After a bout of overworking, falling back in to the habit of compulsive scrolling and contending with daily updates about Covid-19, I’ve had this morning off.
I opted straight for breakfast in bed, and picked up a new read. I’m one chapter in to Tessa Hadley’s Late in the Day and already I feel like a literature student again. Something about the vivid descriptions of a domestic set up and the hidden layers of meaning between character interactions gave me this feeling in my chest. It’s a comfort. A good read, a good character, a good room. It’s quiet and peaceful, yet wildly stimulating.
I feel nostalgia for the act of reading too. I’m taken back to sunshine gushing through the window as I stay in bed devouring a book, really paying attention to the words sometimes, then finding my mind wandering elsewhere and realigning itself three paragraphs later with no idea what happened at others. I notice that it’s silent besides the breeze, the birds – Spring settings always seem to bully out memories of the other seasons – and the sound of a paper turning.
I always knew I didn’t want to study beyond undergrad – that hasn’t changed – but I am surprised lately how much longing I feel for student days. The ‘bad’ side: unpredictability, constant guilt, failure to self-motivate, brain and body fatigue? Suddenly they seem inconsequential. I’d take all that again if it meant more long mornings in bed reading (however pressure-laced they felt), more impulsive lunches, coffees, dinners, and nights out, more friends around the flat all day and night to study with, binge with and eat with. If I could savour the Spring sunshine more because there’s an hour to spare in between classes, or feel my brain make a tentative yet somehow strong connection between one thought and another and feel the hope that this is the one to explore, I would.
There’s a lightness that comes with being accountable 100% and only for yourself. It’s a freedom of mind that says, even when other things crop up, ‘there is only one focus now’. There’s an ease that means your body can sustain another drink on another night out, and allows your limbs to move freely and wildly on a dance floor, your smile beaming and radiant. There’s a youth that means the next morning, you can get right back to it again. There’s a confidence in knowing you are where you need to be, living how you need to and focused on what you should be. And there’s security in knowing everyone around you is in sync with that, united in that purpose.
In the same way that the naivety and vulnerability of childhood doesn’t ever fully return, or the brazen confidence of foolhardy teens fades away with time, the privilege of true social freedom doesn’t exist in the same way beyond graduation day. It’s why the generations above say ‘University days? The best of my life!’ and ask pressing questions about how you wile your days away when you pop home for the summer holidays.
The free feeling is a byproduct of an entirely unique set of circumstances. It’s a chest feeling. A heart one. All that lightness, ease, youth, confidence and security manifests itself in a warmth around your heart. Nowadays, that warmth feels more like an ache.
There’s a longing now, not for a tangible change, but for lack of a better phrase, ‘spiritual’ one. Less stress, tension, uncertainty, frustration, obscurity and vagueness, guilt. concern, and questioning that seems to dominate. There’s a longing for more of that freedom that made that time so unique.
They say your twenties are tough; right now I have to agree.