Wednesday, 25 May 2011

the end of an era

Yesterday I submitted my final essay as part of my English Literature degree. Third year, and thus my course, is now over.

Perhaps it's because I'm knackered but I thought I'd feel, I don't know, different to how I do now that it's all over. I'll feel sad, obviously, when all my friends move out and back home (luckily I'm going to be away when this happens so I don't have to say goodbye to an empty house on Brownlow Street), but sad about the course being over? Not as much as I thought I'd be.

Ok, so obviously I am quite gutted that it's finished. I have loved my course. I love being a literature student. I love the fact that my education involved sitting around and reading Jack Kerouac. It's what I do in my spare time anyway, so why not get a degree in it? And as little as six weeks ago I was completely dreading this moment. But recently...I don't know. I've kind of realised that things just need to move on. And I've also realised how excited I am about my future.

All my life I have had this crippling phobia of time passing and growing up and getting old. To a certain degree, I still do. It's why I hate New Year's Eve and why I don't like talking about anything beyond two weeks from now. But that's shifted a bit now. Now I really want to just get stuck in. If you read this regularly then you'll know that in September I am starting my PGCE course to teach 7-11 year olds. Well at the moment I do work experience in a primary school and a few weeks ago I was there and it was like I had an epiphany. I was sat there with some kids - the class I'm in is the most epic group of children I've ever met - and I just thought, wow. This is perfect. This is genuinely what I want to do for the rest of my life. Teaching is...well, it's what I should be doing. I'm good at it. I love it. I almost started crying because it was such a revelatory moment. And ever since then I've been so excited about starting this new course in September instead of freaking out over my current one ending. They say that university is a time for growth and change, and if that isn't change then I don't know what is.

This idea of how we've changed over the course of university has come up a lot between my friends and I over the past couple of weeks. Thinking back on myself in 2008 and comparing it with myself now is quite an odd thing. I don't remember how I felt back then because as my feelings on life and love and people change, those new feelings just become me. I guess the biggest thing - and this is, I think, the case for most people when they go to university - is confidence. In first year I hardly spoke to anyone. I hated university. I hated the way the course was structured and I hated the modules they forced you to take and I hated being there when I could be getting drunk in Sheffield with my old college mates (which, incidentally, is how I spent most of my weekends). I loved college so much and I really wanted to go back to that, hanging out in the refectory with my pals, history classes with Alan was all good times. Uni was a massive shock for me, and because I stayed at home I was never forced into meeting anyone. So I just...didn't. Then towards the end of first year I started hanging out with Kristine, an American exchange student who I still miss very, very much. And then I met Stephanie Parkin. Our mutual love of Twilight (ahh, 2008) brought us together, and through her I met the people I spend most of my time with now. In second year, not only did I get to choose the modules I wanted to take - thus increasing the enjoyment factor by 3000% - I also now knew a couple of people in my classes. It is insane how much of a confidence boost that is. It's all very well being the elusive, silent figure in the background, but having someone you know there makes talking in seminars so much easier. Weird, I know. And especially this past year I've become...more free, I suppose. I've stopped considering how other people view me, stopped caring what anyone else might see or think about me and just enjoyed myself. I used to hate myself. Now, I'm really happy.

I think that's the biggest thing I've learned at university. How to be yourself. What a fucking cliche, I know, but it's true. There isn't much that I've studied over the past three years that I wasn't already aware of. As a course, English Literature doesn't exactly teach you. And maybe if I could start over again, I'd choose something different. History, or something with some real facts behind it. But there is no way that I'd miss the experience of going to university. And I stayed at home so I know there are people who think that I didn't 'have the real experience', but whatever. Staying at home meant that I had the money to go travelling last summer. I've been to six festivals, an innumerable amount of gigs and seen almost every single one of my favourite bands. I've been to London and met my favourite author. I went to Manchester and had my arm around Professor Brian Cox. I've had the best times of my life and there is no way I could have afforded that if I had moved out, so I don't regret that one bit. Well, maybe a little - I would quite like to have lived closer than an hours bus ride away from my uni.

I started writing this post to mark the end of my course and somehow it has turned into...I don't even know what this is. I think my point is, I'm happy. I've met some of the best people I have ever known and done things that I think about every single day and probably will for the rest of my life (malibu and coke, anyone?). I've completed a fucking degree man - that's a big deal. The end of this course is heartbreaking because I know I'm going to lose people. There are people who you just know you're never going to see again. It happened after high school, it happened after college. I think you just have to trust that the people who matter will stick around. But studying English Literature was just a self-indulgent thing. Now my real life is starting. Now I get to go on and do something that I have been working towards since I met Mrs Spencer, my Year 2 teacher, and realised that I wanted to be her. The future starts here. Let's crack on.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

"I go to seek a Great Perhaps"

"...for we are engaged here in the most important pursuit in history: the search for meaning. What is the nature of being a person? What is the best way to go about being a person? How did we come to be, and what will become of us when we are no longer? In short: what are the rules of this game and how might we best play it?"

