Now Playing: Heavy Crown by Iggy Azalea ft. Ellie Goulding (for everyone who said I'd never make it, oh Lord weren't you mistaken)
The one thing I love about being an honours student is that everyone is in it purely for the love of it. It's an objectively horrible experience - we are overworked, very stressed, extremely sleep deprived, we're not getting paid for our efforts - we actually pay for the privilege - and we got nothing by way of job security. It's taken us a long time time to get here and it'll take us a long time to get to wherever we're going.
And what are we working on? Papers that basically no one is going to read. Honours students don't publish anymore, which is a shift that happened between my mother being an academic and me becoming an academic. We're not writing bestsellers; we're devoting all this time and money and energy on these things that will, in all honesty, contribute little and be of next to no value. Which is why I mean it when I say we're doing it for the love of it; we're here because we love Austen and postfeminist television and post 9/11 literature. It is a pure passion that defies logic and exists in spite of financial and emotional anxieties. It is the only thing I could have ever left my old, comfortable life for - and even though I've been whinging, a lot, about being uprooted, I have no regrets.
One of the things I find endlessly amusing is the huge gap between how people perceive honours students and the actual life of an honours student. People constantly talk about me getting into the honours program at ANU as me having 'made it'; because I had to reach some arbitrary cutoff point and fill in some arbitrary forms and move from my arbitrary place of birth to the arbitrary location of ANU. And it is in an achievement, to be sure, and a privilege that few people will have. But it also is, overwhelmingly, just the beginning. We are treated and being trained as baby academics; everything is new and strange and scary and nobody has any idea what they're doing. There's nothing glamorous about the honours life; it's probably the most humbling thing I've ever done. But I've always enjoyed the exercise - being good enough to move from a little pond to a slightly bigger pond, and being, at least for a while, not the biggest fish. I knew a guy who, for a while, used to go around boasting that he turned down an offer to my high school, which was academic elite, and went to his local public school, because there he was the best student. I was thoroughly unimpressed. Not because I was the best student at least in one subject out of a dozen; that was irrelevant. But because one of the few good things I remember about my time at school was the challenge, of not being the smartest, of not being bored in every class, in having the experience of failing and having to work hard. I appreciated that same challenge when I started uni and I appreciate it now that I am at ANU and totally out of my depth. That guy, by the way, knew of my distaste - I literally used to call him Big Fish. He's at ANU now. The novelty of being the big fish in a little pond wore off on him too.
When I say my life as an honours student is unglamorous, I mean it. I found huge chunks of mould at the bottom of my bag of rice the other day - massive chunks the size of my fist of grey, powdery mould with black sticky bits and green fuzz. It was the same bag of rice I'd been eating out of ever since I got here. I totally lost my cool. I called my mother and had a full blown panic attack and cried at her, wordlessly, for an hour. Which was cruel of me - my poor mother worries about me enough, and it's not easy to help your hysterical daughter from 3000km away. But I did it because I needed to be a child again, at least for a moment, and do that very childish thing of dumping all your problems on your mother. And then, after I had calmed down, I remembered the people in my former life who couldn't do what I had just done, and who had sometimes leant on me instead - and I had tried to bear the weight of it as best as I could. I resent people for many, many, things, but I neve resent them for this. But they don't call anymore, and I don't know why, and it's hard not to take that personally.
Being here, being twenty, growing up - I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be happy, what it means to be successful, and what I want out of life. I don't have many answers yet. amd the answers I do have will probably disappoint a lot of people; but these are the people who imagine my life as an honours student to be so different to my experience of overwhelm and heartbreak and nerdy epiphanies and mouldy rice, so what would they know? This is my life. All I can do is muddle through it as best I can.