I don’t remember students being quite so young. Yes, I was that young once, but it’s still rather hard to believe. If you’re in your latter thirties and want to feel disorientatingly old, sign yourself up back to University and watch your brain turn somersaults. Last week was Fresher’s Week (or ‘Welcome Week’ as it was more officially referred to), and I spent a fair proportion of it trying not to think about how I was old enough to actually be a parent to most of the newly arrived students who were thronging around in a way that occasionally made me want to shout “For God’s sake, stop being so YOUNG!” like a crazy person. (My Dad was pretty much my age now when I went to University first time round. That’s certainly given me pause for thought.)
But thankfully, not all of it was spent consumed with going “Aaaarrrggghhhh!” at the concept of morality and time passing. It’s been a fairly action-packed first week, and the first day – last Monday – turned out really well. Honestly, I was kind of terrified before I went in – I’d been working towards this course for so long, and there’s a lot riding on getting this right, and there’s all sorts of issues connected with my writing confidence as well – but the day went well. A big meeting of the whole Arts, Languages and Cultures school was followed by the first official meeting of the Creative Writing MA, and while it was intimidating, it went well and also fired a ton of information at me. (I was also able to sort out the dates that I’m going to be submitting fiction in the first semester – dates that, considering I just decided to junk my original idea and start with something new – are thankfully far enough in the future to give me room for manouver.)
Then, there was a drinks reception where I once again discovered the socialising aid that is free red wine. I was soon talking nine-to-the-dozen to a lovely bunch of my fellow students, and the conversation continued into the Chinese meal that followed at the Red Chilli Restaurant just across the road from the University (where the food was pretty damn splendid), and afterwards there was an equally talk-filled session at a nearby bar. I even ended up having a pretty lengthy conversation with author (and course lecturer) Geoff Ryman about a dizzying number of subjects, and I came out of the whole day with my brain fizzing – both with alcohol, and with ideas, thoughts and writing approaches.
Since then, there’s been a lot of sorting out to be done – I’ve gotten myself a Student Union card (hellooooo student discount), a bus pass for this term, I’ve sorted out access to the University wi-fi, and gone to a relatively interesting lecture about coping with an MA as a part-time student. I also briefly visited the ‘Welcome Fair’ on Wednesday, the event where you can join up with any university society under the sun, and which felt like an even more intense version of a Comics convention, except where the stalls were all about Neuroscience, Board-Games, politics, religion and BEER. There was an excellent event on Friday at the Manchester Museum (which is also part of the University), where I got to hear a talk from one of the curators about their fantastic Egyptology department, and the whole week essentially left me with my brain spinning in a very positive way.
In certain ways, I’m wishing I could have gone somewhere like Manchester first time around. In other ways, I think it’s possible that wherever I’d gone to University first time round, it wouldn’t have been ideal – I was a naive late teenager who knew nothing about the world, and really needed to grow up. Sometimes, it takes a while to find your path. It took me a while, but I feel like I’ve found it now.
The real challenge begins from here onwards. I’ve already critted the first piece of work for my Fiction workshop (which officially kicks off tomorrow), and I’ve got an idea for what I’m going to be submitting that I need to hammer into something resembling a decent shape. I’ve even – shock! horror! – had an idea for a short story that I actually want to write. Balancing what I need to do with what I have to do (especially since I’ve got a trio of articles to complete over the next couple of weeks) may not be the easiest thing in the world, but it feels achievable.
For the last eighteen months or so, my life hasn’t been at its best. Lots of things have gone wrong, or not turned out how I’d hoped. My confidence took some major knocks as a result. But now, for the first time in a long while, I feel like I’m on the right path. And I think it’s going to be an interesting challenge finding out where it goes…