Bused down to London yesterday to view “The Boat Race,” the hundred-and-eighty-something year old rowing race between Oxford and Cambridge. It’s quite a big deal (and not just for wanna-be, neophyte rowers like myself) – the Oxford boat had several Olympians and two guys who claim to have invented facebook, and it seemed like half of London was lining the banks of the Thames to watch. In preparation for reading this post, I suggest you get pumped up with this overly dramatic introduction to the boat race created by the sponsors.
The race itself was, well, a bit anti-climatic. The problem with races on rivers is that the boats tend to go by in about thirty seconds, and then you don’t see anything else aside from the jumbo-tron. And there’s the fact that the heavily favoured Oxford boat lost to the forces of evil. Everyone seemed to take it in characteristically English stride though – the Cambridge fans reacted to their come-from-behind victory with a “Well done, Cambridge. Jolly good match. Shall we go grab a pint?” (For comparison, I would have reacted to an Oxford victory with something like “HAHAHA YOUR SCHOOL IS STUPID AND YOU ACADEMIC ATTIRE IS NOT AS COOL AND YOUR PARENTS HATE YOU AND YOU SMELL BAD,” but then again I’m American.) In summary, the event would have been much better had the band been present.
Speaking of which, afterward I went out to dinner and drinks with some other Princeton Band alums, which provided a much needed digression to my former life – and a window into the life I could have had if I had made different choices last year. Six months into grad school, there’s something that seems weirdly appealing about having a job: real weekends, finite working hours, coherent and clear tasks, and – for the bankers at least – the ability to go out to dinner with friends in London and not panic about the cost.
The irony, of course, is that only one year after we graduated, my friends with jobs are all signing up for GMATs, GREs, and LSATs en masse, hoping for any opportunity to get out of real employment. And when I talk to them about my life, it is quickly obvious how good I have it: I set my own hours, I work on things that are intellectually stimulating, and if I want to go wander off into the forest in the middle of the day, no one particularly cares.
That realization, though, is not particularly helpful. I was thrown into mental crisis a few days ago when I realized that I need to starting thinking about what I am going to do post-Oxford now, especially if I want to do more school. And the frustrating thing is, I just don’t have a clear goal anymore, and the clock is ticking. For the longest time, I wanted to be a lawyer – until I realized all the lawyers I knew were miserable. Academia seemed good, until I came to Oxford and had to confront how rigid, competitive, and constrained life is for most academics. At some point, I just have to choose something and go for it – but what if I choose wrong?
The grass is always greener, I guess.
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Jukebox: Bouncing Souls – Big Eyes