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The patience of ordinary things

By the time this column reaches print, 7th week will be over, and the term will, officially, be coming to a close. 

Rooms will be packed up, fridges cleared out, goodbyes exchanged – and I, along with a large proportion of Oxford’s student population, will go home. 

And what better time to consider the term retrospectively, than at the approach of its ending? 

And, for me at least, it is a hell of a retrospective. This term, after the obligatory settling-in of Michaelmas, I had one resolution on my mind; to get involved with the most outlandish student societies I could find. 

This, of course, is a promise more easily made than realised. I have been patiently waiting for admission into the Oxford University Change Ringers’ Facebook group since early January – in hindsight, my multiple references to The Hunchback of Notre Dame probably did little to earn me a place amongst their ranks. My attempts to attend the Cheese Society’s tasting nights have always ended with me, forlorn and cheese-less, blankly staring at  the ‘sold out’ Fixr notification that seemed to appear almost before the tickets themselves went up. I may work hard – but Oxford’s cheese-tasters work harder. 

On the (humiliatingly rare) occasions in which I am actually allowed into these events, experiences within them are varied, to say the least. I have a bad habit of seeing posters without reading them, and making up my mind to attend without really understanding the nature of the events they advertise – which is to say, I have sat, sober, in one too many crafting sessions that, (in my defence) I had no way of knowing were hosted by the Psychedelics Society. 

Save for the fact that it was written on the poster, of course. 

My natural gift for spouting confident nonsense, combined with a natural inability to admit the (extensive) limits of my knowledge, have guided me through (and possibly ruined) countless society debates. 

My reputation as an ill-advised-extracurricular-enjoyer precedes this column, and will most likely outlive it. Given the amount of life-drawings, society drinks, and painting evenings that I have dragged my long-suffering friends to, it is not an unearned title. And while not always invoked in a complementary manner, it is not a title I resent. 

My experiences in these societies may well be varied; but it is the variation that makes the experience so worthwhile. My humbling encounters in Psychedelic Society crafting sessions and awkward debates have left me with so much more than just some poorly made scratch-off art and burning animosity towards students I will likely never see again. At least, I hope so. 

One of the big ‘sells’ of university, so to speak, is its value as a place to find yourself and figure out who you are – and part of that is figuring out who you are not. 

And that, with my endeavours into shoddy (and mildly insulting) nude portrait-artistry and terrible open-mic poetry, is exactly what I am aiming to find out.

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