3 A.M Thoughts on Existential Angst AKA What The Fuck Am I Doing With My Life?

Dear Ashley,

I liked your post, and it got me thinking about time and school. This was just meant to be a short post but words just kept coming so I just kinda kept going and see where it took me, and before I knew it it was 4 am and well this is what came out:

Sunday afternoon. The last remnants of a roast dinner are cleared from our places as the sun falls lazily onto the table. The chatter and laughter that accompanied the food have died away and people slowly drift away from the kitchen until there are only 3 teenagers left in silence. There are no need for words; each already know what the others are thinking. I don’t want to get on the train. I want to scream, to cry, to refuse to pack, and to lock myself in my room and never come out, but I don’t.

The 24 hours at home I have snatched like an ungrateful child are drawing to a close and, as always, they only made the prospect of returning even harder. I am seventeen, stuck in the limbo between child and adult. I outgrew boarding school years ago, the bitchiness, the mean girls, the teachers, rules and vitally, the lack of individuality.  My only consolation is my two partners in crime, the Ron and Hermione to my Harry. My twin sister’s controlled face shows none of the underlying emotion as she cracks a joke with my boyfriend sitting beside me.

It’s a familiar scene; maybe we catch our train and stubbornly sneak one last cigarette, a last act of rebellion on the way from the station to our boarding houses. More often than not, we’ll miss the train, stealing an extra night at home before making the same journey bleary eyed but with triumphant smiles slightly breaking on our faces the next day.

Maybe its because its 3 am and the ghost of Janis Joplin is caressing me from my itunes library, calling to me with words I’m only now beginning to understand for their true meaning. Maybe (probably) its because I’ve been watching Gossip Girl on Netflix almost religiously for almost a week now, but your post got me thinking about time, and now somehow the rose-tinted glasses are making their way out from a pile of shit flung on them by 8 years of boarding school.

At University, and in ‘the real world,’ a thing that I have only heard stories of from incense-scented travellers cloaked in Indian silk, the rules are more ambiguous. I find myself almost longing for those simple acts of harmless teenage rebellion, whether that’s smoking in a coffee shop in the afternoons or cautiously sneaking up to my boyfriend’s room (sorry mum if you’re reading this..). School was the first book in a series; Harry, Ron and Hermione are having adventures within the safety of the walls of Hogwarts under Dumbledore’s watchful, paternal eye. Peeta and Katniss are rebelling within the structure of the Hunger Games that the gamemakers have planned for them. But then University is the final book; Harry, Ron and Hermione have fled Hogwarts and are hunting death eaters and Voldemort on their own terms. Peeta and Katniss are advancing on the Capitol, and the structure of Panem and the Hunger Games lies dead with the unsuccessful tributes.

I’m not saying that I miss Cheltenham College, on the contrary, I wouldn’t go back if you paid me thousands of pounds. I love University, the freedom and the friends and memories I have made here. But I miss my friends, my boyfriend, the familiarity and the feeling of safety within the ‘bubble.’ As humans, we instinctively make rules for societies and situations everywhere because the reality is that the world is scary. It’s terrifying. There are monsters under the bed, and we don’t even know what they are. And of course, just like a child, these monsters scare me; sometimes a lot, sometimes not, but they’re definitely there. In the real world, if I fuck up, it’s on me. My problem. If  I am going to handle the real world, I’m doing it alone. Forget gender roles, societal values, what my friends, parents, teachers and magazines tell me I should be, in the words of Bob Dylan ‘All I can do is be me, whoever that is.’

I was once given some advice that most people expect to be happy all the time, when in reality life isn’t like that; most of the time we aren’t happy, and we should accept this to have any chance of being satisfied with our lives. Maybe I’m still naïve, unencumbered by a job, a house, a family and a mortgage, but my first reaction is ‘Why the fuck not?’ Why can’t we be happy most if not all of the time? Good or bad, shit happens in everyone’s lives, often stuff we can’t control. But we can control our attitudes, you can choose whether to be a victim or not, and most importantly, you can control what you choose to learn.

