I had my last lecture three weeks ago. Taught uni is effectively over, as the third term is nothing but exams (1x take-home essay for Tragedy and Farce, 3x bog standard exams for Rum, Sodomy & The Lash and Yah Boo Frenchy.) I don’t feel particularly well prepared – gobbet prep in particular has been so fucking shambolic and contradictory that I gave up entirely in a fit of despondence and am resolved to teach myself the entire Peninsular War and wing it from past papers. But I didn’t exactly feel prepared for the last set of exams, either, and they went just fine; I reckon letting my reading follow my interests and getting a good feel for the underlying themes beats any amount of structured revision and grinding out flashcards.
The adrenaline burn from diss is gone; so, too, is the weirdly horrible post-partum depression that comes from having something so central to my life suddenly vanish (probably exacerbated by the comedown from a week of almost zero sleep and criminal quantities of caffeine.) Replacing both has come the realisation that uni is essentially over; the last term is just a long, drawn-out goodbye.
They say you get out what you put in, and I’ve put my life into uni. Brum has been good to me. I have made dozens of friends, most of whom I’m not day-to-day with but who I know I’ll be able to turn to for the rest of our lives, and I’ve met a couple of people whose graves I’ll cheerfully piss on if the opportunity comes. I have written a novel (ish; won’t feel fully comfortable saying that til Ten Ways is done) and discovered a career. I’ve gone from being a semi-closeted firebrand on various aspects of religion and politics to being utterly apathetic about both. I’ve discovered that I am genuinely talented and intelligent in a few specialised fields, which has been a heartwarming surprise, and become so good at the motions of self-confidence that even I can’t tell if I’m faking it most days. I have had enough vague romantic failures and missteps for six seasons of a tacky comedy show and two straight-to-DVD features. I have turned from someone who’s far too easily emotionally involved to someone who’s far too detached and distant, but as a useful side effect of the process I really don’t find that worth fretting about. I have been desperately miserable and cloud-high happy in peaks and troughs like a sound-wave graph of a battleship duel. I’m not going to close with a “most importantly”, not because it’s desperately twee but because there’s no most importantly.
I have had a hell of a time, in all the best ways, and I’d trade the entire miserable litany of shit that was my childhood for just another month of it all. But I’m also more than ready for it to be over.
In my “consultation” shit-talk a year ago, I wasn’t exactly kind to the department. Here and elsewhere, I’ve said worse; the often-laughably-bad administration, the essentially arbitrary marks, the gagging discrepancy between how much a humanities student pays and how little they get. But that’s just my constant negativity: it really, really wasn’t all bad. And if that last little paragraph of furious bravado turns out to be true, if you are actually some net-literate creeper researching War Studies at the University of Birmingham, let me say, here and now, I highly recommend it. The tutors are bros, the course is fascinating, the uni itself is wonderful. The organisation is frequently a hideous mess, and a thousand and one things will go wrong, but hell, things always do.
I’m not who I was when I signed up for this, but if I could go back and have a second stab at it all, I wouldn’t change a single thing. (OK, some poor module choices and the cascade-failure clusterfuck of my second year house; but nothing important.) It’s been a good three years.
Now onward, and upward.