America’s Next Top Model captivates me. I wish it was otherwise, I wish that when Tyra Banks struts into view I didn’t get palpitations of joy; but I do. I can answer any question you might have for me to do with the show. I’ve watched each season at the very least four times. My obsession is so out of control now I regularly make sure I’m up to date with all of the “NTMs”, my personal favourite outside America being the Australian version (AUSNTM). Whenever I’m stressed, I watch it. Whenever there’s nothing on TV I watch it. But I’d be lying if I said it was meaningful. It’s entertainment, and it’s not anything other than that.
Meaningful entertainment is my course. I love English; books, reading, talking about ideas all set me alight. I’ve been sent into something of a tailspin recently though. I suddenly realised that it’s all about to be over. Three years of studying a subject which fuelled my passion to go to university and to make an effort with learning are about to be over and it saddens me beyond belief.
Let me set the scene. It’s a murky Friday, and I’ve trekked to Highfield campus for a 9am, imagining all the places I’d rather be at that moment in time (mostly beds, I’m just imagining lots of different kinds of beds) and I’m going to see a lecturer speaking, who is an authority on their subject, having studied it for more years than America’s next top model has even existed. It’s this amazing privilege and I’m having the audacity to be wondering how many togs I would like the duvet to have on my idyllic bed. It’s far too easy to be caught up in the rigmarole of schedule and requirements that universities face you with, and to forget that what we’re experiencing is a massive privilege. After that I have a dissertation meeting, so I head to the library, which just happens to be a massive catalogue featuring material ranging from the philosophy of Kant, to engineering journals from over 50 years ago. It’s an incredible resource yet I’m thinking to myself “Oh god, I have to go up ALL THESE STAIRS to the 5th floor!”. I wander over to Avenue campus after collecting my books, and I just sit down and read to prepare for my dissertation meeting, and suddenly I’m engrossed. Half an hour passes in a flash and I’m left agape; I’m having a serious textual seduction moment here. I go up to my dissertation tutor and we just chat about what I’ve been reading. Suddenly I’m having fun, I’m doing work and it’s fun, I’m talking about what I love with somebody else who loves it too, and they’re helping to inform me and I’m informing them and it’s this crazy kind of intimate moment, and we haven’t even learnt anything about each other!
This is when I had the realisation. Forced to leave by a seminar, I make my apologies and step away. I shut the door and suddenly, this massive wave of sadness overwhelms me. I’m in my third year and only now have I realised, not only that this is all going to be over soon, but that I’ve completely taken my fantastic university experience for granted. Doing a course like English, most of the time you just take your transferable skills and leave, never needing to use all the knowledge you amassed for three years ever again. It’ll slowly fade away and suddenly you’re just another person in a suit working in an office, forgetting, replacing, abandoning these distant memories of when you actually cared about what you were doing. You’re not moaning because you’ve got to read a book every week, you’re talking to Ann, from accounts, if she could produce those numbers for you on Friday (that report’s not going to write itself, and those numbers could make all the difference between getting that new cubicle you’ve been after); you’re debating whether or not the company logo should be full of whimsy or caprice; you’re pissed off because somebody didn’t wash your mug after using it. The fact is, even if you work your arse off, and get the best mark you can get, it’s entirely possible that it’s all utterly pointless in the end because you’re never going to need to discuss the finer points of Austen, or Nabokov, or Byron, or any artisan you dedicated three years of your life to ever again.
I know this is subjective. It’s deliberately so (plus, I take my inspiration from Tyra Banks, and everybody knows the show is about her, not the girls…) but nothing matches the sudden realisation that when you leave University, it’s over. And no amount of trashy TV featuring skinny girls and a crazy egocentric ringmaster can fix that hurt.
P.S Donations to my MA fund greatly appreciated…can you tell I can’t leave academia yet?