I still remember stepping over the threshold for the first time. My trombone-carrying arm shook a little as I took in the brassy smell that is typical of any band room. I’d been asked to help them out for a competition – that was a nice feeling, especially because it’s my home town.
I held my breath as I walked through the small hallway and turned into the main room, eyes searching around for somebody to put me at ease. I instantly relaxed, as there were a few people I knew. But it was more than that: open, warm smiles from complete strangers. Continue reading
Priorities are complicated. I promised myself that I would work as hard as I could in the final year of my degree, because I wanted to know that I had done my best to get the desired result. As so often happens in life, it wasn’t that simple.
It’s not about what you’re prepared to do; it’s about what you’re prepared to give up and what you’re prepared to become. I was prepared to work hard when I was tired, to spend Saturdays chained to my desk, and certainly to bury myself in revision at the end. But that’s all.
There were things I was not prepared to do for the sake of educational status: Continue reading
I’m not bad at exams. I’m good at answering questions in a relevant way and at creating arguments. I don’t usually get overwhelmed when I walk into that room, although I do get a little distracted by other people’s reactions to the environment – it’s fascinating. But my GCSEs went smoothly enough and I did well at AS Level.
It was my second A Level year that threw me off course. I initially decided to take a year out of ‘education’ to follow my interests in an unpressured way, but that idea didn’t last for long. I was attracted to structure and to the ‘fun’ of choosing subjects. I decided to take three A Levels and to learn them at home – Geography, English Literature, and Thinking Skills. Mum dug out the syllabuses and past papers, and bought numerous recommended textbooks.
It turned out to be far more difficult than I imagined, working out what I needed to know – in Geography there was quite a bit of conflicting information. I make it sound like it wasn’t my fault and, in some ways, it wasn’t. The difficulty of the task, my struggle to think and write quickly, my often-bad health, and my low stamina (which is still often a problem), all contributed to the lack of motivation. However, I can’t blame it all on that. Continue reading
I recently talked to somebody about my musical experiences and then, presented as a completely different aspect of my life, discussed my relationship with Creative Writing. I realised something: I rarely write about music.
I am near the end of an Open University degree: ‘Humanities with Music and Creative Writing’. My two favourite subjects are sitting side by side, and yet even there they are separate.
It seems strange that music, which is a huge part of my life, should rarely make it into my writing. I love conducting, teaching music, playing trombone, music theory, singing, playing in band… I hear so many stories, witness so many hilarious events, and know that many of them would make a thrilling read! I just don’t often write them down, apart from in my journal, and occasionally in a Facebook status. Continue reading
‘Never mind, you can only do your best,’ a person might sympathise, after someone finished ahead of you.
They get it: It’s cruel to compare yourself unfairly to someone else. And not only cruel, but futile – you did everything you could. But comparison with other people is only one of the issues… Continue reading
I’m drinking a latte in a café at the Hidden Gardens. I am not doing any Open University work today, despite a looming assignment deadline and the final exam in a few weeks. I was at Crossfit this morning, I’m here this afternoon, and I’m going to a Passover demonstration tonight. This might seem like a strange approach for someone who is determined to succeed in their degree…
I can achieve a surprising amount in a short space of time, if it has my full attention – far more so than in a full day of distracted effort. I can do two or three hours of academic work (of the focused kind) before my concentration and productivity sharply decline. Sometimes I will push on for longer, filling the later hours with less strenuous tasks. And then I’m done.
I have heard people say, ‘Don’t manage your time; manage your energy.’ This advice has been incredibly helpful to me. I’ve stopped beating myself up when I can’t Continue reading