Through the epicness that was researching, writing and completing my dissertation, I didn't get much chance to read anything just for pleasure. I felt too guilty about reading something that couldn't be used in my essay, so I have only just gotten around to reading a book that I have wanted to get my hands on for aaages: John Green's Looking For Alaska.

Without a doubt it is one of the most stunning books I have ever read. The characters are fabulous and hilarious and real (despite being slightly Doulgas-Coupland-ish a couple of times in their speech) and the ideas that the novel offer on life and love and death are beautiful. It's intelligent and funny and tragic and so special. I don't want to explain the plot or anything because it spoils it, kind of, but this book is my recommendation for this month. Truly fabulous.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

"And now please welcome to the stage the pretty boy of physics...Professor Brian Cox"

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe." So said Carl Sagan, cosmologist and astrophysicist superhero in his 1980 book Cosmos, and so quoted Robin Ince, presenter and comedian, at the Uncaged Monkeys show at Manchester Apollo on Friday night.

It doesn't sound like a barrel of laughs, does it, going to see seven clever people talk about the universe and mathematics and the failings of the Daily Mail, but it was truly one of the funniest things I have ever experienced in my entire life. I'm not sure how long the tour is going on for, but if you can get tickets to a show near you, seriously, just go. I was crying with laughter the whole way through, whilst at the same time fascinated by the things they were saying. But whilst I would modestly consider myself a person of dramatically above average intelligence and indeed the kind of person who would appreciate a show involving a man on stage performing an experiment involving a ruler and a thin beam of light, I am also an astonishingly shallow person. So the only the reason that I went all the way to Manchester on Friday night was because Professor Brian Cox was there.Yes. Professor Brian Cox, particle physicist, Wonders of the Solar Systen and Universe connoisseur, and my hero. He is adorable and witty and impossibly intelligent and he gets as charmingly excited talking about space as I do talking about him. He is also well fit. People who do not like Brian Cox are probably the kind of people who do not like puppies or sex or chocolate know, the kind of people you really just don't want to be friends with. Well, he was there. In Manchester. In the same room that I was. And he was magnificent. When he came out on stage, I almost had a breakdown. When he started talking about the Hubble Deep Field image, tears actually welled up in my eyes. That is the level of love and respect I have for him. Actually hearing that distinctive Oldham accent in person after I have bascially spent the past 18 months doing nothing but watching his programmes and reading his books was a wonderful and emotional thing for me. And he was just as marvelously charismatic and fabulous in person as he is on tv.
And that would have been enough. Just seeing him would have been enough. But then this happened:

Holy shit! It was absolutely pouring it down so only a few people hung around afterwards (there's only one back entrance to Manchester Apollo, fellow creeps, if you ever want to meet anyone). We were probably there maybe 20, 25 minutes when suddenly Brian just walked out, on his own, saying that someone had told him there were a few people out here so he came to meet us. Well, I was very uncool about the whole thing. I actually think my brain short-circuited a bit. He signed my book for me, which I had brought along just in case, and then I had a photo with him, and then I may or may not have burst out with "you are my favourite man!" Clue: I did. Luckily everyone laughed and he laughed and said awww thank you, but I'm still fairly mortified by my lack of control. But whatever. Professor Brian Cox is one of my ultimate heroes, and he is one of the sweetest, loveliest, most gracious people I have ever met. And you know what? He really is my favourite man.

Thursday, 5 May 2011


Today I handed my dissertation in:


An exploration of the themes of gender, alienation and consumer culture in Blank Fiction texts American Psycho, Fight Club and Generation X.

A Research Project presented as part of the requirement for the degree of B.A. (Hons) English Literature (Specialist).

For the past few weeks, almost my entire life has existed around that essay. Around American Psycho and Fight Club and Generation X and gender and consumerism and alienation. Knowing that I will never again have to flip through Generation X attempting to find a fitting quote as to why the novel promotes the idea of escape from a consumerist society is the most major relief. But whilst actually having the 51-page essay bound and handed in was terrifying - it signifies a very near end to my course and also a huge chunk of my final mark so if I did poorly it's going to really pull my mark down - it was also one of the most gratifying things I have ever experienced. To have laboured over something and thought about something for so long and to finally have it there, finished, in front of you, was an oddly touching moment for me. Kind of pathetic, I know, but the topic I wrote on was something I really cared for and felt strongly about so it meant a lot to me. Fingers crossed now that the pain and (literally) sleepless nights and unpaid days from work and back ache from carrying sacks of books to and from the library and possible soul-poisoning from staring at my laptop for so many hours on end will all be worth it (and gets me at least a 2:1).