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Notes on the Margin

Isolation in the Midst of Three Thousand

Isolation in the Midst of Three Thousand

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So, after spending a good deal of time fairly alone, why not write about it? It's certainly more enjoyable than the lecture and distracts me from my desire to assault the guy behind me who is persistently and loudly clicking his pen.

I have spent the past week somewhat cut off from the enjoyable parts of social interaction, shunted instead into the stilted repertoire of responses at meet-and greets and with barely-acquaintances in class.

It began when I planned my schedule. I use 'planned' loosely. Let me avoid the details and focus on the scene: I never stopped moving during past the week. At the end of one lecture, meeting, presentation, or movie I moved on the next one. I bought stationery in West London, attended company discussions in Canary Wharf, and frantically avoided responsibility when one society turned out to be dominated by libertarian radicals. So I bounced around the city, being at times considerate, pre-professional, or a consummate student. I missed every dinner in the canteen, with its bland food made eminently worthwhile by the people there. Later I made sure they knew how I felt by telling them I only went for the food.

Rosebery was a transitory location at best; I left quickly and returned to work, sleep, or change before setting off again. With classes in the morning, meetings in the late afternoon, and presentations at night I was kept from the canteen and our happy little pub, let alone rest.

And it was good. I learned a hell of a lot. I learned a large amount about what I like and how that translates into what I want to do. Three or four people from Goldman and Citi insisted that I email them later. I now own decent writing paper after a semi-epic struggle to find bastions of an older era of communication in London, a city not exactly without history. I drank sangria while watching and commenting upon Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown with some fellow student-strangers.

Yet I have here been plunged into a charming strangeness. I am older, reliving the same life as I did from freshman year, but with enough differences to convince me that I live in some parallel existence, rather than true déjà vu. At times I am a man apart, a transitory figure here but for a year, a beast unknown to the freshmen and a throwback from earlier ages to the graduate students. The freshmen form cliques, to my bemusement, while the grad students charm and have fun before beating an inevitable retreat to the books.

This sounds far worse than it is, because I subordinate reality to writing, putting my experiences in the service of communication, which I slant to entertain and add color to illustrate, if overvividly, my sentiments and recollections.

It wasn't as bad as I describe, I swear, and I did spend time with my estimados compañeros. Monday was the night of an unexpected swell of Roseberians going out together just as I returned from the City. I stuck with the four I’ve dubbed my clubbing freshmen, since we inadvertently and always meet whenever going for a night on the town and at no other time, it seems. One of them drove this point home, calling me a vampire until she later saw me in the sober light of day.

Another, more levelheaded group of freshmen went to see Jeff Sachs speak at St. Paul’s on development and global warming, with me in tow. Subash, our impresario and catalyst, is someone who drifts effortlessly among his peers. I’ve only met one other guy to lead such a charmed existence, Vin, a masters student who delights in scandalizing people and has an entrancingly blunt and open manner. Vin, slightly drunk, came into my room late in the week to comment that he hadn’t seem me in a while. After hanging out, we met Friday for lunch, and afterwards he never refrained from making a point of how taxing it was for him to get up that early.

In the department of unexpected meetings, a kitchen run to check on chicken became a very long conversation with one of my floormates, skillet in hand the entire time as we chatted on subjects from Devil Wears Prada to planning a trip to Istanbul. And the chicken was delicious, thank you very much.

  • I am often alone in the midst of others, though not quite like you. And often not so amusingly so.
    • I hate commenting well after the fact, but if you don't mind me asking, how would you say things are different for you?
      • You say you are reliving freshman year at a distance; you speak of running into your clubbing friends; the impression I get is that your aloneness is temporary and fairly fixable. I don't feel either of those conditions applies to mine.
        • I'd say that in many ways I'm becoming more comfortable with the idea that I am more solitary and run with smaller groups than most other people. Just haven't really commented on it. Regardless, several weeks later I can say that I get along best with the masters students by far, while most of the freshmen (including three of those clubbing four) are just uninteresting to me.
  • It sounds like you're good. I hope that's true. Just wanted to put in my two cents (or PENCE, which as we all know is worth more) before rushing off to the library to start my next essay (finished one this morning and there is NO TIME FOR REST, DAMMIT. I can tell you know of what I speak.) Anyway, I hope your expanding knowledge and understanding of yourself and your future is as social as you want. If you ever feel the need for someone in the same age-limbo position, please don't hesitate to take a bus out to Oxford. It's not as far as one would think. I would suggest waiting for me to get over the 'flu and the pink eye, however. :)
    • I swear, I only waited this long to commment in the hopes that you'd recover, but I may take an advantage of that open door. What are you Oxfordians doing for Thanksgiving?
      • Nothing I know of. The Christmas dinner and services are the 25th, I think, but no Thanksgiving plans. All hopes of trying to piece together a proper dinner are thwarted by having no proper kitchen, and only a Sainsbury's local at my disposal. You?
        • We're having a motley international crew cook and feast today. Hopefully it will go well, or we'll be reduced to eating Yorkshire pudding in the canteen.
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