Fighting The Fifth Week Blues

Originally posted November 14, 2011.

Ever since third week, I’d been hearing rumors of a sort of unplanned Oxford tradition: the fifth week blues.  Apparently, this hits the student body during the fifth week of every term.  After the halfway mark of fourth week, everyone gets tired of working all the time, of reading and writing taking up a majority of every week, and of how even when we go out to have fun, we know there are pages and pages of words to read and words to write waiting for us back at college.  I was determined for this not to be a bad week.  Because the two essays and being ill during fourth week had stressed me out so much, I was determined not to lose another one of my weeks here to anxiety and over-thinking.

At first, I wasn’t very successful.  As I said in my last post, I spent Sunday of last week at the second day of the Oxford Playhouse’s Writers’ Weekend, workshopping my latest play project with the help of some local actors.  In many ways, this was an incredible opportunity. While I have had a play produced, I have never given myself the chance to interact with actors or a production team that are working with one of my original scripts.  When I left, I had so many ideas of where to go next with my current play project, which is great since I had finished a rough draft of the first act upon arriving at Oxford and had no idea where the second act should start—or where it should end.  On the downside, all the feedback overwhelmed me.  It was a pretty intimidating situation to be in: there I was, one of the youngest writers in the room, the only American/foreigner, and I was holding the least polished four pages out of anyone else there.  But everyone was really nice.  They acknowledged that my pages definitely were the roughest of the bunch, but nobody said it was bad writing; in fact, everyone seemed really intrigued by my idea for the play and kept telling me that I would probably get the most out of the workshop because, with a piece at such an early stage of the writing process, I had more of an open mind and would get more out of the reading.  So I left the day feeling encouraged about my playwriting—but then had to immediately put my four pages at the bottom of one of my desk drawers and plunge into Victorian Literature once again.

With such an exhausting weekend of playwriting, I was not really looking forward to working on Elizabeth Gaskell again.  And at first, I had a much harder time writing this week.  I spent more time in my room, staring out the window or wasting time on the Internet than I did writing for long chunks of time.  I felt super isolated from everyone else as I spent all day Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday slowly putting together my thoughts about the epigraphs of Ebenezer Elliott and Elizabeth Barrett Browning within Elizabeth Gaskell’s novels.  So, I didn’t have the same amount of exhaustion or depression as I had been warned about for “fifth week blues,” but I did find myself getting a little lazy.  Thankfully, I still managed to finish the essay and to my delighted surprise, my tutor loved it.  We ended up having a great conversation about the difference between poetry and prose, literary decorum in terms of poetry, the origins of the novel, and the limitations placed upon female authors of the day.  And at the end, all of this led up perfectly to my next assignment: George Eliot.  I left St. Hilda’s feeling so happy and light.  Not only had I pushed through the “Blues,” but I had also produced a great essay, boosting my confidence as a writer back up from after the writers’ weekend.

Plus, after that, my day only got better.  I walked next to the English Faculty Library, met up with a bunch of my visiting student friends, and attended the last Jane Austen lecture.  It was a fantastic talk aboutEmma, which took a closer look at how Jane Austen particularly crafted her writing.  I’m going to be really sad to be without those talks for the rest of term.  Yes, I have other lectures to attend, but this one was by far my favorite, even though Emma Watson never showed up again.  From there, the sun came out and I walked down to the river for an extremely productive rowing outing (we’re getting much better at rowing all eight at once, something really important since we are racing for the first time in just under a week).  And then I finished the day off with an ice cream sundae at G&D’s and a crew date with the Jesus College rowing team.

Friday was Remembrance Day.  It’s pretty similar to the United States’s Veterans’ Day, but it seems like the British place even more importance on the event.  Partially, this is because of the Poppy Appeal.  They are trying to raise more money to support veterans and to construct more memorials.  Truthfully, I’m not one hundred percent clear on exactly why they are raising money; all I know is that it has to do with veterans and means that anyone who is supporting the appeal has been going around for the past two to three weeks with a bright red, paper poppy pinned to his/her coat.  Anyways, I didn’t participate in any formal Remembrance Day activities on Friday, but I did work on my third paper for Literature of World War I.  Since I was readingMemoirs of an Infantry Officer and writing about how the war affected Siegfried Sassoon, a decorated soldier and important poet from that era, I felt like I was still doing the right thing.  I love how my English literature studies line up with something happening around me.  It rocks.

Unfortunately, with rowing, Hertford College Choir, a short reappearance of fourth week’s cold (really?  I was so good and took such good care of myself!), a George Eliot reading assignment for Victorian Literature, and that Sassoon essay due Monday, I didn’t have the most exciting weekend.  But I did manage to make it to The Turf on Saturday night.  I can’t believe that I haven’t been there before; it’s literally just a few steps behind the Bridge of Sighs down this neat little alleyway.  Apparently it’s a really famous little Oxford club.  Thankfully I was there with one of my political science friends and he pointed out the corner where Bill Clinton smoked pot, but “did not inhale.”  I must say, it’s pretty cool to say I’ve visited that spot.  I hope I can find time to go back since it was really cozy back there.  Plus the beer was good, definitely worth the extra expense.

Sorry no actual pictures of the pub.  They were all blurry. 😦

Even though Fifth Week was a little boring, these next few weeks should shape up to be really interesting, and busy.  At the end of sixth week I’m heading out to Cambridge for the day to race in the Cambridge Winter Head regatta and then the week after that is the Christchurch Regatta, the big race of the Michaelmas Term, which is only open to novices like me!  It’s sad to think that I’ll only be here for about three more weeks, but at the same time, I do miss people back at home.  It’s too bad I couldn’t have just brought everyone over here with me.

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About austinausten88

Playwright in love with Classic films, afternoon tea, and Noel Coward. She recently graduated from Rice University. In the fall, she will be exchanging her English major undergraduate status for that of Theatre & Performance Studies graduate student.
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