"I was going to label these as moments of calm amongst the chaos..."VARSITY STOCK IMAGES/LOIS WRIGHT

It is difficult to consider anything as innovative when I’ve spent the majority of the last year in the same building – I refuse to work out an exact percentage. I haven’t worked to cut back on any bad habits or introduce new ones, and the most exciting change in recent weeks is probably my Spotify playlists now having new covers. All that came to mind was that line from the IKEA adverts; you know, “the wonderful everyday.” After weeks and weeks of the same routine, things were feeling decidedly uninspired.

Forget cycling across a city in a morning, my ‘wonderful everyday’ involves a swing by the coffee machine (double-shot espresso soya iced coffees are my current favourite), a stop at the dog beds, a quick load-up on sheets from the printer, and occasionally a duck into my sister’s room to complain about something and arrange our film for the evening. There’s nothing greatly revolutionary in any of that. It’s not quite the university experience I, or anyone else, had been planning. I often think back to Lent 2020, to the multiple formals, nights out, and, possibly, some of the best times of my life to date. It’s difficult to relate that to the slowness of today.

“...look at exactly how far we’ve come in a year, without taking a single step outside...”

Perhaps the only thing that’s really changed is me, as cliché-ed as that sounds. I didn’t believe that I’d changed in any way; I still felt as lost and confused as my fresher self, though with admittedly better hair. Nevertheless, it took one minute of speaking to a particularly supportive friend to remind me to look at exactly how far we’ve come in a year, without taking a single step outside. I’m convinced that some fundamental change has indeed taken place, especially in comparing myself to the first lockdown. I got seriously into running over the summer, partly because of the glorious weather, and partly because I was locked down with my family for months. The most exciting thing to happen was my hair went pink and I had a few trips to see friends. Skip to Lent 2021, and I'm cultivating my Zoom allure with limited success, testing out neutral pronouns, and vaguely planning for a year abroad, somewhere, sometime. It may not seem radically different, but it feels it. Now I have a certain routine as supplied by contact hours; I’ve even come to realise that I enjoy some of my supervisions (I was as shocked as you). Our growth doesn’t have to follow any pattern, but believe me, some kind of growth is happening. I have to say, though, this year hasn’t done anything for my cynicism. When asked if giving anything up for Lent, I wondered at the task of depriving myself of the few joys (read: Netflix and copious snacks) I have left.

“I was going to label these as moments of calm amongst the chaos, but I have to say there isn’t much that is chaotic in my life at the minute.”

When it came to it, I also realised how much I’d grown to enjoy moments of my degree. I had loved first year, but it got cut short just as I was most stressed about exams. It took on a rose-tinted quality that made my reality of rolling deadlines and essay crises less than inspiring. It was with some surprise that I found the two Medieval scheduled papers I’d signed up – one Russian, one French – to be some of the most exciting things about my current locked-down life. Only when my supervisor mentioned studying twelfth-century Rus’ Christian/Pagan relations in grad school did I realise how far-sighted I was being. This surprised me; in the first lockdown, I had barely looked beyond the end of my exams in May. These days, when I’m not buried in grammar, I’m deciding whether two knights were gay for one another (yep, and it makes Merlin a lot more interesting to watch), or writing on the suspiciously pagan lyricism of early Slavonic, supposedly-Christian texts. To each their own.


Mountain View

Life and Friendship in an Empty Cambridge

I was going to label these as moments of calm amongst the chaos, but I have to say there isn’t much that is chaotic in my life at the minute. Aside from trying to get hold of a St Petersburg flat for what will hopefully be another year to remember (for better reasons), my contact hours play a key role in my life these days. While it’s not quite the adrenaline-fuelled cycling across Cambridge to reach Sidgewick for my occasional 9am, or the long stints in the MML library (I miss it more than I can say), it has nonetheless made me re-evaluate my degree, and helped me to realise that, beneath all of the stress, essays, and sheer fatigue, I genuinely love it.

The social life and actual human contact remain the main things I mourn; the academic life and the feeling that I’d finally found what I wanted to do does come a close second. Now, I find myself looking forward to the hours I can spend discussing these topics, and am making breakthroughs in what I want to be when I finally leave home. At a time when everything seems to be standing still, any moments of happiness and thoughts for the future feel pretty innovative for me.