Week 8: Trials of a cynical third year

Tom Richardson 26 April 2016

You would have thought that someone with a mental age of 52 (you laugh, but I did the test) would not have a problem with turning 21. After all, it would mark my actual age squeaking fractionally closer to my mental age, when everyone else’s enthusiasm for coasters and clean sponges will match my own. However, as much to my surprise as everyone else’s, it seems that, the faster youth slips through my fingers, the more desperately I try to cling on. This has manifested itself in my ‘quarter-life crisis’. I have tried to be wild, despite my hatred of loud noises, drunk people, and the outdoors. I had a cocktail three weeks ago (though I thought it was a mocktail. But still).

My quarter-life crisis didn’t start with you running across the grass swigging port with gay abandon and screaming “I’m still young!” It started with the inevitable failure of all my New Year’s resolutions. My “get up and run every morning” fell prey to my mild tendonitis and chronic lack of motivation. My “be in the library by 9am” lay abandoned after a couple of late nights. My vegetarianism was ditched faster than a conversation with a punt tout after the first mediocre veggie hall of term (sorry Johns'; three slices of tomato does not make a starter).

Next, my quarter-life crisis combined with an end-of-Cambridge crisis to form a monstrous lovechild of inadequacy. A sudden, reckless desire to immerse myself in all aspects of Cambridge life ensued. I cycled along King’s Parade to formal, my gown billowing in the wind, scattering tourists hither and thither. I actually considered going to a Johns' bop before concluding that I would rather set my face on fire. I hurriedly attempted to hoard as much stash as possible (how else would future friends know that I had once reached the giddy heights of Treasurer of the Conservation Society?) When my blind date suggested we go to Cindies, I actually went, instead of dissolving into fits of hysterical laughter. I even considered buying the world’s most expensive mug (a Union membership).

The climax of the crisis came while counting how many lectures and supervisions were left in my university career. But just as the crisis reached crescendo, then came the epiphany I needed. There was no point trying to stop the inevitable; I couldn’t stop myself turning 21, or leaving Cambridge. All I was doing was squandering my remaining time; I should instead appreciate the time I had left doing the things I enjoyed, not desperately trying to tick off everything on an arbitrarily determined 'Cambridge-things-to-do-before-you-are-21' bucket list.

So to all third years who are currently immersed in their quarter-life/end-of-Cambridge crisis, I say this: just because you are turning 21 doesn’t mean you will instantly morph into some comfy ill-fitting-sweater-wearing, party-pooping, old fart (like me).

And in five years time, you won’t give a damn that you never performed at an open mic night, or that the only time you saw the Footlights was at 4am at a May Ball when you were too pissed to know what comedy was. You’ll only regret that you spent your last months at Cambridge worrying about it ending, or worrying about ‘getting old’. Instead, relax and enjoy the time you have left. There’s always a Masters.