My Exam Demons

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

Relaxing at the End of My Degree

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

Those Scary Little Things

It’s not conducting a concert that worries me, or dealing with the emergency when there’s a blackout half way through, but having to phone to book the hall! It’s not going surfing that scares me, as much as the thought of having to hire a wetsuit.

I’m the same with decision-making. I can make important decisions about my future, but panic when someone asks, ‘Is that enough spaghetti?’ I don’t know what that says about me, or if everyone’s the same, but it did get me thinking: I struggle with the initial step.

My character is complicated. In some instances, I need to be firmly in my comfort zone before I have the confidence to edge slowly out of it (that’s a blog post waiting to happen!). Yet I also struggle with the little things – so occasionally I find it easier to jump in headfirst. Continue reading

Surfing the Nerves: My Day at Surf Snowdonia

You love the idea of this and it’s going to be great, I told myself. You’ve always wanted to give it a go.

Somehow it’s easier to tell yourself that when you’re curled up at home with a cup of tea, dreaming of the waves, than when you’re shivering with a surf board at the start of your first lesson. It didn’t seem the right time to tell the instructor that I can’t skate, or rollerblade, and can barely carry a tray across a room!

I edged into the water, and the other five learners and our instructor were soon on their bellies, paddling their boards towards the starting point. I fell behind. Great, so this is how it’s going to be… I could barely balance lying down and it seemed to require every muscle in my body to keep moving – I fell off, twisting my lower back. What on earth am I doing? I couldn’t even look up to see if I was receiving pitying looks, as I was firmly in survival mode. I caught up, just in time, and was only halfway through a sigh of relief when I fell in again. I surfaced, cleared the water from my nose, and looked behind me. The massive wave was approaching. My heart flipped. Continue reading