I can only recognize my own happiness in hindsight. I never say “I am happy,” only “I was happy.” So any joy I experience is never recorded in real time, for fear of jinxing it. The happiest condition I can write in is contentedness, a state too neutral to feel precarious.
It’s been a long time since I felt that kind of peaceful neutrality. Back then I would summarize each day in a small spiral diary. I have started doing this again, in a larger journal that says Goldsmith University of London on the front cover. I record all the little details that add up to things I don’t want to forget. I want to capture the essences of even the smallest events and happenings that make me feel good.
Short sentences are enough to trigger vivid memories. Friday was simply: Went to Brick Lane by self and bought brown leather backpack, chip feast, Amersham with totally fucked Angelface. Reading that now, I can feel the brisk air and smell the train and think of all the faces I saw that day and remember shouting at the full moon with Angelface.
I wish I could record every conversation, every laugh. I want to hold on to the moments when me and Jay spontaneously create a dance routine to a Beyoncé song, or me and Erica fall on the floor laughing when she tries to use her key for my flat door (which I concede will only ever be funny to us). If people could read the record of these moments strung together, they would stop saying that college freshman do nothing but get drunk and sleep. They would see the profundity of every micro-interaction that goes into creating a proper friendship. Living in the microcosm of university only intensifies all these dynamics. We live under a magnifying glass.
Erica and I have inadvertently become best pals with the maintenance guys. They walk up and down the blocks of flats throughout the day and, when they catch one of us alone, ask, “Where’s your partner in crime?” One of them loves to give us advice. He urges us to wear a coat and tell our family we love them, because “you never know when they might get hit by a bus.”
A couple weeks ago, I had a dream in which old faces, people I knew from college (how was that only a year ago?), appeared in my university bedroom. All the old feelings of alienation and of not being “cool” or experienced enough coiled through my dream bones. I could feel so strongly that self-consciousness I almost always used to have. I used to have to blast my iPod to muster enough fake courage to walk past all the windows of my college building. I don’t have that now. I feel accepted. I have the privilege of feeling comfortable. We are all on a level playing field here—most of the early cliques have disbanded, and the ones that haven’t, I don’t feel I am missing out on. I have plenty enough without them.
Next year we will all have to leave the dormitories and move into houses. I am already thinking about how strange and sad it will be not to live here, even though that is months away. The dynamic we have formed here will be broken up into a bunch of smaller ones.
We will never live like this again. I may yet take back some portion of my fondness for it—there are still many more long winter months to come. But I don’t feel the cold so much right now and the early evenings, though a bore, aren’t quite as suffocating as usual. ♦