Saturday, November 20, 2010

Fifth Week Blues

Monday November 8 marked the beginning (to me, anyway, as Sunday was a holiday) of Fifth Week, and with it, the Fifth Week Blues. Everyone had warned me about them, but I thought it was ridiculous, so I didn't worry about it. Why would one particular week of term be miserable for everyone? Not every subject works the same way, so not everyone has an essay or project due that particular week. The weather wasn't particularly dreary--at least, not more than any other week of ups and downs in the forecast. It didn't make sense. But regardless of my belief in the phenomenon, it happened, and it happened to me.

Granted, I had a few reasons for being down. I was still struggling with missing-and-not-missing Laura. I was going crazy trying to select an essay topic for the C course (Shakespeare: Playhouse and Printing House, which I took because I thought I probably ought to, and not because I have a great passion to study the textual variants between quartos and folios). I was missing my family and largely unable to contact them because they were understandably involved with things at home. The week was very busy, and there were lots of very pleasant events during which I smiled and conversed and seemed quite normal. But no matter what I did that week, I couldn't shake a sort of general blah feeling, and I found myself, if only briefly, weeping about once a day.

On Monday I had a meeting with Emma Smith about the C course essay. She had sort of vetoed my earlier idea about working with Hamlet, because it has been done many times. But that was just my problem; how does one write something original about Shakespeare? He's only the most studied poet and dramatist EVER. I could have enjoyed writing on the themes of the plays, but my essay had to deal with the printed form or the performance, and I was just lost. I was embarrassed, too, because it is completely unlike me not to have *any* ideas; indeed, more common is for me to have too *many* ideas and to struggle to narrow them down to one. I respect Emma, and I hated to appear so clueless in front of her, especially when, in my babbling attempt at an explanation for why this was so difficult for me, I may have given her to believe that I didn't really like what we were doing in her class--which is not the case at all! In fact, I find it fascinating; it is just not what I want to spend my own career doing. I am glad that there are textual bibliographers out there willing to make concordances and to study typefaces and to write books about compositor preferences to determine how many compositors set the type of the first Folio. But if you asked me to do any of that, I would be miserable. So the meeting did not go well; I had to choke back some surprising tears more than once during it, and I left feeling even more wretched than before.

Later the same day I had an interview with the Telethon coordinators, as I had received an email earlier in the week advertising the position and thought that it might be a nice way to learn more about Lincoln College, as well as to earn some money over the Christmas break, when I have to be here anyway while most others have gone home. The interview began on the phone, and then continued in another room. It went well, and I have recently received my contract and offer of a place, so that is something positive. That night I had been invited to drinks with the Rector (as had all the other English, Languages, and Classics students), which was nice, because we got to visit the quite beautiful Rector's Lodgings which are generally off-limits. There is a great naked statue of a man in an alcove to the left as you walk in the door, as well as a lot of other interesting art here and there throughout. The furnishings and decor are quite old, I was told, though the building itself was a 20th century addition to the campus. (In the early days of the college, the rector lived in the tower above the main entrance to Lincoln!) We had some canapes and some wine (I drank mostly apple juice, but had one glass of white wine pressed upon me by the hostess), and some good conversation--though not with the Rector, whom I only got to greet and never saw again, hehe. It was nice, though.

The rest of the week went pretty normally, except for those random bouts of tears that kept coming upon me at the most inconvenient times (like in the middle of class). One or two of my classmates noticed, and on Wednesday afternoon Ben and I had a light dinner together before I had to be at the boathouse at 7, and he asked me all about what was bothering me (and did a great job of psychoanalysing and comforting, bless him). The next night Liz and I met for a drink, and we talked about how rough the week had been in general. We were at the Turl Bar, which is right across from Lincoln, because I had to be there for an MCR dinner afterward. There was an old man at the bar when I went to get my cider, and he tried to guess where we were from by our accents. He placed me in the Mid-West! I told him that I didn't sound like a New Jersey girl, but I was born and bred there. His own accent was great; I can't remember his name (dashitall), but he was a friendly Liverpudlian who seemed a bit lonely, so we asked him some questions and told him about ourselves. He had a beautiful ring made out of an old half-crown, which I admired. I felt guilty when we had to leave, because he had just offered to buy us a drink and he seemed like he wanted company.

Liz and I said goodbye and I went up to the MCR for the pre-dinner sherry (side note: I really don't like drinking sherry, but it seems to be the aperitif of choice here in Oxford!) and some conversation with the people I don't see every day. The MCR dinners are special events which you sign up for in advance. They are held in a part of the SCR, which is where the fellows generally eat lunch, so it is like having a private banquet. They are a little more expensive than regular hall, but they are worth it, as the food is much better, and the wine flows freely. This night we had a sea bass starter, followed by a lamb main with a risotto-stuffed tomato and veggies and potatoes au gratin on the side, and then a fantastic crème brûlée. There was red and white wine served throughout, and at the end we were given decanters of port to share amongst two or three people! It was decadent and delicious, and I realised when I stood up that I was dizzy with wine. I had been sitting next to Moritz, a German law student who had talked to me for a while about the pros and cons of academia. He was kind enough to walk back with me, as he lives in the same complex. I was in bed not long after, hoping I didn't wake with another headache!

Fortunately I was fine, and the week ended with some rowing and some racing, which I'll cover in the next post. Fifth week part one: survived. At least for Hilary and Trinity terms I will be prepared for it!

No comments:

Post a Comment