My father always said that the last year of anything is the hardest. School, holidays, marriage, life. You can see the end in sight, and instead of sprinting towards it because you’re so close, you would rather dwell and become green algae in the glorious pool of poop so when you arrive to the finish line, you aren’t covered in sweat. Effectively you become lazy and half-assed from self-assertion, and then a motherfucking tortoise overtakes you and you’re left with a bad taste in your mouth.
In this case I should currently be in my final year of history. Don’t ask me what the results of a history degree are, I’m sure that when push comes to shove I’ll be able to write about the completely extensive applications that come with knowing about Mediaevalism, Charlemagne (and his correct spelling,) and that witchhunts were comprised of 20-25% of European men onto a cover letter.
This semester, however, was horrible. My mother broke her leg, my grandfather had prostate cancer return again, my grandmother had surgery on her knee. I gained and lost a job that had me working over 30 hours a week, alongside one other. Financial ruin. I had arguments with my family, lost plenty of friends, and struggled to balance my role in life with the happiness within myself. And the added bonus was that all of this was going on within the 12 weeks of semester. I figured it was something that I could handle- if I was able to push through each and every (okay, most) day and survive unlike last summer, I would be able to shoulder the responsibilities without needing to place them anywhere else or juggle them. I never asked for help, and as a person I always struggle to. I can’t tell if it’s integrity or just fool’s pride, but it’s something I need to start working on.
The one person that cared was a tutor of mine from a previous Renaissance Europe class in my first year. He is the embodiment of a professor- white hair, creaseless shirts and pants, glasses on the edge of his nose, and would throw in academic jokes mid-lecture that you would only laugh at because of his added over-exagerrated wink. He would shuffle in and out of classes, always seventeen minutes late. He was the first man to give my essay a high-distinction, straight from a black computer message bag, square in size with silver feet. ‘Congratulations Jesmindah, well done.’ ‘… Jessica, sir?’ ‘I struggle to read cursive dear, I’m so sorry.’
When all of my personal life was tumbling down in May, he was the only person who flooded my inbox with thoughts and concerns about my absences. Unlike the other tutors who didn’t realise until week 11 that I hadn’t attending since week 4, he kept corresponding to me every second or third day. We talked about my parents, his cats, and how terribly hard it is to find good Indian food these days.
By exams, he asked me if I had considered applying for special consideration or had seen a counsellor. I immediately grew frightened of opening up to a person that was, somewhat, a complete stranger to my life. I had seen a counsellor previously in the past but their effects were detrimental to me (not to say that all are, I was just in a bad place and had a bad experience with a singular human and was jaded by the experience) and so immediately thought in my stressed-out state that the e-mails I had were only evidence for my university to use against me (yeah, I know.) I immediately shut down all correspondence and stopped checking my e-mails for 2 months.
I logged into my account only three days ago. I had 15 e-mails from him, making sure I was alright. While I was immediately overcome with guilt as I read, half of them were jovial articles about kittens and the others were with study pointers, and Indian recipes. The last e-mail was three weeks ago, so I had known by then that he had given up e-mailing: but I knew through his words he hadn’t given up on me.
I flunked all of my classes last semester: every single one. It’s really hard owning up to that. I still haven’t told some of my closer friends, and I don’t know how I’m going to tell my family that I’m on probation now. But instead of crying and dwelling on what I should’ve done, I’m trying to resolve to be better. I spent the last day of my holidays eating Indian food, watching Maru and searching for the perfect black bag like my professor’s to slide my fresh assignments in.
This semester, I’m determined to be a tortoise.
(PS I think lawofdesire and I had the same idea in mind today, except she actually has fashion taste and a healthy bank account.)