Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Recollections Of A Previous Life

I remember the year 2002. I forget which month now but (I suspect it was January, actually) when I bought a new suit and took the train up from Durham to Edinburgh I was filled with a strange feeling of excitement I think I've only ever had once since then. I had prepared well. I knew how to present myself in the short time I was going to be alloted. I was confident - and, more than anything else - I wanted it. I just knew I was going to get the position, and I did. I still remember the interview and the realization that I had succeeded and that I'd be getting my offer in the post.

I had poured more than six months' passion into a certain project following the awful heart-breaking disaster of discovering the University would not support me despite what I'd been told. I'd pulled myself back up again and got stuck in and now I was about to be offered a postgraduate research position at the Edinburgh College of Art. I couldn't have been more full of myself if I'd tried.

From that heady start, 2002 went fairly quickly downhill for me. I was stuck out in the sticks at Riccarton in the summer, with almost nobody else around. I was frustrated that the institution was pulling me in a different direction from the one in which I had launched myself back in 2001. I was frustrated by the lack of colleagues around me, and when I eventually got some, I was frustrated by the variance at which I found myself from their basic premises and academic jargon (being arty types, me being a science+something else type). I don't think I made any friends in that whole year. It was terrible. But I soldiered on pretending everything was alright - largely because of the memory of what I had been through to get where I was.

In 2003 I moved out of the sticks into town - sharing an old Edwardian flat with some Brazilian engineering students. That move gave me a massive lift; I was within walking distance from the castle and the Edinburgh College of Art, the libraries, museums, cinemas - everything, and I made as much of it as I could. Which of course included girls - good times! But 2003 was also intellectually stimulating, in total contrast to 2002. The U.S. and U.K. finally looked like they were going to invade Iraq and the controversy was everywhere and talked about by pretty much everyone. Early that year I discovered both Nietzsche's "Zarathustra" and Karl Popper's "Open Society", and it was those two books that really encouraged me to continue at odds with the nature of the institution I was employed by. Also in that year, though I don't recall the month, I discovered Samizdata as a result of searching for writings by Popper online. The discussions on there would be an invaluable education for me over the next two years.

Nothing stands out in memory as distinctive about 2004 apart from the friends I made - Hong, John and Tom. I have largely lost touch with them now, but I still miss them whenever I have an opportunity, like now, to remember. There's an awful lot mixed up with that, some of it is mine but some of it belongs to each of them on their own separate accounts. It's awful to me now to think of them, and I'd like to put that right at some point in the future; I really miss them. Actually, there are quite a few people I need to make amends to - but whether they need that from me is another question.

But it was no good, and I pretty much carried on out of inertia and the pleasures I got from living in Edinburgh, but toward the end of 2004 my heart just wasn't in it anymore. Sometime in early 2005 I remember our institution held its' first international conference - for them it was a real sign of achievement, but for me it was the mark of death; I could barely withhold my contempt for every single person attending that conference. It was eating me alive and that's when I knew I had to get out and get as far away from those people as possible. Today I think they'd get ill just sitting next to me - my radiation of anger and disgust wouldn't even need to take the form of words.

I made a terrible, terrible mistake - and there was nobody around at the time to advise me otherwise. It has cost me years and years and god knows what else. I now find myself back in the position at which I started six months into 2001 after the disaster following graduation. Hard work and a hard heart; I have quite a mountain to climb.

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