Oxford, the Great and Terrible

19 Jul

It is 30°C which is much too hot to spend any extended period of time curled into the foetal position so I have decided to update my blog instead.

When I wrote my last blog post I was in the middle of a breakdown called “my twenties”, but since then I’ve spent eight months working and studying and looking after myself and things are looking a lot brighter now because I’m more like three fifths of the way through it.

I’m still not back at university. I decided to take my tutor’s advice and start my third year from the beginning in October, so hopefully I’m still on track to graduate before my youngest grandchild’s 18th birthday.

I’ve been working part-time. I temped at a football stadium for a bit, through a catering and hospitality agency. Sometimes I was a kitchen assistant, sometimes I was waiting tables or private boxes and sometimes I was having an anxiety attack. I was actually very good at that job because quite often when someone has paid for a private box to watch a match with their pals the first thing they say when they arrive is “please can you allocate us your most socially and physically uncertain member of staff? We are looking to enhance our experience with frightened responses to banter and at least two fluid ounces missing from our beer pitchers every time they arrive.”

In April I got an admin job at my university’s Faculty of Theology and Religion because after spending four years ruining atheism, bringing my good works to theism seemed like the next logical step. It was only a short contract, so this Friday is my last day. I really like my job there. Everyone is dead nice. At the end of my first week I asked the General Administrator, who outranks everyone except the Field Marshal Administrator, to check over something I’d done in case I’d done it wrong, and she told me that if I’d done it wrong then it would be because she hadn’t explained it to me properly. It was a very nice and supportive thing to say to a new member of staff so I decided against telling her that they’d accidentally hired the World’s Most Incompetent Human. Show, don’t tell.

I went to some lectures this term. Third year lectures for my course start at the end of second year because biology is a soft science that struggles with numbers, so my tutor gave me permission to attend and my boss let me split my shifts so I could work around them. The set of lectures I took was called Ecology of Terrestrial Ecosystems: Past, Present and Future, and in one of them the lecturer was talking about species distribution and climate change and couldn’t remember what grape vines were called so said “wine trees”. I am learning a lot from the best and the brightest.

I’ve also been making myself go to the library after work most days. I never studied in the libraries when I was here before because I was worried that I’d wander into a room I wasn’t allowed in or sit in the wrong place or turn a page in a way that was flagrantly working class. I’ve made a conscious effort over the past few months to do things that make me uncomfortable but that will be necessary when I come back in October, like taking advantage of university facilities or asking for help when I need it or waking before noon. It’s going okay. I think getting a job at the university has helped. I’ve written before about being very intimidated by Oxford, and I still feel that way. But having worked here for three months a lot of it seems to just be a load of stressed and overworked administrators crouching over their desks and drowning in paperwork, like the man behind the curtain pretending to be a great and terrible wizard.


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