What Will I Be At 23?

Mum was going to be 40. Such a big number. It seemed strange to me that she could be that old, because she had been in her 30s for as long as I could remember. It was deeply significant.

I remember clearly one day when I was 13. Mum was parking the car at Morrisons for our weekly shop, and I always went with her – I may have bought a whole can of Pringles to eat in one evening, or a nail varnish, or both. Or perhaps I was in my rice pudding phase!

We were discussing plans for Mum’s special birthday, thinking about what it all meant, Continue reading

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