Allegedly, everyone at Oxford will leave with one of the following: a Blue, a Spouse or a First. When I was first informed of this it induced horror in my Prelim-fuelled brain and, to be quite frank, it still does. Six months’ later and Prelims are done, results have been had and subsequently forgotten – much like our three-month summer – Michaelmas…happened…and Halfway Hall is fast approaching for second year students, yet I am still no closer to achieving any of the above.
Firstly, a Blue. Well, it’s an absolute to joke to even suggest that I might play some form of sport, let alone be good at. I’m the girl who fell over in the 300m race in the infamous Sports’ Day of 2007 (ironically whilst I was in 2nd place – the only time I’ve ever been in a poll position for anything and victory was whipped from underneath my feet, literally). I’m the girl who accidentally hit a teacher (who was stood at the side completely away from the game) in the face with a ball during a game of Benchball/Dodgeball/something I am too inept to remember. I’m the girl who broke her nose in a soft play centre aged 17 (there was a good reason for me being there, promise). Basically, me and sport aren’t a great match – ironic use of terminology.
So that leads me on to the next expectation: a spouse. Hilary 2013 saw the return to college of my predominantly single friendship group; three weeks’ later and it’s all changed. What is it with spring that seems to make everyone date-obsessed and loved up? I’ve been reliably informed that it’s to do with New Year’s resolutions and chemicals in the brain, but I stopped listening at the word ‘chemicals’. Either way, it happens! Whether it’s the result of alcohol-fuelled declarations of love at the latest bop, drunken fumbles in Wahoo (or Camera if you’ve got slightly more class – I go to Wahoo), or a note posted under your door following a compliment on the brightness of someone’s onesie, new couples seem to be popping up all over the place. That is apart from in my case where I’ve been labelled ‘Forever Alone’ and may have to marry my GBF to dispel all further hilarious banter.
And finally, a First. Well, I’ve got more hope of achieving the first two expectations in the same week than getting a First. Unfortunately I can’t think of any semi-amusing anecdotes to put in here because by now I’ve firmly labelled myself as one thing: a failure.
It’s not that those of us without one of the three expectations in the bag aren’t trying, it’s just that they aren’t attainable goals for all of us.
So what do us ‘failures’ leave Oxford with (other than friends and memories etc)? An inferiority complex? A penchant for red trousers and annoying abbreviations such as ‘pidge’ and ‘plodge’ which will never be useful in the ‘Real World’? My answer: a sense of achievement.
Oxford is renowned for those of ‘exceptional abilities’, but what about those of us who are, quite frankly, less exceptional? One of my primary school teachers once referred to me as ‘decidely average’ at a parents’ evening, sparking rage in my parents and a highly smug attitude in myself when this was revealed to me upon receiving my Oxford acceptance letter; I am under no illusion that I am above ‘average’ within society, but I am similarly under illusion that I am below ‘average’ here. Nevertheless, I am still approaching the halfway point of my Oxford degree.
My degree thus far may have contained far more references to my ‘effort’, and often somewhat more derogative commentary, than to my ‘excellent argument’, but this is still an achievement – and I challenge anyone to tell me that it’s not. It’s not always about being the best or having something concrete to prove for your efforts – such as a Blue, a spouse or a First – rather it can just be about doing it at all.
Since the start of my degree, according to my very rough calculations, I have read 540 books for essays alone. At this point I would calculate my contact time, but I do History and that would be embarrassing for myself and disrespectful to all the ‘scientists’ reading this. Nonetheless, I’ve still done it and have managed to stave off what sometimes feels like an inevitable mental breakdown.
I might leave Oxford without ever achieving one of the three expectations I have discussed but the fact still stands: I will still, in 17-months’ time, leave here with a degree from Oxford University. This might not be enough for you, but I think it’s FINALLY becoming enough for me.