Sem 2 Wk 12
“From the Greek for ‘unguent,’ what five letter term denotes a complex of molten silicates with water and gases formed within the upper mantle of the earth-?”
The buzzer sounds before the host, Jeremy Paxman can finish his question, the air so thick with tension you could cut it with a knife. Ted Loveday from Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge scrunches his nose. With a quick intake of breath and all the certainty he can muster, he says, “Magma.”
Paxo smiles - correct. Loveday’s done it again. The audience cheers, his teammates beam; he’s just gotten them closer to beating Magdalen College, Oxford at the University Challenge Grand Final; the nerdiest, most prestigious quiz show in modern history. Loveday takes a gulp of water. “By Jove, I’m smart,” he thinks.
If you’re unfamiliar with the glorious television event that is University Challenge, it’s basically an absurdly difficult quiz show for teams of British uni students to compete, in all their esoteric glory, for the title of Most Famous People Likely To Never Get Laid (too busy learning the names of every medieval regent between 1200-1247, but I’m also kidding because 10/10 would bang).
While this might sound like the unsexiest thing ever, it’s been running since 1962 and from what I gather by the thousands of YouTube views, it’s still extremely popular. The contestants are some of the sharpest young minds in the UK, with a seemingly unmatchable capacity to retain the finest precision of detail on an insanely broad range of topics. This is not the kind of quiz show you watch to guess the answers- you won’t know them. You watch so you can marvel at the sheer speed at which these people can recall information, or in my case, writhe in green envy at the fact I will never, ever attain that level of intellectual prowess.
As law students, many of us have a competitive edge, and inherent to this is a constant assessment of who’s doing what - not always consciously. Without realising, you’ve ascertained that Maggie just started as a paralegal at Clayton Utz because she posted a job update on LinkedIn, Cindy goes on about how #thankful she was for the opportunity to go and negotiate maritime trade deals with the UN in Rotterdam, and what about that guy in class who just always knows what the goddamn answer is – how does he have time to do all the readings when you know he also just won the Mooting Grand Final?!
It doesn’t help that many of us seem to have an extreme propensity for psychological self-flagellation. We exert so much pressure on ourselves to do more, achieve more, be more. And much of this is based on how we compare ourselves to what others appear to be doing, achieving, and being.
It’s no wonder there are so many personal essays on De Minimis about mental health - I’m writing this because I’ve just come through a bout of snivelling self-pity, borne of misery from five job rejections, frustration at my lack of understanding of class material (am I dumb? Everyone else seems to get it?), and anxiety at my unpreparedness for exams (everyone else has finished their notes!).
If you, like me, are in a bout of despair, and crying in the shower doesn’t seem to do the trick anymore, I have a hot tip. Get over it. This seems like the most obvious advice, and it feels a bit silly writing, but STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS. A lot of pain and very little else will ever come from it. Things become a bit (maybe even a lot) less stressful when you realise you’ll never be Ted Loveday. Nobody will – he’s just bein’ himself.
There are some things that I’m good at (like writing this instead of doing aforementioned study notes), things that I’m working on (like trying to be more proactive about job and internship opportunities), and things that I may never be able to do, but am still giving my best shot (like understanding the ambiguity gateway in the interpretation of contract terms). Acknowledging this doesn’t require worrying about what anyone else is doing, and if I do pay attention, it’s to celebrate my friends’ achievements or learn from them, and not beat myself up for not being there.
Instead of drawing comparisons, be it with your peers or the contestants of a TV show, celebrate whatever it is you’ve got going for you in its own right. Not because it makes you better than someone else, or even because it gets you on their level, but because it’s cool and it’s good and it’s your thang.
I hope that this is a self-evident, yet necessary reminder during this rather stressful time of year. You do you hun. There’s nothing else you can do about it. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Note: If reading this in print, be sure to search “Hugh Binnie University Challenge” on YouTube so you don’t miss out on solid hyperlinked content