Graduation

I walked into the impressive auditorium of Cardiff Millennium Centre – on my own, because guests were seated upstairs, which was a little intimidating. It took me a while to work out where I needed to go, not having noticed the seat number on my ticket.

I felt like a wizard in my robes; a dishevelled, dehydrated wizard, in navy blue, with yellow and pale blue on the hood. I’d joked to a few people that there was no way I’d come to my next graduation, because I didn’t like the robes worn by the MA graduates!

I eventually found my seat, BB39, three rows from the front, and immediately got talking to the woman next to me, Rachel. She was bright, lively, and extremely chatty – we bonded instantly. I didn’t even see where Mum and Ruth were sitting, because I was so engrossed in conversation.

‘I’m glad I got Continue reading

Advertisements

The Summer Blues

I could never handle the summer, or the school holidays in general, particularly in my teen years. The alluring break from work is dangled in front of you – six weeks that you look forward to for most of the year, during which there are fewer things that you must do. Mum used to smirk when I said the words, ‘I can’t wait for summer.’ She knew… Continue reading

I Couldn’t Prioritise My Degree

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

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

The Mad Mood Swings of Essay-Writing

There seems to be a pattern to essay-writing. My subconscious predicts the expected time of completion, rather like a computer update. As with computer updates, the prospects sometimes change quickly and can result in weird mood swings.

The essays are about 2000 words, but it is a struggle to even get the main points identified. My fingers can’t seem to work, my brain stops processing properly, and I try to hold back tears. It’s looking bad:

‘Essay: 2% complete – 18hrs 10mins remaining.’ Continue reading