It was final. My application for the last round of scholarship this year was unsuccessful. The email came yesterday, a beautiful sunny day with gentle fresh breeze, which was very rare during this rainy season. My IELTS certificate is going to expire soon while the test fee will be increased by the first day of November. It was about a year since I lodged the first application for funding to study for a post-graduate degree. A year of rejections. I applied five times for a scholarship, and two times for admission to universities, and numerous other submissions to major and minor journals and magazines. And in retrospect, what have I learned and done in a year of rejections?
In fact, the last year of bunches of rejections has given me time to read and to think, and to learn to stay calm. It was not until this year did I read novels George Orwell, Margaret Atwood and John Steinbeck (although I had read Orwell’s essays and Atwood’s poems before), all of whom I really like and admire. I managed to read Sapiens, which now becomes one of my most favourite non-fiction books, even though I have been so busy with manuscripts and classes of propaganda course, which is an obligatory requirement for editors in my publishing house. I have read Saramago, more works by Woolf, some gay novels and some philosophy (both Western and Oriental. I even took an online course in philosophy delivered by the University of Edinburgh) and some literary theories, and been reading Huxley and Antal Szerb, a Hungarian writer. The stack of books in my studio is getting higher and higher every week. Sometimes, I come to believe that if it takes years for me to get a scholarship to study abroad, I might end up reading all books on and beyond the syllabus. And on the bright side, I have total freedom to choose what I am going to read, and I am free to think about the text and the author, free from professors’ opinions. I once lied, self-indulgently, in my studio, thinking about what I might write about Henry James if I had to study him in a course. It would not be so approving, I think.
Over the last year, I have watched more films and television series than I did in the other 25 years of my life combined. And so far I have also translated 20 books, both in English and French, although they are all children’s picture books. I even self-published a book in French on Amazon as a submission to a writing competition in French language, though it did, like many other things I have done, fail to get wide reception and a prize. 😀 And I still have a lot of projects to finish, which I have delayed for so long. Some would have been so disappointed about me. Sadly, I still cannot do anything about that, which is all the more annoying and dismal.
In the last twelve months, I have studied every city I thought I would end up living in and every country where I thought I would go: the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Greece, Senegal, the United States, New Zealand and Australia. I have even gone further to print their maps and stick them in my work space. And by doing those things, I have acquired a sound knowledge of general history, geography, culture, cuisine, festivals, demography, climate and education in the cities where I would like to live and study. Every day, I can learn something new, which is good.
About a month ago I and my friends went out to a bar. There was a band of middle-aged people playing that day. Watching them singing and dancing, I have wondered what they were like in their prime time, when they were young and green. And I have grown to ask myself: what would be the meaning of life of the only person who had ever lived on Earth? Imagine you were the person, who lives alone on Earth, and dies alone, what then? I have imagined myself in the case, waking up every day, going around finding food, sleeping, thinking, or not even thinking anything because if I were the only Homo sapiens on Earth, and there would be no abstract concepts in my world, there would be no idea about birth and death, money and fame, ambition and disappointment, why would I need to think? The only thing I would do is to exist, to live and die.
And in the end, what is “meaning”? What is the meaning of the word “meaning”? What does “meaning” denote?
At this very moment, I am thinking about the bulbs placed around dragon fruit trees along the railroad, which would produce beams of light at night, making it like you are travelling through the universe.