Many things have happened since we last spoke, though very few of them productive. In fact, I found myself kind of drifting along, and eventually deciding that I need to break up my routine.
Now, I am no spring chicken. Or spring lamb. I am unsure of the exact English expression, in any case I was born in summer, and it was back in the 80s, so what I’m trying to get at is that I’m getting older, like everyone else one might suppose, and the options for breaking up my routine are getting slimmer. For instance, developing a drug habit might have been an acceptable escape from every-dayness 10 years ago, but may now come across as misguided and immature. Equally, throwing in the towel and becoming an exotic dancer in a London bar with ominous clientele is no longer an option, predominantly because it feels wrong to shake my fruits for money after all this education.
So I really had two choices; the one was to become pregnant and dedicate my life to keeping our species alive. This of course is an honourable goal, it would be socially acceptable, it would make my mother happy and finally give me a new level of credibility when discussing social issues because people tend to take your opinion more seriously when you have procreated. Yes, it would have been marvellous, I could have bought baby food without the guilt, I could resume my culinary career in the sand pit, and I could basically make my own people and boss them around until they finally leave my house.
But then I also remembered myself, and that until I can confidently cut a watermelon, I probably shouldn’t be left in charge of infants.
So it was option two – going back to university. I don’t know why I didn’t consider other choices, but I felt I needed something that is both punishing and rewarding at the same time, and at least university doesn’t require me to wipe up other people’s faecal matter.
So there I was last week, trying to pack my backpack for my first day at uni, when I was briefly and violently reminded of the fact that this time I study not in England but in Australia, and the local fauna, in this case represented by a huge disgusting cockroach, conveniently relocated into said backpack. This was not a good start to the adventure, and after almost poisoning myself with insect spray, I decided on a different bag. A small hiccup, but luckily I’m young enough to endure such heart-attack provoking events!
I made my way to my first day and was, of course, early. So I went to the undergraduate induction speech as well, which was opened by some Dean of some faculty with numbers. And I wasn’t surprised that he deals with numbers, because people skills were evidently not his strength. In a matter of a minute, he insulted approximately half of the people in the auditorium, by saying this:
“A warm welcome to UTS” (so far so good!)
“I would like to congratulate you on choosing
the best university
in the best city
in the best country in the world”
Luckily some of the international students didn’t understand a word he said, but those of us who did certainly were not impressed. If you want to insult Macquarie Uni, that’s ok. If you went to insult Melbourne, it’s a little bitchy but ok by me as well. But don’t insult the rest of the world, that’s a bad marketing move. Imagine for a second some Dean at a German university said the same, I thought, we would be in the news immediately with the headline “They’re doing it again!!!”
So after this poorly timed public display of extreme nationalism, I was hopeful that my faculty, which is arts and social sciences (aka the faculty of “all humans are equal”) would perhaps be more on my wavelength, and this was luckily the case.
I don’t know why, but in the history of me attending whatever induction, I end up sitting (and therefore doing all my partner work) with a mature student from Nigeria. The most fascinating thing is that my induction partner always has a way of speaking loudly and convincingly, with this really interesting accent, and I am sitting, listening and totally mesmerised by this preacher-like person. And this day was no exception, and I was happy.
Then it was pointed out to me publicly that I look a bit young compared to the other classmates. I looked around and for the first time in my life, I felt a little apologetic rather than flattered for being young. It was almost like I was the annoying 18-year old at a sophisticated dinner party.
We were asked to introduce ourselves and what we do, and people said things like “I have 15 years experience in..” or “I worked in [something boring but impressive] for 20 years before I switched to [this other really adult-sounding profession] and now I’m the [head of something important].”
Needless to say, I was sweating as the turn came closer to me, I mean how can I compete with this? All I really wanted to say was “Ok people, we all know the elephant in the room here, and I admit it ok! The only thing I have 20+ years experience in is brushing my teeth by myself! Now let’s move on from this uncomfortable conversation!!” But thanks to my parents giving me a punishing name, people were more interested in my cultural background than my professional one, and somehow I gained some respect despite being absolutely unqualified to sit in the same room with these people.
I also made a mental note to not wear clothes with flower print at such meetings, and to wear glasses.
And come up with a list of things I’ve done for 15 years that doesn’t involve beer.