I don’t think anyone wants to admit how little control they have over their own destiny. We’re born to random parents, in a random place, with random DNA, and, when we leave education, we stumble into an endless cycle of work so we don’t perish due to starvation, only to die eventually by any other means. Try and dress this up however you want: we live only for the sake of it.
I am at peace with this. It may sound counterintuitive, but Oxford was instrumental in that. There’s nothing like being surrounded by intelligent, driven, and extraordinary people who will go on to do amazing things – it really hammers home how unimportant you are.
Let me phrase it another way: we inevitably compare ourselves to our immediate peers. It can be difﬁcult to feel like you’re smashing it when you can easily list a dozen people who are also smashing it. Except, of course, they’re also JCR president, starring in a play, and running a marathon, while you’re binge watching Riverdale and treading water on work.
Take me and my ﬂatmate. He is a Blues rower, dating a beautiful girl, and has an excellent career all but nailed down. By contrast, my greatest achievement this term was not being hungover in all three of my classes so far. Two of them were on a Monday. Our topics of conversation consist of rowing (surprise!), Netﬂix, and my idiotic shenanigans. I’d go as far to say our chemistry is almost sitcomesque – except every punchline is just my life. If one is measuring accomplishment by traditional standards, he is more successful in life than me.
Except it doesn’t bother me. I regret wasting the ﬁrst two weeks of term applying for prestigious summer placements. Equipped with the comforting knowledge that everything I ever do will one day be redundant, why would I want to fritter away my mortality in the City?
I don’t need anybody to tell me how far my stock has fallen in the past nine months. I’ve gone from being the bloke with the wonderful jacket who presented Shark Tales to being called “Cherwell scum” by freshers whenever I venture out of my room wearing my stash. It is beginning to look like a legitimate possibility that the creative peak of my lifetime will be Hilary of my second year. Does that matter though? I made a few people laugh and jeopardised a handful’s future employment: that will always be a win in my book.
Will I be remembered for my marginally above-average writing, with its infrequent witticisms and rather lazy brand of humour? Or will I be remembered as a reckless hedonist, who crushed up and snorted his own dignity in a misguided attempt to get high? Given that a welfare rep recently labelled my drinking ‘iconic’, it’s likely to be the latter. Frankly, I’m beyond caring about it at this point.