At the very heart of its being, Book to the Future is a blog about journeying back in time.
This post is another time travel story – but it doesn’t involve books. Not directly, at least.
I wrote about my days in University here, nearly a week ago, and, since then, my thoughts have lingered in the past.
The thing is, I quite liked University, but quite often, the feeling wasn’t mutual. When I think about my studies, there are two particular tales that come to mind. Both are stories of rejection: in the first, I was rejected. In the second, I was the one doing the rejecting.
Too much information? Yes, I know. Get on with the book reviews? Yes, I will.
But first, let me tell you my two true tales…
He had long, blond dreadlocks, which tumbled and curled like thick tendrils down his back. He was a little taller than me. We both wore glasses. I’d like to say that he had blue eyes, but I might be making that up, because it’s doubtful I ever actually looked into them for long enough to notice.
We did the same subjects, so he sat behind me in most of my lectures. Then, one day, he sat next to me. Actually next to me.
That first lecture he sat next to me, I heard nothing. He was sitting within centimetres of me, and that was all that mattered. Derrida and his incomprehensible friends disappeared into insignificance – love was something clear and perfect; something I could understand.
He smelled like clean clothes. I’m guessing he lived with his mother. One day, I saw his name on the front of his lecture book.
We sat next to each other for three years and never exchanged a single word – apart from the time I said “thank you” after I dropped my pen and he passed it to me one time in second year. It was the strangest relationship.
Towards the end of third year, something between us reached a crescendo. Neither of us knew if the other was returning for another year of study. Somehow, after a lecture towards the end of the year, we found the courage to speak to each other.
All it took was one conversation. After only thirty minutes, it became sickeningly clear that one of us was a brilliant student, and the other was only average.
He couldn’t forgive me. I was not good enough and never would be. In our fourth year, he sat next to me no longer. My average little heart was shattered.
Though I live in a different city now, every time I see long, blond dreadlocks in the distance, I feel that same pain, still reverberating through me after all these years. Maybe one day, the echoes will fall silent.
“Who taught you to write like this?” my thesis supervisor said, looking down at me where I sat, quite small, on the only chair in her office. She loosened the grip on the paper in her hands – my essay – like it was something she didn’t want to touch. “This isn’t…this, just – is not…”
She waved me essay around in disgust, looking around in exasperation.
“That’s the way I write,” I said.
“It’s…not…” she continued to stutter. She looked around the room in exasperation as if looking for a ladder she could use to escape from me and my essay. Or maybe the rest of her sentence was hiding somewhere amongst the shelves full of books in her office. Finally, she huffed, and managed to complete a sentence:
“This isn’t how students are meant to write! This is…” – and she was off again. It was difficult not to laugh. I looked at her as she drowned in her disgust, waving the white pages of my essay as if trying desperately to surrender. But she wouldn’t give in, and neither would I.
“Yes?” I asked. “What is it?”. That’s about as confrontational as I get.
“You can’t write this way.” she said, speaking for all academia. “Who told you you could write this way? This kind of language simply isn’t acceptable”
“That’s the way I write,” I said. Again.
She looked at me. I looked at her. I wondered for the thousandth time why I’d chosen to work with a thesis supervisor who clearly couldn’t stand me. Or my writing. She spluttered for a little while longer.
“I can see it now. You’re going to be one of those writers, I can see it already,” she said, waving her hands around wildly. “One of those writers who writes something, one of those dreadful books that’s…”
And then, she spat out the word: the most awful word you can possibly use in a University literature department –
I could help it no longer. I smiled, bemused.
“Um. Well, that would be nice,” I dared respond.
I left her office a few minutes later. The door slammed behind me. I was still smiling. That’s when I knew my days as a student were numbered.
I do miss study, of course. These days, I’d do anything to go back; to have the time and money to be a student again. To live on a diet of two minute noodles and watch Rage in its entirety as I manically typed away at some essay or other I’d left until the last minute.
Okay, maybe not the two minute noodle thing. But I crave learning. That’s one of the reasons why I started this blog, I guess: to complete my education, my way.
Anyway. Two stories. Both true. Thank you for reading.