Oxford is green and gorgeous and full of flowers. The Botanical Gardens are ablaze with colour. Portmeadow looks bejewelled: bursting with buttercups. All those sandstone buildings caught by the evening light. The air is full of potential (and, admittedly, the odd downpour too). For me, it’s also newly full of freedom. On Friday I finished my exams: twelve hours’ worth of bending over a desk, scribbling and scribbling, completed. Hundreds of years of English literature studied. Degree done. Life waiting ahead.
I also turned 21 at the weekend: filling my time with conversation, coffee, cocktails, food, books, joyous company. The good stuff. The stuff to be grateful for. It left me so immensely thankful for this city and the people within it. I’ve found such riches here. It hasn’t always been an easy space to inhabit (my parents can confirm just how many times I’ve rung them in tears), but it has offered golden experiences.
People keep asking what it all feels like to be standing at this point, on the edge of these beginnings and endings, and I’ve repeated the same adjectives: exciting, thrilling, sweet. But they’re all perfectly apt. It’s exciting to have done so much, worked so hard, and suddenly to relish the completion; the release. It’s thrilling to look towards all the projects I can finally begin (and there are myriads). It’s sweet to spend an afternoon lying out in the sun with a book and no responsibilities, no expectations, no linger of guilt that I should be doing something else. Elating. Brilliant. Wonderful. Fucking fantastic.
I’m still tired too, and expect to be knocked sideways by the odd wave of exhaustion for a while to come. It’s been quite a year. Quite a three years. Ups and downs (and lots of unexpected left turns) aplenty. Just as it should be. Nothing bland about it, that’s for sure.
For the first time in my life I’m facing the prospect of taking all the things I’ve squeezed in around academic life – the writing, the modelling, the blogging, the other work – and giving them my full focus. My book also comes out on June 9th. It’s going to be taking me to some brilliant places this summer (more on all of this soon.) A loose idea I assembled and brought with me to university; a fully-fledged publication as I leave.
Putting together ‘Notes on Being Teenage’ taught me a lot, as did all the articles and interviews I worked on elsewhere. From being Junior Editor on Violet (see issue five for my interview with the smart, sharp Sarah Kernochan where we discussed storytelling and Hollywood sexism) to essays for places like Broadly, Refinery29 and The Coven, I’ve been given the room to think, research and do a hell of a lot of drafting and crafting.
In a few months, I also have a poetry collection launching. ‘Branch and Vein’ will be published by New River Press: an exciting new venture from two great poets, Greta Bellamacina and Robert Montgomery. Limited edition proofs are already available (see here for more info), with the full print run to come in September. There are poems in there about bodies, distances, family stories, landscapes, and an abandoned hotel. This still feels vaguely surreal and mindboggling. It happened relatively swiftly, and I’m astounded that I was asked to be one of the poets they’re launching with. Honoured too. I respect Greta and Robert immensely, and to play some part in their creative vision is a privilege indeed. There’s a gorgeous write-up of the poetry press on AnOther here.
I use the word ‘adventures’ a lot, but that is definitely what my time at university has offered. Adventuring in countless forms. Creative, personal, intellectual. I have a few months left to adventure and live in Oxford, before moving on elsewhere. But for now, I’m just revelling in it being today.