Entry #1: New Cross
Out of the Brew is a quaint cafe with blue walls, yellow stools, and the sound of faint indie music playing in the background. I am sat at its windowsill, scanning at the array of chicken shops, barbershops, and liquor shops that line New Cross Road. Welcome to the home of Goldsmiths, University of London, a colorful landscape for young aspiring individuals.
As I sip my black coffee, I am overwhelmed by nostalgia - and I can’t tell if it’s due to the sudden hit of caffeine or the lack of breakfast - but I feel uneasy.
I think back on the many sleepless nights spent in the library fretting over a paper that was due, the countless hours sitting in Goldsmiths Cafe lamenting with my friends over Liam’s* late night texts or the afternoons wasted in pubs drinking and singing whatever was playing on the jukebox, desperate to erase the stress that had been built up that week. This feels so long ago that I almost can’t recognize myself experiencing it.
Known for its student protests, absurd (and fun) Fine Art Degree Shows and essentially, being the birth place of the band, Blur, Goldsmiths holds prestigious alumni. Some names including the notorious contemporary put-a-shark-in-formaldehyde artist, Damien Hirst, acclaimed female filmmaker Sam Taylor-Johnson and my personal favorite, editor in chief of British Vogue, Edward Enninful.
I came to Goldsmiths when I was eighteen to study Media & Communications. I dabbled for a time in Journalism (which I only found exciting when we were able to go to court and write reports) and then specialized in Creative Writing. Later on, I finished my postgraduate in Filmmaking, with a focus on Producing. My heart grew torn between being on set as an Assistant Director and sticking to my guns as a Development Producer, reading and re-writing scripts. That year nearly killed me. I spent so little time writing my own work that I am pretty sure if I could suffocate myself, I would have, or I’d sit in a corner crying until my partner at the time would have done it for me. It was miserable.
Except nothing is forever, right? I mean I knew that whatever I was feeling was ultimately momentary and that soon it would fade. Some things need to be endured and then forgotten. Life is fleeting, we are mortal and in less than two hundred years, most of us right now will not be remembered. Grim? “Yes,” says a small chimpanzee wearing a red top hat as he gestures to the black hole that is our existence, “Welcome”.
At the same time, not much has changed since I graduated and I wonder if our famous alumni would feel the same. There’s a new popular bookshop and the Marquis has been repainted. I eavesdrop into a few conversations, and it’s the same chat - someone is making a zine, there’s a lecture on queer politics, an open mic on Wednesday at New Cross Inn and did you also forget to do the reading list on Durkheim?
Looking back, university was a time of collectively chasing a sense of oblivion while also trying to build some sense of security. Nothing is forever, but I must ensure a forever! Everything in the moment was crucial (like what do I text Liam!?) and then everything that was happening was also ephemeral (should we get a pint to forget about Liam?).
All those hours spent with friends in bars, at the Green, or queuing in front of Bussey, losing sense of self and feeling victorious in our youth was really feeling just that: nothing is forever.
Surely, there is a thin line between feeling ‘nothing is forever’ and actually believing it. Yes, feelings may not last forever, but actions simply do.
Actions made in the past will always be part of the past, and for this reason, contribute to the future. In that same line of thought, actions we chose to take today will inevitably be part of our past and subsequently, part of our future too.
This begs the questions, do our feelings control our actions or is it the other way around? Should we take caution with our actions and if so, how do we intuitively know when?
To unravel this existential knot, I would argue that ‘nothing is forever’ is merely a lovely concept. It strips away responsibility, introspection, and confrontation (i.e. all the wonderful things we spend our adult life avoiding and wind up in therapy for).
Maybe it’s a necessary lie to believe in. I think of the alumni and wonder, did they know they would successful? Did they feel it in their bones as students? Probably not, and that’s the whole point. Nothing is forever so, I have forever.
If we don’t intensely feel everything in life as it’s happening, then we don’t accomplish the things we want in the future, or recognize our values through that process in the past. Feelings and actions are irrevocably linked. I know this sounds like a whole load of fluff, but think about it.
If you fully immerse yourself into temporary feelings, paradoxically...
What you have learnt, how you have grown, and who you become, becomes in itself quite permanent. In other words, your actions, quite irreversible. The best part: you never really know what you're doing when you're doing it.
I glance back inside the coffee shop and examine all the wonderful and interesting faces. We are tied to the same faith and hurling with life towards it. There is a sort of endlessness in our ending.
So I suppose this is our reality:
We are mortal. Life is fleeting. And in two hundred years or less, we may not be remembered.
But today, and tomorrow, everything is forever.
Or at least, take a moment to think of it that way.
How does your life change?
What actions do you take? And how quick are you to take them?