Being interesting at dinner parties

Image credit: Jack May

Throughout this term, I’ve tried to use this editorial space to push two fairly obvious agendas. Admittedly, there’s been the odd week of digression, but broadly speaking this editorial page has either been about ‘isn’t Cambridge ridiculous’ in both bad and good ways, or ‘look after yourself guys’, or both.

This has often been to tie into whatever story has been on our front page in that week, whether it be the story about the “unnecessary pressure” felt by a majority of students, and the ensuing reading week campaign, or concerning revelations regarding intermitting students and Cambridge’s famed ‘drop-out rate’.

That’s all well and good, and this has been an incredibly productive space in which to splurge on these topics, but there’s a danger of taking it to extremes. There’s a possibility that you can be too indulgent with your self-care.

Perhaps there’s no such thing as ‘The unfathomable happiness of a 2.ii’ , and maybe it’s easy to overstate ‘The importance of being happy’.

If there’s a limit to such things my feeling is that Associate Editor Sam Rhodes and I discovered it last weekend, when we did what all sensible Cambridge students bearing the burden of mid-term stress would do by going to Paris for the weekend. There was a certain extent to which we were there for very important business-type professional journalism reasons, but mostly we were taking the chance to nip out of Cambridge for a bit, and take a proper break.

We left early on Friday morning, and we were back in time for tea on Sunday evening. In that time, we had a two-hour, incredibly alcoholic lunch sitting in a restaurant opposite the Notre Dame, enjoyed night-time cityscapes from atop the Arc de Triomphe, and took a compulsory selfie with the Mona Lisa in the Musée du Louvre.

What we did not do is read anything relevant to our degrees, reply to any emails from our supervisors, or have a quick cry upon realising we had only done half the reading for an essay due in six hours.

And that’s important. It’s important that we made a whole bunch of memories. When I tell my grandchildren (egg donor and surrogate permitting) about this particular weekend in February 2015, I won’t be telling them of yet another weekend spent generating hash-job opinions I don’t support in response to books I don’t understand. I’ll be telling them about the time I decided to do something crazy.

Ultimately, that’s the crux of it. It’s not realistic for me to tell you to take international trips every weekend, or indeed every term. If you can afford to do that, you’re probably not the sort of person I want to get stuck in conversation with. Instead, do something extraordinary every week. Learn how to juggle. Start learning French. Run to Girton. Go kayaking.

It doesn’t matter what it is, or who you do it with. What matters is that it’s memorable. Doing extraordinary things will make you happier, healthier, and more interesting to sit next to at dinner parties. In the end, isn’t that what’s most important? 

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