Station To Station

Entry by: Alobear

21st July 2015
Station To Station

“What would you identify as your station in life?”

Sophie stared at the words on the page, her mind racing.

Well, demographically speaking, she was an unmarried, female student, in the under 25 age bracket. But this was a philosophy exam, so that kind of information probably wasn’t what they were looking for.

Why did these questions have to be so vague? She supposed that was the whole point of philosophy; it was all about nebulous thought experiments and airy-fairy theories of the nature of existence. She had thought it might be an easy option, but she had been dead wrong about that.

She needed to focus and think about how the different philosophers they had been studying might answer the question.

Heraclitus – a single step on a journey of constant change?
Epicurus – dead or not dead, there is no in-between?
Nietzsche – in need of no higher power?
Protagoras – existing in a state that only I can truly experience?
Kant – something defined by absolutes?
Rousseau – constrained by choice to behave in a civilised manner?
Socrates – in the process of cultivating wisdom?
Descartes – a thinking being, therefore an existing being?

Any of those might make for a decent answer, but Sophie wasn’t sure she remembered enough detail from any of the theories to base an entire assessment on it. Besides, the use of the word ‘you’ made her think the examiners were probably looking for a more personal answer to it. Her philosophy tutor was always banging on about how important it was for his students to formulate their own opinions about everything. Parroting a historical philosopher would be sure to get her marked down.

But what did she consider to be her ‘station in life’? She was the sum of all her experiences, so her exact place in the universe was unique, and only she could attempt to explain it to someone else.

Sophie considered the major formative events in her life. She had fallen off her bike at the age of six and badly scarred her chin, forever changing the way people looked at her and the way she felt about her appearance. Her family had moved around a lot, forcing her into many new situations throughout her childhood. The combination of those two things could have made her retreat into herself and turned her into a painfully shy loner. But she was proud of the fact that she had chosen the other route, confronting each new environment with confidence and energy, comfortable in her own skin and always friendly towards strangers.

Sophie had won art prizes at school, and still enjoyed painting, but had decided it wasn’t something she wanted to pursue as a career. It had been a decision based on the more practical side of her nature, which had pointed out that she probably wasn’t suited to the life of starving and frustrated artist. Why she had thought philosophy would be of any more use to her was less certain.

Her mother had struggled with mental health issues all of her adult life, and had eventually committed suicide when Sophie left home at eighteen. That had not only affected her deeply due to the loss of such an important part of her life, but had increased her apprehension about her own mental stability, and what the future might hold.

Were any of these things she could write an essay about to define her place in the grand scheme of things? Sophie wasn’t sure she was really comfortable turning the deepest aspects of her psyche into an academic paper, or that she could analyse them in the context of any philosophical theory.

She read the question again, then considered the blank paper in front of her. No words sprang to mind to fill the empty space.

At that moment, the voice of the invigilator pierced the heavy silence of the exam hall.

“You have five minutes remaining.”

Five minutes? Sophie felt panic rising in her chest. Where had all the time gone?

The lines on the paper swirled together as she came to the realisation that there was no way she could write a decent answer in only five minutes, even if she had the first clue what to put down. She was determined not to leave a completely blank answer sheet, though.

In a moment of pure madness, she wrote “London King’s Cross” in bold letters across the top of the paper, snatched up her belongings and fled the room.