(Posted by Pam Br)
For the first time, the system had let me down. I’d like to say that, but if I’m completely honest, I let myself down.
I’d had my life planned out since the age of 12. There was never any question – I was going to university and I was getting a degree and I was going to have a career. I though it would all just happen naturally, without any effort from me. First mistake.
I did alright in high school. I should have done much better, but I was lazy and didn’t study. I left with 6 qualifications, 2 A’s and 4 B’s. Enough to get into my chosen degree course anyway.
Second mistake was not getting a summer job. I was so sheltered from the big, bad world. Living in the suburbs and having reasonably affluent parents, I didn’t have a clue about the value of money or having to budget.
I’d chosen a joint degree course in geology and archaeology (well, you can’t say I wasn’t ambitious !). I don’t remember ever getting to grips with either subject. I wasn’t prepared for the transfer from teaching to lecturing. I was used to getting attention and help whenever I needed it and you just couldn’t do that. I stopped attending lectures and spent all my time in the student union or in gay bars with poorly chosen “friends”. My parents were in the process of separating, so they never asked me how I was getting on. It was too easy to have a good time. I hadn’t had many friends in school and I had been bullied, so I latched onto the first people who were nice to me. Third mistake. The fourth mistake came as a result of the third – getting a student loan. If you had friends you had a social life and that costs money. I spent maybe £100 on books for the first term and the other £3200 was blown. I was out every single night, burying my head in the sand and convincing myself that if I could just keep laughing nothing else mattered.
Halfway through the last term I realised that there was no way on this green earth (or any other earth for that matter) I was going to pass the exams. I didn’t fancy repeating the year and I knew there wasn’t much chance of me getting a job in that field anyway. Excuses, excuses. I spoke to my advisor and switched to accountancy for the next year. A new start. Didn’t bother with a summer job again. What’s the point when they’re throwing money at you ?
I started the next year with all good intentions. I bought my books and attended lectures religiously for 3 whole months. Then we got our first essay assignment (duh duh duh thud). I didn’t understand it at all. It might as well have been for anthropology and in Polish. I don’t know why I didn’t just ask for help. I guess I just found the whole lecturing system a bit too impersonal. Another excuse. I knew I couldn’t repeat another year so I threw in the towel and dropped out. I’ll never forget, or forgive myself for, the disappointment on my mother’s face when I told her. It would be so easy to blame it on the university system or the bad influences but I have to take responsibility. It was all because I didn’t want to ask for help.
There is a silver lining to this cautionary tale. It was around this time that I met my wonderful girlfriend. She gave me the boot up the arse I needed to get a job and, 5 years later, life’s getting back on track. There’s no motivation as strong as love.