Every January, I draw up a wildly optimistic set of goals for the New Year. I gave up on New Years resolutions a long time ago; at this point, I just come up with a long list of tasks to which I can apply myself. Two weeks into my second term at Oxford, I’m already laughing at myself for thinking that this semester I could:
– Identify a thesis topic and begin doing preliminary research.
– Attend more open lectures and seminars.
– Publish my Princeton senior thesis either as a book or a journal.
– Help get the Oxford Vegetarian Society off the ground.
– Volunteer twice a week for the Oxford Food Justice program.
– Start taking Spanish classes again.
All lofty goals, of course, but time consuming. I didn’t even bother writing down my proposed ways of finding time to get all this stuff done, but in a quick brainstorm I came up with:
– Spend less time losing and searching for my keys / wallet / library card (which, to be fair, does eat up a lot of time).
– Something involving less time on facebook.
I did give these aspirations a fighting chance. I have been working myself much harder the last two weeks than I did at any point in Michaelmas term. Still, I think it’s time to concede defeat. While I’ve always somewhat aspired to be a work-a-holic productivity machine, endlessly devoted to the causes that I care about, I’ve never succeeded, and I don’t know why I would now. I work hard, but I’ve also always had outlets for non-productivity, ranging from crazy roommates to the band.
So far, this semester has been a bit of a drag, precisely because I’m avoiding this reality. But this weekend felt like a turning point. Against my better judgment, on Saturday night, I decided to abandon my desperate attempts to devise a thesis topic and go out for a pint with Marc, a hopefully-soon-to-be-friend from Switzerland, with whom I chatted about everything ranging from radical Islam to punk rock. On Sunday, I went to my first “away” regatta with my crew team. I had no idea where we were going (Dorney?), but it turned out to be the Eton College Boat House. Given that Eton is the stomping ground of royals (and James Bond!) I had high expectations, but was rather blown away by a boat house four times the size of my high school, attached to a 2,000 meter artificial lake. Our race was totally rubbish—owing to water levels on the Thames, we had never been on the water as a crew before—and the temperature was well below the threshold for utter misery. But I couldn’t stop smiling: here I was, in England, rowing with a bunch of British undergrads in Eton of all places—and to think, I could be in a library.
I feel slightly guilty about a mid-term revising of my priorities. At the same time, though, some very smart people decided to give me a lot of money to be here, and they’d probably want me to be happy.
At this point, my to-do list for the term looks a bit more like this:
– Continue playing bass in a band put together by some M.Phil friends (tentatively called “The Nandinis” after our most terrifying professor)
– Go to all the ridiculous crew events, so I can meet some English people and learn how to dress like a “chav.”
– Get inside all 39 of Oxford’s colleges—and take pictures of their best gargoyles.
– Play more Mario Kart and bad punk rock with Marc.
– Finally make it down to London to explore Camden Town, the punk movement’s own version of Mecca.
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Jukebox: Defiance, Ohio – The List