Anyway, Talking It Over was never one of my favourite Julian Barnes. It's not as deep or intellectual or emotional or relatable as his better novels (Flaubert's Parrot, History of the World in 10.5 Chapters, England, England) and one of the main characters is self-absorbed and ridiculous and annoying. I still found this character annoying and self-absorbed and ridiculous, but his monologues also provided a lot of laughter, so I definitely enjoyed it. I found this quote particularly interesting:
[Oliver declares that he loves Gillian, the wife, and that Gillian has to realise this, Stuart the husband/best friend has to realise that Gillian loves Oliver and Oliver and Gillian must live happily ever after] Oh, please take that disapproving look off your face. Don't you think I'll have enough of that coming my way in the weeks and months and years ahead? Give us a break. Put yourself in my pantoufles. Would you renounce your love, slip gracefully from the scene, become a goatherd and play mournfully consoling music on your Panpipes all day while your heedless flock chomp the succulent tufts? People don't do that. People never did. Listen, if you go off and become a goatherd you never loved her in the first place. Or you loved the melodramatic gesture more. Or the goats. Perhaps pretending to fall in love was merely a smart career move allowing you to diversify into pasturing. But you didn't love her.
(emphasis in bold added)
I leave for Cambridge in a few hours. I spent quite a few hours packing and it was pretty exhausting.
In all honesty, I am still terrified. Now that it's right at my doorstep, I am terrified of the idea of doing a PhD. I am also terrified of having to uproot and re-root myself in a foreign environment all over again, leaving comfort and familiarity behind. Sometimes I feel as if I am weary of starting afresh, and that I would rather settle into a comfortable routine, but only if it is one where every piece of the puzzle has already fallen nicely into place. As it stands, there are many pieces missing; and so it is imperative that I go and accomplish this, no matter the trepidation that I presently feel.
It was always real, Cambridge; but it didn't feel real. It felt so far away. I was accepted in June and I was to leave at the end of September. When it was June, September felt really far away, and I didn't properly digest it. Then G came along and he took up camp in my mind and I just didn't even orientate my thoughts to the next four years of my life. It's now the end of September. I will be on a 13-hour flight to Heathrow in less than 9 hours. It is suddenly real, and its realness is hitting me repeatedly in the face, as if that would be enough for it to finally register fully with me. This is it. This is the first step towards the rest of my life. Everything else that came before does not have the same enormous significance, and neither will everything else that comes after. This is the single most important thing that I will do. I wonder if it's normal that I have doubts.
It's no secret that this PhD isn't my first love. But I chose it because it made sense, and I enjoy it enough to want to make such a huge commitment. Still, I wonder how I will motivate myself when the novelty has worn off and my eyes are bleeding and I'm hitting my head against the wall that represents the limits of my intellectual capacity. I don't know (or care) if this is me displaying symptoms of the imposter syndrome, but I don't know - don't really believe - that I'm smart enough for this. I am scared shitless. Knowing myself, I will put so much pressure on myself that I will probably go crazy if I'm not careful. In any case, I am terrified - of being in a foreign country by myself, of living in a small town where I will need to cycle, of the magnitude of this commitment. I arrived at this choice by a process of elimination: I didn't want to work in a private law firm; I didn't want to work in a government agency; I couldn't get a job in an international outfit and after the ICTY, I wasn't sure if I even wanted to anymore; and therefore, the only thing left to do with my law degrees was to do a PhD. It made perfect sense. It also played into my strengths: writing and reading.
But I keep feeling as if my commitment level is somewhere around 80%. I say this because I think about G and how he was completely into his work and I'm not like that. What if I have to be like him to succeed? I don't think I can ever be like that. I can never commit 100%. I always need time for other pursuits - for my first love, which is literature. My life will suck without literature.
Anyway. I will distract myself from these existentialist questions by having a movie marathon on the plane. I'm bringing a large suitcase and a small suitcase that I will bring on the plane. My large suitcase is heavy mostly because of my books and articles. I'm also bringing my hairdryer. It's a great hairdryer. Why shouldn't I bring it?
I wonder what my room will be like. I'm rather excited to see it. The downside is that I live 10 minutes away from Sainsbury's. Walking 10 minutes with groceries isn't really a fun thing to do in my book.
I don't like to get sentimental over family, but leaving my parents again comes with a certain degree of poignancy. The fact that I'm coming back in December for a few weeks makes it less difficult, but it doesn't mean it becomes easier. My mom hasn't said it directly - we don't really talk about our feelings - but she said a few days ago that she and my dad are going to China in a couple of weeks because I won't be around anymore. That made me so sad.
This is necessary. This is also what I want despite the fear and some lingering doubts. This is what I have to do. I will do it and it will be amazing, and it will be great, and everything else will just have to find a way of falling into place. That's that.
I will forget G, too. I was going to bring his Totoro but I don't want to bring something that reminds me of the person that I want to forget. I am disappointed that he hasn't bothered checking in to see how I'm doing pre-Cambridge. At some point last week when I was beginning to feel the fear, I thought I wanted his reassurance. Maybe I still do, but I don't need it. Like Elissa said (she is very wise), I may want him, but I don't need him. I want to leave this behind.
It's therefore quite a bother that it's his birthday and I feel obliged to send him a happy birthday text. I'll text him when I'm on the coach or something, or when I get to my room. I don't know. At the height my missing him, I wanted to call him, but I can't be bothered anymore. All he will get is a text. I'm willing to bet that he won't read it until 15 hours later, and when he does, he'll say 'thank you' and maybe ask a generic question and then disappear again.
Seriously, it's his loss. He knows what I bring to the table and he chooses to walk away. Okay. That is fine. Anyway, it makes perfect sense. It is the wise thing to do. Who cares if it doesn't feel right? Emotions and feelings are unreliable. Just be rational. That's the only way to survive.
My mom cooked nasi lemak for dinner at my behest and it was yummy. We had lunch at East Coast Park because I wanted barbecued stingray. The one in Penang was still the best but this was pretty good. It was hot though. I was sweating like crazy. But it was worth it.
My mom wanted to practise cycling with me at East Coast Park but alas, the haze fucked up the plan. Oh my god, I can't believe I will be living in a place that has public transport so shitty that people cycle. It's cute and all, but ugh.
All right, I need to sleep. The next time I write I will be in CAMBRIDGE! This is unreal!
(No, Yalan, it's real. It's real. It's happening. IT'S HAPPENING!)