In a recent short-lived but productive panic about money (I have them occasionally, since trading in my smattering of unsuccessful careers for life as a full-time home-maker and freelance child-wrangler), I reactivated my old tutoring profiles on a couple of websites. Within days one of them bore fruit, and last week I trundled off to the same seaside town in which I recently spent a week babysitting an adorable toddler, to conduct my first tutoring class for some years.
Sometimes I have to remind myself that the primary reason that I am here is to study for a law degree. The secondary reason, or at least the secondary commitment, is to sing in the chapel choir. And a third, fairly important, consideration is staying alive and healthy and not smelling too badly.
But all of these things take time, time which I could be spending doing so many other things! As I type, I am trying to find spare time to visit the University Library Books & Babies exhibition – a fascinating historical look at the literary records of ideas about reproduction. I allowed myself fifteen minutes in there this morning when I went to take out a book on contract law, and I knew immediately that I would need to put aside at least two hours to come back again.
I got back to my room and discovered a clutch of emails enticing me to go to an open day about children’s literature (going to that, it’s a Saturday afternoon), a festive evening at Anglesey Abbey (I’m determined to go to that, even though it slightly overlaps with the G&S society’s 50th Anniversary Ball, which I’m also going to…), a quiz in aid of Wintercomfort (can’t go, clashes with choir), a focus group meeting about whether the term “degrading” is, well, degrading, which I would like to contribute to but unsurprisingly I have choir, an exhibition at the Fitzwilliam entitled Vermeer’s Women (I’m going to the late night opening in a few weeks, since I never get any decent work done after choir anyway)… the list goes on.
I often feel that I’d enjoy my degree a lot more if I had the opportunity to cherry-pick modules from other courses, in a similar way to the American system. If I could get credit for my interest in child development, for example, then I could write an essay on the Books & Babies exhibition or the Children & Literature open day and I’d feel that it was a justifiable use of time to go. I still do feel that it’s a justifiable use to time, if I can find a sensible time (for example, not the day before a supervision with a lot of reading I haven’t finished), but it’s a pity that I always have a slight feeling that my time should be used for my degree instead.
On the other hand, it is wonderful to live in a city with so much opportunity to learn new things that aren’t remotely related to my daily degree drudgery, to coin a phrase. There are lectures and seminars and talks all the time, and the difficulty isn’t finding something interesting to do, it’s finding time to fit it all in around the compulsory reading! The pity of it is that once I graduate and therefore acquire a lot more free time (at least until I start something else), I’ll no longer have access to all of this.
So I suppose I feel that it’s important to make the most of it now. I may not put in as many hours of textbook reading during term, but the advantage of not really going anywhere during vacations is that there’s a lot of library time. For Christmas vacation I’ll be visiting both sets of parents and some friends, but I’ll be back in Cambridge a good three weeks before term restarts – a whole expanse of unstructured time has opened up ahead of me, just waiting to be filled with productive and entirely self-directed reading. The fact that I find it so exciting is probably conclusive evidence of my hopeless geekery.