I realize it’s too late to not sound like a cliché, so I might as well go all out. In the words of Henley, ‘I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul’. And yes the world is terrifying and new and just about inconceivable, but this makes it exciting, breathtaking, and worth living for. Yes, there are the unknown monsters, but monsters aren’t necessarily bad, case in point:


I guess just like Eminem and Rihanna, weve just got to remember that we are friends with these monsters, and then its all happy days.*


*I make no apologies for the copious cliches

Mary-Kate Olsen


3Cs, 2 places, 1 person.

Dear Mary-Kate,

So these last few weeks I’ve been coming and going and so has the world – I went away for two weekends and had you and Albie each up to stay. Apologies for the sickeningly self-indulgent reflection that’s about to hit you but if you won’t reply to my posts I’m just going to shout into the abyss that is the internet.

All this has been very confusing. It doesn’t sound like it should be – you would think by the age of 18 I would have mastered the whole idea of travelling, what with boarding school and Hong Kong and divorced parents, but apparently not. I think it’s Cambridge that just messes everything up; time here runs like shampoo into my eyes (3 days in a row). My friends have had infuriating discussions around me on why an hour can’t feel like a day and vice versa because blah blah maths blah ratios blah chips (okay my brain may have added that last one… it was a very dull conversation and it had to wander somewhere). Here, hours evaporate like water from a forgotten kettle, and you can never quite pour them where you want them to go. Days slip past so quickly its like trying to watch tennis from the net – confusing, distracting and afterwards my neck is killing me – but that could also be from my super cool black backpack. And yet people here fit so much into their days that it makes me out of breath just watching them flitting round town.

It is this inexplicable phenomenon that makes it difficult to reconcile home and Uni. (Sorry for the essay-speak but its pretty much taken over my mouth – even in my dreams characters speak in well-proved syllogisms). It’s weird having people up to stay: because of the Cambridge accelerated continuum I don’t really know what I spend half my time on, since my routine is so undisciplined it’s practically French. Everything is strange and new still and that makes it exciting but I still don’t have a clue what I’m doing. I hope this is what life is like.

But there’s something else as well,which I thought especially in going to Cheltenham. The places that we remember aren’t just places at all; that’s the x-axis but there’s also the secret y-axis of time, so that everything we think we know about a place really just describes a situation. As you move forwards, so do places, even though you secretly expect them to freeze when you turn your head. But like grandmother’s footsteps, as soon as you look away everything creaks into action and slowly, quietly, creeps onwards. It’s a strange realisation in that it’s so obvious and yet hits you even though you know it already.

In the same way, no one ever tells us that the places that we love aren’t really places at all. I love Number 16, the top flat, and when I saw someone walking in there I wanted to shout at them. It doesn’t exist anymore but it was wholly and gloriously ours at a time – as Perks of Being A Wallflower would say, ‘In that moment I swear we were infinite’. Places are situations –The walls and ceilings in our memories are really made of faces and words, and so they don’t wait for us, but are instead scattered by the scuffling feet of these secret people. It’s not so bad though, since friendship stretches through time as well as space. It’s this that makes it possible for us to move on – to take all we can from a place and time and split off in a different direction. But still. Being in Cheltenham was great, so thank you Isaiah and your father Sam* for always welcoming me, having me to stay and for sitting on your bed doing crosswords and planning a life right down to the Weimaraners. Your absence is always felt, just like Kyle’s. Have a song.

I guess life is sometimes just trying to make the old meet the new. The Greeks thought of us as walking backwards through life, since we can see what has already gone but not what is to come. This sounds about right to me – walking backwards we fall over a lot, stare at the past, and rarely take the time to look around us Ferris Bueller style, but that’s what makes it interesting. And so that’s why, leaving Cheltenham on my casual 6 hour journey, I set my watch back to Cambridge time and took a seat that faced forwards.

I will leave you with some Tennyson because he is my baby and could this get any cheesier:

“Or that the past will always win

A glory from its being far;

And orb into the perfect star

we saw not, when we moved therein?”

From Ashley

*Some names/genders may have been unsubtly changed for protection or something…

P.S. I have resigned myself to the fact that I have taken a Jackson Pollock approach to apostrophes. Sorry Mother.

P.P.S. This was super cheesy but ah well, could be worse.