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Thinking back to the first week here in October feels like an eternity ago. Yet, there is still a pervading sense of newness even halfway through. The emphasis placed on counting weeks (whether for work or Camfess purposes) means that in some ways we are hyper-aware to the time racing past – but with that awareness is also an expectation of each week bringing greater stability. While I can wholeheartedly say that life here has become more familiar, it would be disingenuous to correlate the time passing with feelings of greater stability. If anything, reaching this halfway point has made me realise with more certainty that perhaps stability should be accepted as unattainable here – and this might be something to relish in.

"Perhaps stability should be accepted as unattainable here – and this might be something to relish in."

The notoriously short and intense terms at Oxbridge undoubtedly play a large part in creating this paradox of feelings. It can feel that life here is one constant, spinning wheel of ‘what’s next?’, both socially and academically; there’s almost never a chance to plant your feet on the ground and stay rooted to one moment. The fast-paced unravelling of Cambridge life can lead to both the sense of having lived here forever, whilst still not being able to shake off the fresher’s week feeling: of running in the pitch-dark. Perhaps this is why the realisation of being one sixth of the way through my degree has come with such surprise. I feel like I am still figuring things out, trying new things – personally and with work – and yet this is difficult to reconcile with time passing by so quickly and the inevitable expectation that this passing time should amalgamate into me ‘knowing what I’m doing’.

"It should outright be said that life here is a perpetual sense of trial and error."

Rather, it should outright be said that life here is a perpetual sense of trial and error. Reflecting on the first half of the year, this trial and error has given way to a kaleidoscope of experiences and feelings. The unique balance of pressures on maintaining a social life and trialling all the wonderful (and sometimes bizarre) opportunities that Cambridge offers, whilst we all try and pretend we’re not at a university which constantly demands us to be more academically focused than anything else, has naturally produced mixed results in attempting any semblance of ‘routine’. There’s such a vast mix of pressures that it’s impossible not to feel both overwhelmed by the time left at Cambridge – the sheer concentration of feeling and doing involved in just one week – and like there simply isn’t enough time left to revel in it all.

For all the difficulty that the instability brings, there is also so much good that just wouldn’t be gotten from routine. The heap of trials and errors left to be made are daunting, yes, but are also part of what drives the exciting churning of life here and what makes me want to cling onto the days passing as tightly as possible – to not get too lost in the wheel of ‘what’s next?’ and to appreciate the time here whilst I am living in it.


Mountain View

The life-changing magic of doing something you’re shit at

It’s possible to take all the conflicted feelings about time here and realise they can co-exist. The terms here can be both far too short and yet feel like an eternity. The days can pass without ever feeling like they bring greater constancy or routine.  Approaching the halfway point of my first year has made me realise that all these new experiences are indebted to the characteristic instability of life at Cambridge, something that I’ll make efforts to savour in the next coming months.

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