One day I’m at home watching High School Musical, and the next I’m finding my way alone around the University of the Sunshine Coast (this isn’t even a metaphor, I was watching High School Musical yesterday and today I’m being an adult).
Today is Tuesday, the 26th of June, meaning that it’s my second day of work experience. If you’ve stuck around, you probably remember when I posted about finding a placement and how happy I was about it. Well, yesterday morning, Mum and I got in the car and she dropped me at USC. I am tall on the outside but still small on the inside, and coming to a place full of adults is quite terrifying.
Yesterday, I got to hang out with a cool guy who happens to be an advisor at USC and a published author. He’s about sixty years older than me, and about twenty feet shorter, but he has a quirky character that I came to enjoy. He gave me a tour of the university, and then we sat down in his office. Here’s the fun part: before I began my work experience, he asked me to read a book called Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. If you’re younger than forty, you’ve probably never heard of it in your life. I hadn’t. When I first heard the name, I didn’t even know how to spell ‘wuthering’. Anyway, I borrowed it from my school library two weeks before I started my work experience, thinking that would be enough time to get the book finished. It wasn’t. I didn’t even get halfway through it.
This isn’t because of how thick the book is. It’s because of the way it’s written. It was published in 1847, literally 171 years ago, so it would make sense that the English is slightly different to what I’m used to. Words like ‘impertinent’ and ‘infernal’ are used, and whatever you think they mean is not what they actually define to.
So, when I sat down in the advisor’s office, he told me that my task for the week was going to be this: I was to write a collection of letters putting myself in the shoes of the main female character, Catherine, and addressing them to her one true love, Heathcliff. Yes, Heathcliff sounds like the name of a pet bulldog, but no. He is very much a human. At first, I wanted to scream. I barely understood the book, and now I was supposed to write letters in the same confusing tongue that it’s written in and put myself in the shoes of the most important character in the novel! It honestly seemed impossible.
It wasn’t, of course. I got handed the Chronology of Wuthering Heights, and although it was extremely painful and seemed to be never-ending, I read through about thirty pages written by some poor guy who spent a lot more than an hour deconstructing the novel and every single event that occurred in it. I made constant notes about important things that happened and who was related to who and who married who, and by the time three o’clock came around, I understood the novel better than ever.
I now know that Catherine Earnshaw is the sister of Hindley, and she falls in love with Heathcliff. Edgar Linton is the brother of Isabella, and he marries Catherine. Catherine and Edgar have a daughter called Cathy, but she dies during childbirth. Heathcliff marries Isabella and they have a son called Linton. Isabella dies during childbirth, and Hindley marries Frances. They have a child called Hareton, and Frances dies too. By the end of the book, Catherine, Hindley, Isabella, Edgar, Frances, Linton and Heathcliff are all dead, and Cathy marries Hareton.
If you don’t understand that, don’t worry. Neither do I really. The only vital thing I needed to know for my upcoming letter-writing task was that, although she married Edgar and then died, Catherine always loved Heathcliff, and he always loved her.
I went home feeling tired. If this was what being an adult was like, I had my work cut out for me. I honestly wasn’t looking forward to coming back today. I didn’t feel like hearing the name Catherine or Heathcliff ever again, but I didn’t have a choice.
Mum dropped me at USC at eight-thirty, and I met a lovely old lady in the library who I was meant to be spending the day with. I had been told that I would be completing my work in the library today, and I was extremely happy about that. The library is easily the most beautiful place at the university. Three floors up, big windows overlooking campus, and every book you could imagine. I could honestly spend hours in here. Which is exactly what I would be doing. I found a quiet table on the third floor and got to work. So far, so good. I have absolutely loved today. The writing part is what I’ve been looking forward to, not the planning. I’ve written two letters to Catherine’s dear Heathcliff already, and even though they are confusing characters to understand, I feel like I’m warming up to them and getting to know them better the more I read and write about them.
Wuthering Heights is an extremely intricately detailed book, but if you step back and look at the big picture, it’s quite simply a love story between two people who can never be together. I’ve only had two days experience of what my future might be like, and so far, I love the writing part of it. I can’t wait to graduate high school and come to university as a student. The atmosphere here is so different to what it’s like at school. Everyone who is here has made the choice to be here. They’re all doing what they love, and working hard to get to where they want to be. You’re not frowned upon if you sit by yourself and quietly mind your own business because that’s what everyone does. I love everything about it.
Also, if you’re planning on reading Wuthering Heights, I highly suggest you trash that idea and watch the 1939 movie with Laurence Olivier and Marle Oberon. It’ll take you a lot less than two weeks to understand the relationship between Catherine Earnshaw and her beloved Heathcliff.