It’s almost 5 months since I graduated from Sussex and I never thought I’d say this, but I’m really starting to miss it. Okay, so I don’t miss the work. Or the deadlines. Or the enraging vague (and often illegible) essay feedback. I don’t miss spending the Christmas holidays in holed up in the library, frantically revising for January exams. I don’t miss battling my way across Brighton in blizzards and torrential rain to make it to a lecture on time, only to discover as I stand in the doorway soggy, frozen and miserable, that the lecture in question has been cancelled for no conceivable reason. I definitely don’t miss the days when the lecture that I’d expended such painstaking effort to attend isn’t in fact cancelled, it’s just utterly boring and of no relevance whatsoever to anything we’ve been studying.
But despite these relatively minor grievances, there are a hell of a lot of things about Sussex that I do miss: the 4am trips to the library, the all-nighters, the days leading up to a deadline where I survived on nothing but chocolate, energy drinks and tinned tuna because I didn’t have the time (or the money) to go to the shops. I miss sitting in the quiet study area surrounded by people playing solitaire in their pyjamas; people eating mayonnaise or Nutella straight from the jar; people watching strange Asian cinema on the iMacs in the middle of the day; and people who seemed to have the entire contents of the Co-op’s convenience food section carefully arranged on their desk. I even miss going to bed at 5am and then turning up to a seminar 4 hours later, bleary eyed, hungover and having failed to do so much as look at the set reading.
I also miss not having an excuse for my inappropriate choice of public transport reading material. When I was a student, it was (kind of) okay to be seen reading a lesbian graphic novel on the bus. In response to the looks of mild disapproval/ ill-concealed disgust/ shock, I would proudly inform the interested party that the offending article I held in my grubby little mits was simply part of my undergraduate reading list and that if they had a problem with it, they should take it up with Sussex, not me. I would then hop off the bus, cleared of all possible blame, before proceeding to spend the remainder of my afternoon in the library, poring over something equally sensational and risque.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not some sort of secret erotica obsessive (honest!). In fact, I’m probably more of a prude. It’s just that nearly every book ever written has at least one dirty bit in it – even if it’s just a few lines of artfully suggestive (but massively controversial) prose, a’la Madame Bovary – and there always seems to be someone looking over my shoulder as I’m reading said ‘dirty bit.’ Seriously, if I had a pound for every time I’ve felt someone’s gaze on me as I turn the page of my otherwise innocent piece of literature, to reveal an entire paragraph devoted to an in-depth account of fellatio, I’d probably be half-way close to payying off my student loan. It always seems to happen; even when there’s no other remotely sexual bits in the book. It’s as if it just pops up out for nowhere to embarrass me, like some kind of sexual non-sequitur.
I guess what I’m trying to say, is that I miss Sussex, a lot. So much, in fact, that I’d read Ulysses from cover to cover, willingly, and even make notes, if Sussex told me to. I’m like the needy dumpee after a break-up who isn’t adjusting well to the separation and heartbreak and just sits there alone, in the dark, sobbing into a tub of Ben & Jerry’s.