Passing Time

Your skin like dawn
Mine like musk
One paints the beginning
of a certain end.
The other, the end of a
sure beginning.” — from Passing Time by Maya Angelou

Today marked the final day of classes (assuming-strike-continuing) in my undergraduate career. Very exciting! Somewhat scary, largely feeling thrown unto the pale, but I’m feeling a positive tone seeping before this post is written so let’s keep along that current.
All that stands between all of us final years and the gaping abyss is a few essays, a few booky projects (which I am SO excited for) a dissertation, maybe?

The travails of the academic year 17/18 have been a fucking maelstrom to phrase it lightly. When we thought academic restructuring was the worst of our concerns, having to be lightly more on the ball with our assignments, UniversitiesUK decides to be wastefolk and force our academic staff to strike, throwing us unsuspecting, keen student bookfolk into an unguided limbo. The way I’ve tried to positively frame this whole strike situation is it’s a fine precursor to my prospect at succeeding at a research-intensive masters? This said I’ve done my fair share of catastrophising over the month (as any of my unfortunate-enough-to-be-classmates will confirm)…

Thinking for this post came out of the banterous relationship that myself and many other module-mates share with the head of English (incredible gentleman; dismantles my clothing choices regularly in class…there is a genuine part of me that feels quiet and a little sad that I won’t have Stephen tear me a new one over that velour jumper again); today towards the end of our last seminar, our tutor (in his own unique way) tells us how we’re all going to, in the next few years, fit into the cogwork, get comfortable, etc., etc. The activist that barely stays concealed underneath my skin usually agitates at the suggestion of a tie and white shirt kind of future for me personally, today, not so much. It was weird? I was just struck by the, as I saw it, simplicity of his observation, the truth of it too, given how many of us he’s seen pass through the gates of Queen’s. ‘Let me take one last look at you all’: he has done this before, usually preceding some gag to exit on. It struck me right then that this wasn’t to happen again in Queens. (Sad, but exciting…)

I’ve garnered some fantastic friendships, contacts and experiences over the course of three years (three years!!! how they fly?!), learning to think for myself; be critical of not just books but sources, things, me; directed a theatre show of my own, acted in several; been lucky enough to act a dick with some of the best folks I’ve ever met; drank a lot; read a lot; seen friendships and relationships come and go; worked my flipping ass off and challenged myself, most importantly.

It’s become a bit of a meme in recent times that any academic role model I have leaves me (came to Queen’s to study under Sinéad Morrissey, etc., etc.) but I genuinely just have fond memories of these past years, memes included. I have met lecturers who check in on me, ask how my Masters applications are going, ask how I am, the school of English at Queen’s has treated me very well, in short.

On a break in the McClay today I took a walk around the second floor, down around the ground floor, short loans and I started remembering certain spots and associating them with certain times:

~ writing up a presentation transcript on Whitman, daguerreotyping and his ‘photo-poetry’
~ sitting facing a wall last Christmas with friends, 3am-ish, all of us desperately typing essays, proof-reading, punch-drunk on coffee, Red Bull and god-knows-what-else
~ those seats and tables overlooking Botanic; summer past it was through that window and the magpies that look back and the poems that have come at those seats
~ sitting in Special Collections, poring over American-specific documents, realising how much Americanist specific study butters my egg rolls
~ (my favourite place) a point high up on the second floor, a balcony overlooking the atrium / basically the entire library, where I wrote an essay forging an equivalence between poetic emotional protest and physical protest
[stressful at times, but even the library invokes smiles, stupid conversations, hair-tears and coffee breaks overzealous in length.

I think, to conclude, the past few years have really pushed my squishy bones into a mould, and letting the mould fall away I feel so myself, more than I ever have. A few lines from a poem I wrote after a brief foray into Dublin, pertinent to the thoughts above (Or maybe not, you may say! Ah, the beauty of us hermeneutes).

–or maybe, more we were just conscious
of our cornucopia on a timer,
by a river that really wasn’t there–

Stay warm and well,

M x

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