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The Patience of Ordinary Things: in defence of doing nothing

It has been a week. Read that last word in italics, if you will – I am unsure if the Cherwell’s print formatting will allow me to place the appropriate emphasis on the word, and it is not an emphasis on which I am willing to compromise. Because, as I have said, it has been a week.

Middle-of-term blues are a known event in the Oxford calendar, marked by Welfare Weeks and posters advertising Mental Health Dog Walks – all valiant and admirable attempts from college JCRs to mitigate the inevitable drag of university without reading weeks – or really any breaks at all. 

Perhaps the strangest part of my recent stranding within a long period of breakless-ness has been the fact that, eventually, it ends. 

Essays get handed in (even the worst ones) tutorials finish  (even the worst ones), and suddenly I have found myself at something of a loose end.

I have, for a moment, time on my hands. 

It is time I am lucky to have, and time that should really be spent productively, in cleaning and essay prep and every other useful task I’m forgetting right now – yet it is a stillness I welcome. 

The presence of spare time is almost startling, after its absence.

 It takes a moment of recalibration, a breath in which you remember that you are an actual person; with spare time, I drink coffee for the taste, not the caffeine, walk places that aren’t the Bodleian, make jokes without self deprecation. I remember that I love my course, that I am grateful for my friends, that I can be, when given the space for it, funny and kind. I wear outfits and not just clothes. I decorate my room, cook meals and make tea for anyone who will take them, desperate to anchor this remembering of how good things are in something physical, something that I can point at later and say here it is. I write sentimental articles.

There is, possibly, an element of bragging about this – a lot of people don’t ever get these moments of pause. It’s probably not a moment of pause I should be taking. In a week I will probably read this column back and wish I could grab the girl writing it and tell her to put down the smug article and actually work. My future self is probably right.

 But spare time, being hard to come by, is even harder to give up. Tomorrow I will get back to work, as I did yesterday and the day before. 

Today, I think I’m going to have a nap. 

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