Sunday, 30 June 2013

the graduate

Today I turn 22, and I have to say, this month has to have been one of the most eventful of my life. It started with a fantastic sailing trip to celebrate my parents' 25th wedding anniversary. It was followed by two of pretty massive and pretty difficult things that have already changed my life forever. And it was rounded off with a beautiful, sad and joyful last week in St Andrews graduating, partying, reminiscing and saying goodbye to some amazing friends. 

I was unbelievably happy to graduate with a First Class M.A (Hons) International Relations and Social Anthropology. I never expected it and (if you can't be smug now when can you?) I'm actually pretty proud that I managed to have such a full year outside of academia too.

The day itself was so lovely, filled with family and friends. It was so great to meet people's parents and siblings and to get the extra insight into where they come from and what makes them tick. 

The proceedings started with wine outside the IR building with my two best girls. We soon regretted the booze when our nerves began to build about walking on stage in heels and pencil skirts...

An hour later and, in the words of our Principal, we had become Masters. We all made it across the stage safely, stopping briefly to have the Principal hit us on the head with John Knox's breeches with the words "et super te". We processed proudly along North Street from Younger Hall to St Sal's Quad, stopping to stamp on the PH for the first time! 

It's now down to the wee brother to carry on the Patterson legacy in the Bubble! 

I've always thought that birthdays are a better time to evaluate life than New Year, and I like how mine falls between academic years. This year has been an incredibly busy and rich one. In many ways it's also been quite hard. I've made mistakes but I've corrected and learned from them as best I could. I've made difficult decisions under stress and learned how to support my family and friends in new ways. 

Outside of academia, I feel so lucky to have studied in a town where it's so easy to meet and mobilise like-minded people and achieve things together - whether editing magazines and journals, running life drawing, or doing student publicity for StAnza, these activities have taught me just as much as my professors and lecturers. I learned a lot in my job in University Development, but also from the fireside after parties in our cottage ending in sunrise walks; from spontaneous dancing on strangers' tables; conversations over cigarettes hanging out of windows; excursions into the North Sea; drawn-out potluck dinners; exhibitions and poetry slams; singing sessions by the piano; movies watched squeezed on to friends' beds. 

I'm so grateful to the wonderful people I've mey here for all the different ways of thinking and being that they've opened my mind to. I'm grateful to my parents for their unfailing support, encouragement, belief in me, and a solid cultural education! 

And I find it difficult to express how grateful I am to this guy. 

Next year is going to be vastly different, but just like St Andrews it will be challenging and exciting, and I know I leave with friends on every continent. Being surrounded by people from all over the world has been just as important as studying IR for me. I keep coming back to something Diana Athill wrote. While her life wasn't perfect, she said that the three years she spent at Oxford where important if only for the chunk of intense happiness they represented. That happiness - the ability to talk loudly and pretentiously in coffee shops unhindered, to participate in ancient traditions, learn and love without responsibility - set her up with a kind of mattress of pleasure and contentment to fall back on when things did get tough. 

This is largely how I feel about St Andrews. Now, I want to use what I've been lucky enough to learn in the hope that other people can have that same 'happiness mattress' too. 

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