English literature is a truly trivial subject.
I’ve spent today sitting in a cafe, flicking through books I’ve already read (which I bought from Waterstones), and generally luxuriating in the glow of this surreal real work, which is meaningless and pointless in equal measure, but also infinitely preferable to working on something impactful or profound. I feel like the only job this could possibly be preparing me for is to work as a judge on some literary prize. Or perhaps a librarian, I haven’t spoken since I ordered my second coffee.
I am nervous, excited and terrified about my finals exams, which is so complex an emotional response it could come from a Taylor Swift song. It’s a sensation that’s full of contradictions- God Oh God I want it to be over, but Christ Oh Christ I’m scared of being done. I know things are going to get worse, get more intense (possibly stray into Evanescence territory) before bursting, like a salmon from the stream, into the heady brightness of summer, success and serial unemployment.
But the more vexed I get about my impending joblessness (though I am currently jobless, no-one is worrying about it), the more acutely aware I become of my need to get over the finish line. Jesse Owens didn’t pull up in 1936 after 90 metres and start wondering how he was going to celebrate on the podium, or what he’d wear for his ticker-tape parade. No, he just powered over that line, won the race, beat the Nazis, and enjoyed the future as and when it came to him. This must be the spirit with which I endeavour to complete finals.
Even though I have none of Owens’ motivation, talent or work ethic, I am going to try and perform to the best of my ability. A better comparison might be to a British athlete at the Winter Olympics: no, snow is not my natural habitat, nor was I capable of being an athlete in any mainstream and sociable sport, but yes, I will give it my all, enjoy my 15 minutes of fame, and then go back to my real career as a professional plumber. Life goes on. I’ve made it to Sochi, now I’ve just got to skate my way to victory.
This post was in no way affected by the fact that the cafe I am in has a TV which is showing Winter Olympics highlights. Norwegians are a truly awesome people.