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

I’ve Failed

A couple of weeks ago I submitted an OU assignment.

After a lot of work, and probably more stressing than normal, I couldn’t bear to look at the essay anymore. I needed to submit it and move on with my life, even though I knew I could have done it better. I had a sinking feeling – sadness and even slight guilt. I suspected there would be a significant drop in marks.

I always want to feel like I’m learning and developing new skills, because the courses would have little satisfaction for me otherwise. This philosophy generally enables me to work hard without fear of failure, or fear of how I compare with other people. Continue reading