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

Being a Tourist in My Town

I am sitting outside, eating egg sandwiches, at eleven in the morning.

The season has changed since I last went for a walk. Daffodils are appearing in the churchyard behind me – slightly timidly, because there’s still a cool breeze. The gulls try to compete with the sound of traffic from across the strait and the occasional passing motorboat. The sea in front is calm, with waves lapping the beach, and the sky is perfectly blue.

There is work to be done at home, but I can’t waste this weather, and today I needed to get out of the house. The fresh air and sunshine is wonderful after my horrible cold – I feel as if I’ve been trapped inside forever. Continue reading

I’m Not Good at Being Ill

I have a nasty cold – sore throat (hard to talk), blocked nose, slight temperature, get tired quickly… The fact that I’m writing this blog post suggests that I’m not quite at death’s door. I’m in that frustrating situation where if I was slightly better I could keep to my normal routine, and if I was slightly worse then I wouldn’t have the energy to be annoyed!

I hate having to cancel lessons. Each text I send brings a fresh sensation of ‘letting people down’. The fact that my pupils and their parents are the sweetest, most understanding people, doesn’t completely take that away. I still feel it. I hate not being able to work. I hate it that I can’t hold a book up for long. I hate it that honey and lemon is so soothing, when I don’t like the taste. I hate it that writing this will tire me out, even if it’s soothing for my mind. Continue reading

Embrace your Creative Name

What people call you makes a huge difference. And what you call yourself is just as significant, if not more so. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard the phrase ‘aspiring writer’ – people use the phrase about other people and about themselves, and the more I think about it, the more I’m confused about why we say it, and what it means. Surely you can only be an ‘aspiring writer’ if you would like to write, but haven’t begun to do so. I would argue that someone who loves writing and gravitates towards it should stop putting themselves down with the phrase.

You can aspire to be a better writer, a published writer, a popular writer, a critically-acclaimed writer, or a bestselling writer. But that is not the first step. Surely being a writer is fundamentally ‘someone who writes’ and ideally does it on a regular basis, let’s say, slightly more than is strictly necessary, and because they enjoy it. Continue reading