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Knowing and Not Knowing

June 6, 2010

For the past few days, my Facebook feed has been stacked ceiling-high with statuses about the impending release of exam results. St Andrews are very quick about this; most people will get their grades within two weeks of the end of the exam period. Of course, this just means that we students succumb to impatience, anxiety and fear even sooner. So to see ‘WHERE ARE MY RESULTS?’ typed hurriedly up and down my news feed has been par for the course (golf pun awful, but intended).

Most of the results are now up. I am very happy with mine, but above all I’m relieved not to have to wait any more. Waiting for news turns me into a quivering neurotic. Caroline calmly pointed out to me the other day, ‘everybody’s waiting for something’, which helped…a bit. Exam results can now be safely checked off my List of Uncertainties, but the list goes on:

My submission to an Edinburgh-based literary magazine still goes unanswered. Submissions etiquette dictates that I cannot enquire further for another month or so, but I have growing concerns that this is the sort of magazine that may not inform unsuccessful submitters of their decision. I hope this is not the case, for the sake of my faith in good manners and my general mental well-being. Whatever the case, it is still disheartening to see that little (1) beside my inbox and then find it’s only Amazon trying to sell me things I can’t afford.

Yesterday, in the spirit of hope springing eternal, I posted off an application to the Tower Poetry Summer School in Oxford. This course, which aims to improve both creative and critical writing, is taught this year by two stellar poets. Daljit Nagra won the 2007 Forward Prize for his debut collection, and its title poem won the prize in 2004 (it’s a hell of a poem). Jo Shapcott is a remarkable poet, editor and President of the Poetry Society. Crikey.

I sent off a covering letter and three poems. It’s too soon to worry about acceptance or rejection — the application won’t even have arrived yet — but it gives me something else to tie my stomach in knots over as I wait to hear back.

The next academic year looks to be full of uncertainty too. Many of my friends are graduating and/or jetting off across the globe. I’m moving back into halls by myself, where I intend to live like Julian of Norwich, in a cell, piously contemplating my dissertation. Even that milestone of my academic career is fuzzy around the edges. It seems the more I think about what to write on, the less sure of myself I get. (Expect updates over the summer as I run through my options and beg the Internet for advice.)

A singer-songwriter I love once referred to ‘the majesty of uncertainty’. I’ll pass on that. I like knowing.

PS. I’m off on holiday for a week with my parents, to a resort island one of my friends described as ‘Battle Royale with chavs’. As such, I don’t think I’ll be updating regularly, if at all, for the next seven days or so. Thanks for reading!

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