known as the day of motivation. Pretty sure Jesus was resurrected on Easter Sunday because he had a deadline.
No lectures. No electronic devices. No visitors in the room. Just pure focus.
In the zone.
(You’ll probably end up spending three hours panic writing total crap and reward yourself with a hot chocolate afterwards. But, at least you’re closer to that final word count.)
In which we reward ourselves for all the mindless nonsense written yesterday, by doing very little.
You will more than likely have a nap.
The panic will probably hit around late evening, but that’s okay. Just don’t re-read or attempt to edit anything written yesterday. That’ll lead to a spiral of existentialism. The best thing you can do is face up to the fact that it’s a 2/10 academically.
You probably wrote better at GCSE.
You’re there. We all are, at some point.
Well, except the aforementioned people that really have their lives together. Urgh.
It’s now 2AM and there’s a 9AM deadline and you’re suddenly regretting every trip to Cindies and Life that seemed like such a good idea.
And it’s crap. You’ll have to suffer an excruciatingly painful supervision and be tormented by the faithful Cambridge Imposter Syndrome.
You’ll promise yourself, emailing it over at 4AM, that it’ll never happen again and you’ll be more conscientious from now on.
Next joke. See you next week.