I usually write about pretty lighthearted topics (apart from when I get on my soapbox and rant about Brexit or the Tories). I have written a couple of more, what you might call substantial, pieces that directly drew from my own experience and opinions. I’ve written about being an athiest, about what I want to do to better myself as a person, about why I write and post on this blog. But in this week’s piece I wanted to write about something pretty intrisic to me and who I am as a person.
I have never, ever liked failing at something, anything. And an unfortunate consequence of that is that I will do something once, not quite achieve what I was hoping for and NEVER do it again. And that is no more the case than my experience at University. Althrough my school career I was a pretty good student. I was in the top classes for most subjects, I did my homework on time and to a good standard and I wasn’t a humungous arsehole to people. I like to think I was a good kid. A-levels were a little tougher for me. There wasn’t nearly as much easy memorization, and quite frankly I kicked against the system. That’s something else about me. I’m extremely stubborn about things I don’t want to do. Even if doing that thing will help me tremendously in the long run.
Anyway, I still ended up with three Cs at A-level which is nothing to sniff, some people don’t have any A-levels. But when it came time to make my voice heard about where I wanted to go next, I didn’t see any other way than the path that had been lit for me. Part of it was laziness on my part. I just didn’t think about whether that would geniunely be the best choice for me. About whether it was truly the only route I could take to get to where I wanted to be. Whether I was mature enough to survive on my own away from home for the first time. Could I budget money properly? Would I remember to wash my clothes by myself, eat regularly? It didn’t help that I chose to go to the University in Dundee, over 500 miles from my home on the south east coast of England. So it wasn’t like I could easily call for help. That’s nothing against Dundee as a city, it’s really lovely, or Dundee University as a place to study. I wasn’t really shown any other paths to go though. Nothing was said of possible journalistic apprenticeships or internships I could have taken instead of going for a degree. I didn’t look very hard either. I just went along with what I was being directed towards. That’s not a criticism of anyone, not even 17-year-old me. Getting as many students into further education, be it apprenticeships or Uni, looks great for schools. It’s a statistic they can show in their prospectuses. It’s ultimately what they are there to do. And with the subjects I was doing and wanted to do at Uni (a joint MA in History and Politics if you’re at all interested), it was seemingly obvious where my path ahead lay.
Ultimately I failed at University. I failed to motivate myself to do the work needed. And it spiralled from there. For the first semester I rarely left my room, even to eat. I soon lost quite a lot of weight very quickly and this only kept me in my room. My sleeping pattern went entirely into reverse. I’d wake up at about half past five and not go to sleep until about seven or eight in the morning. It got to the point that I was physically sick from a combination of not eating properly and then eating some slightly out of date eggs. We were celebrating my sister’s birthday and my parents had come up to Edinburgh where my sister was studying. I got the train across and was already feeling bad. Eventually I couldn’t hide it. Unusual for a student to vomit having not consumed any alcohol, isn’t it?And that continued for the rest of what would turn out to be my only year at University. I ate much more regularly and I washed my body and my clothes regularly, but I still hid in my room. Eventually the truth was revealed and I came home. And I felt ashamed.
Now this isn’t meant to be a pity piece. I’m not trying to get sympathy. This is meant to show how a failure can damage you, if you don’t react in the right way. Because I didn’t. My own habits turned against me and I shut down for a good few years. My fear of failing like I had at Uni meant I never really reached for something, anything for the next few years. I distracted myself with all kinds of external fluff. I was 18 when I came out of Univeristy. I’m now nearly 24 and I’m only just getting over my failure. I’m looking at all the avenues possible to me in my goal to become a journalist. That includes writing this very blog where there are now something like 65 posts for you to peruse if you’ve run out of useful things to be doing. I won’t let my previous failures stop me anymore. In the enternal words of Thomas Wayne,’Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up?’ That’s what I’ve started to do, I’m not all the way there yet. And that’s what you should do if you fail. Don’t retreat. Pick yourself up and try, try, and try again.