This time last year, I was in Amsterdam, if I remember right. I had packed my bag in a hallucinatory haze and managed to forget to take any shorts or trousers – just two t-shirts, a dress and a pair of woollen tights which were perfect for the chilly London weather but completely inappropriate for the 25 degree heat in the Netherlands. I was periodically coughing up blood and not entirely conscious for most of the trip.
A year on and a lot of things have changed, not just for me but for everyone. This weekend a whole swathe of my friends is graduating, and either going off into the real world to find proper jobs or moving onto a new degree or course. There are people getting married, people moving countries, people starting careers. And of course there are lots of people who thought they would be graduating this year, but aren’t doing – because they took a year out, because they had a year abroad, because they got ill or had a crisis or failed an exam. That’s the situation I’ll be in next year, as I watch my matriculation class graduate and then return for another year.
I suppose my point is that life always feels at its most real when you’re living it, and the Future seems set based on what the Present is like, but if this year has taught me anything at all it’s that nothing is ever set in stone and things can change in a heartbeat. It’s fine to imagine what the future might be like but the only thing you can be certain of is that it won’t turn out the way you imagined.
It feels rather appropriate that I’d be going back to Cambridge for graduation weekend. Technically I was there last year; certainly I was physically present but I spent most of the week too ill to really take anything in. I don’t remember much except my visions of Batman punting around the room while I lay in a strange room and sweltered. It’ll be nice to be there properly and say goodbye to some of the friends I left rather suddenly back in November.
It isn’t the most well-planned visit, though. When I first arranged it, it was several months ago and I just assumed that I would either find a friend who was graduating and ask them if I could sleep on their floor, or book a room for myself in the college. Taking a college room is one of the cheapest options but it still costs about £20 a night, and I’ve been so anxious about money lately that I couldn’t face paying almost an entire week’s JSA for somewhere to sleep. But I haven’t actually made any proper, definite plans with anyone either, so despite what I have confidently told my parents, I am getting on a train in three hours without any clear idea of where I’ll be sleeping tonight. I’m sure someone will be able to put me up – all I need is a few square feet of floor – but so many graduands are themselves crashing on friends’ floors or have their entire family staying with them that I feel very guilty about imposing on them even more. Not to mention the unpleasantly early appointment I have with my DoS, so the closer I am to her office, the easier tomorrow morning will be. Perhaps I’ll sleep in the JCR again, as I did just over a year ago at the college May Ball.
Strange to think that an entire year has gone by since I last did any proper work, or stayed awake through a whole lecture. Strange to imagine that the friends from my year are now from the year above, and they know about things I haven’t even heard of yet. Strange that the path through university that I’d dreamed of when I was in primary school took such an unexpected twist, but I’m still on it somehow. Just waiting on a side-track at the moment.