the right order

It’s important to get what happened next in the right order.

First, I changed my mind about carrying on my academic work. That was all quite fixed and settled before any of the changes in my private life. There wasn’t any violent moment of disillusionment, but imperceptibly, over the months leading up to my finals, two things – which had seemed for a while to be one thing – separated out in my imagination. On the one hand there was the great world of literature and thought, and on the other, the smaller world of the university and academic life. I began to be bored with the sound of my own tinny authority in essays. I didn’t like the idea of choosing a narrow specialism – I wanted to read everything. I was grateful to the university, it had made all the difference to me and been the gateway into my new intellectual life; but now I chafed inside its frame. Sometimes when I looked up from my books I was overwhelmed by the real moment in the air around me, its nothingness richly pregnant. My studies were still a path into mysteries; but I saw that the path could take you underground, if you weren’t vigilant. It could lead into substitute satisfactions, ersatz and second hand.

Clever Girl by Tessa Hadley

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