"This Michaelmas has confirmed that, for me, the one thing I can never give up is love"Unsplash

In the week before coming back to Cambridge after the summer, early September, I sat outside Jericho Coffee Traders in Oxford — my home town — and thought about whether things would be different in the coming term, my third and final Michaelmas. The coffee tasted perfect, warm and woody like the inside of a smoker's mouth, but my mind was elsewhere. Reflecting on the nine months up to that point, I realised that, in spite of everything, it had been the most romantic year of my life.

“If I love someone, I’m all in, whole heart, whole soul, unconditional”

My life has always been heart-shaped, but this year is exceptional. I’ve loved, lost, and put myself back together again, twice over, having been smashed to pieces in collision with the hard shells of men who don’t have the capacity to love me back. I’ve slept with strangers, forged new paths in the night with people I hardly know and may never know again. I’ve made sparkling new friends, attached myself to people that I feel lucky to have crossed paths with, extending casual meetings to secrets shared and memories made. And above all, I have fallen a little bit in love with myself, by concentrating harder on what I deserve, rather than what I think it is that I want.

Now, two months later, and eleven months of the year down, I feel the same. I feel warm when I think about how much more I am than I was last December — because of how loved I have been. However, letting my world revolve around love is sometimes difficult. It means when I am in a room of a hundred people, I am always wishing I was with just one. I forever feel incomplete, like there are more boxes on the list for me to tick off, or sometimes like the sea is washing away the ground from underneath me. I am an all or nothing kind of person. If I start something, I want to finish it. If I decide to do something, I want to do it well. If I love someone, I’m all in, whole heart, whole soul, unconditional.

“Love will always be at the very top of my to do list”

This difficulty of letting love rule me is exacerbated by the fact that here in Cambridge, there exists a busy culture. We are all bound by the unspoken rule that if we are not busy then we are doing it wrong, and that there are certain things we inevitably have to put to one side in order to succeed. If we are not rushing from A to B to C we are wasting our potential. We should be working early mornings and spending hours in lecture halls or the library. We should be playing sports in the afternoons and then cooking healthy dinners before downing foamy pints and going out to sweaty clubs. We all create to-do lists and order the things that are most important to us, then sacrifice the things at the bottom. We have to give up the college sports we’re supposed to play on Saturdays, or the trip home to visit our parents, or the concert in London which we wanted to attend. Sometimes we choose to give up our hopes of getting a first by spending less time on the work that needs doing, much to the despair of our supervisors and our directors of studies.


Mountain View

Saying no to nightclubs

This Michaelmas has confirmed that, for me, the one thing I can never give up is love. Love will always be at the very top of my to-do list. It will always be the thing that I put first. In fact, I find it difficult to understand that other people do not do the same. For other people, jobs and sport and work — all those other things that are important to me too, but not quite to the same degree — take priority. They can put love and relationships to one side in a way that I have never been able to. This is something I am adjusting to. This is something that troubles me, but that I need to acclimatise to if I’m going to love anyone whose attitude does not take the same shape as mine. Not everybody can give me the same time and the energy that I choose to give them.

Now, writing this column, I am sat outside Fitzbillies, drinking another coffee out of another blue porcelain cup. Some things are different. This one does not taste the same as the one I had in Oxford, not because of the coffee beans or the type of milk or the skill of the barista that made it, but because I, the person drinking it, am a different person to the woman who ordered the previous one. I have been through too much to have remained the same. And yet some things haven’t changed. My life is still heart-shaped. I still make time for love above all else. And I still live peacefully in the knowledge that to do so is perfectly okay, even when other people don’t do the same thing.