Preface.

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I have changed my mind.

I am no longer going to Chicago.

I am going to New York.

Pretty simple way to express a pretty major change – they call me Master of Understatement you know.  I received Columbia’s offer a leisurely 12 hours before the closing deadline for Chicago’s offer, having completely given up getting into Columbia at all, and I couldn’t keep my feet on the ground. I followed my instincts, cancelled Chicago and accepted Columbia. In just a few slightly underwhelming mouse-clicks I completely changed the course of my life. (I had been hoping for a swelling big band soundtrack and star spangled confetti.) I didn’t even tell my parents when I actually did it because Mum was in Voice of Reason mode. She reminded me that we had a plan, that Chicago was the plan. She was trying to stop me getting high on yellow cab fumes and whirling off into some dizzy fantasy about pretzels and walks in Central Park: jumping in before I had really thought about it all. (I only found out later she’d been rooting for Columbia all along! Cheeky Mummy.) However, in a very sedate and adult fashion, I completely abandoned the plan, pulled the old bait and switch then boogied around the kitchen squeaking incomprehensibly. I think my parents could just about make out the words “Big Apple” and so figured out that I’d jumped the Chicago ship for a posting on the USS New York City.

I am, however, I can confess to my trusted reader, nervous in a very strange way. I haven’t written a word in a very long time because I suddenly feel as if each one has to be a diamond. I have declared myself utterly. I want to be an academic and I have taken the first few steps to achieving that goal. I have a shiny red, white and blue visa in my passport. I have a place at an Ivy league University. I am beginning to truly believe that not only do I deserve it, but also that I can fill it. Not just that I can take it up but that I can really fill it out, ease myself into it like the perfect reading chair and rest every inch of myself upon it. I also have a new haircut. Very important that last one.

Now that I have selected a destination and am gathering myself to set off for it I find I am mourning the loss of other options. They are lofty things, impossible dreams and not viable in the slightest. 1) Embody Lara Croft and travel the world, saving it every day by unraveling obscure mythology while generally thwarting villains with plummy accents and formidably armed personal security forces. 2) Retrain as a doctor, join Unicef and heal sick babies. 3) Become a ferociously talented ballet dancer and live out my days backstage at the Royal Opera House. 4) Become Benedict Cumberbatch’s trophy wife. The traitorous, chilly, realistic part of my prefrontal cortex knew all along I would never do these things. Yet actually embarking on a path that precludes them, that wipes them out with its unwavering reality, its (not a little unfriendly) staunch validity nonetheless leaves me nervous of writing. I have made the choice, I have accepted the place, filled out the forms, applied for housing, met the dean of studies, goggled at the campus… now all I have to do is actually live out that choice. Easy right! Breeze. Central Park cakewalk. Right?

Wrong. Now every tap at the keys carries the weight of validating that choice. All of a sudden I feel the need to be a genius. No matter what, I must cram every syllable with effervescent wit and resonating wisdom, like lovechild of Yoda and Caitlin Moran. Not to mention the troll under the creative bridge that is Originality. I can’t be the only student (for I am a student once more) that has nightmares about a towering monster, the queasy, oozing shadow on the library wall, composed of ineptly deployed punctuation marks and threatening to beat me about the derivative cranium with a copy of 50 Shades of Grey. Can I?

Of course, just at the time I am least verbose, I have metric tonnes of stuff to chitter about. My trip to New York. The stationery show. Seeing Columbia’s campus. My first whoopie pie. Coming back and going to Mayerling. Seeing To Kill A Mockingbird at the Regent’s Park open air theatre. My American visa interview. I don’t even know where to begin!

So I’m asking a favour of you. Please, give me a couple of days and I’ll figure it all out, I’ll conquer my writer’s block, sift my memories for the fun ones, weed out the slow bits and be back in a jiffy.

Promise.

xxx