Changing priorities

Good evening,

I’m not interested in academia any more.

Call my year six teacher, call my Sixth Form head of year, call the ambulance, the coast guard, even the careers adviser.

Because I don’t want to do academia any more.

Okay, knowingly-exaggerated introductions aside, there is a point here. It’s not that I’ve developed a sudden loathing for trawling through books and comparing Chaucerian metaphors, simply that other pursuits have emerged in my life that I am more interested in. I’ll still be that guy slaving away over Old English translations in the depths of February, musing that, indeed, oft him anhaga are gebideð, and I’ll honestly enjoy my final year of pottering about with books for the sake of achieving an almost completely arbitrary numerical judgement on the quality of said pottering. But there’s more to life than that.

And, most tragically for 14-year-old me, who sought never to deviate from the singular path of academic endeavour, some of these new things aren’t even that, whisper it, employable. My main passions are those related to administration: the running of university societies, the management of my magazine, that kind of thing. Other passions include sports, which have finally taken over a large part of my life after being relegated to the realm of hobby in the past, like a hungry tramp gazing through the windows of an affluent family, starving and alone, which was not coincidentally my response to asking people for a game of footy, only to be literally sidelined when it emerged I couldn’t kick a ball.

One particularly unacademic passion I’ve found of late is my friends. And, at the risk of sounding like a YuGiOh character, my relationships with the people around me are becoming key parts of my life, and things that I build whole events around, rather than a background thing that just kinda happens as I pursue more rigorous bookworming. I wonder what people will think of certain outfits, of how I can attend separate and simultaneous events so as not to upset anyone, and look forward with great anticipation to the next time I can meet someone for lunch or do core workouts with them in the park. This latter passion is also bound up in gender in a way that the others aren’t, and gender itself could be considered a new passion of mine, an active interest in the way I present myself to others and the regard in which I hold myself, instead of the older, more passive approach of identity only happening by accident, and in retrospect.

What this does mean, however, is that my future is even muddier than it was before. What Do You Do With An English Degree? is a question as old as the degree itself and one, ironically, warranting a whole book to be written on the subject that, yet more ironically, will inevitably not sell well enough to secure its writer consistent income. I can’t really turn ‘I care about my friends and like chatting to them about nail polish’ into a career, even with my not underwhelming spin-doctoring abilities.

But I kinda signed up for that. I intentionally stayed away from degrees that offered direct paths to employment – Law being the big one – because I expected my life to diversify and expand once I reached university, and wanted to keep my options open. I can’t say I expected everything from my name and pronouns to change, but they did, and I’m happier now than I’ve been before.

It’s just been hard to admit that academia is no longer my primary goal. My actions have long suggested this – pulling all-nighters to finish dodgeball posters is not the same as pulling all-nighters to finish an essay – but it’s the difference between being addicted to a substance and admitting you’re addicted. Now I’m admitting my addiction to … things I genuinely am passionate about?

At that point the metaphor breaks down.

And I can’t say I’m addicted too much; I’ve got a Straight Edge lifestyle to preserve.

I played with a Super Nintendo!

Evening folks,

I love games, but a major hole in my gaming experience is that I’ve played almost no older consoles. I remember spending five minutes with a Nintendo 64 back around 2002 at a kid’s house; I didn’t even like the kid and the joystick didn’t have a top so the shattered plastic pole dug a mark into my hand, and in all it wasn’t very pleasant.

But today I ticked off an item on the classic gaming bucket list; I played Super Mario Kart on the Super Nintendo.

There’s a bar near where we live that my friends and I visited (briefly in my case, as I had to shoot off early to see my beloved Tottenham splutter to a 1-1 draw against the mighty West Brom) to celebrate them submitting an essay of particular importance. And the place was cool, and the drinks supposedly cheap, but the main attraction for me was the Super Nintendo – a real-life Super Nintendo – with a copy of Super Mario Kart plugged in.

It’s interesting playing an older Mario Kart game – both chronologically and on a different system altogether – considering my experience with newer ones. I couldn’t, for instance, figure out how to drift until the third race.

But what wasn’t different, however, was the game’s ability to capture my imagination. I was sat in a corner playing a pixellated kart racer by myself on a muted CRT TV, and it was great. Peach screwed me over my zipping past me at the line, and Donkey Kong Jr. smashed me into a wall, killing my acceleration and the dim ray of hope I had to finish first. The controller was oddly-shaped and lacked thumbsticks and multiple shoulder buttons, but it was still a tool of great empowerment and interactivity. It was a game, and it was brilliant.

And those are the best experiences to cross off the bucket list.