Future Study Plans

This is a follow-up to my ‘School Days‘ blog post. In re-reading it in preparation for writing part two, I realised I’d left out bits and pieces. I suppose that’s expected when you’re trying to summarise three decades in a thousand words.

There are short courses I’ve done that I completely forgot to mention, and that’s fine, at this point it doesn’t really matter except to further illustrate in a more general sense how much I’ve been trying to educate myself since I left high school.

I have spent most of my thirty years engaged in some kind of formal or semi-formal education, which I think is a good thing but, at the same time, that only makes me feel worse about the fact that I still feel like an academic screw up.

Part of the problem was, I couldn’t find the right path for myself. I didn’t know what to study, so I tried a little bit of everything: vocational courses, science subjects, the humanities. For a very long time, I had it in my head that true success lay in doing ALL OF THE THINGS(!) and doing them perfectly.

When I discovered Forensic Science & Criminology wasn’t working out for me, I dropped the forensics and tried to do Criminology on its own. When that didn’t work, I tried to switch to English Lit (but couldn’t). I sat for ages debating with myself what was my true passion and thought that maybe I’d like to study Social Work, or Youth Work, or Counselling. I had interest in these subjects and still do, but going back a step to pursue them was a path that was blocked to me due to already having used my funding for the failed Forensics course.

I briefly did study Youth Ministry through my church job in Oxford, and for a while I wondered if studying through the church here in Northern Ireland was perhaps a way forward. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.

Having written all that, maybe what I should be taking away from all this isn’t that I’ve repeatedly failed but that I’ve tried again and again and haven’t given up. As I said in part one, I don’t think I’ll be happy until I finally finish my formal education. (Side note, but I’m a big believer in life-long learning, even once formal education is done – at whatever age that is.) Continue reading

School Days

During the intro session to my most recent round of counselling, I was asked (amongst other things) what my experience at school had been like. Terrible, I said.

In a previous blog post, I described a little of what happened around the implosion of my time at university. Elsewhere, I made reference to not being diagnosed with things (mainly, dyslexia and a sleep disorder) until much later that also definitely had a part to play in the terribleness of way back when.

Then, most recently, I listed ‘studying’ as something I wanted to in my autumn goals.

I have not, thus far, went into any of that in any great detail or brought all of those threads together to tell the full story of my failed studies and my plan for (hopefully) successful studies going forward. Today, that’s what I want to blog about. Or definitely that first part, because I don’t want this thing to be a million words long. I’ll tell you about my academic history here, and then I’ll come back and detail my future study plan in a separate post. Sound good? Good.

Okay, so… *takes deep breath* where to begin? Being a March baby, I was always one of the younger ones in my classes, starting school at age four. As far as I can remember (which isn’t very far at all), I had one year of playschool before Primary One.

In Northern Ireland, primary school is seven years (P1-7), high/secondary school is five years (1st to 5th form), and then sixth-form (two years: lower sixth and upper sixth) can optionally be studied at that same high school or at a college or “tech.”

I did three years at one primary school before my parents decided to move me to a different one for P4-7. This was a really great move and one I’m very thankful for. As I’ve said already, I don’t remember a lot of my early childhood, but I do know that I hated that first primary school. I vaguely recall getting in trouble a few times and struggling a lot with my reading and writing. In hindsight, struggling with reading and writing was probably a big reason why I got into trouble.

I still had my issues with reading and writing in my second primary school (I had them all the way up until university, in fact), but the environment of that second school was entirely different. I stopped being yelled at by teachers for being a kid and I started to thrive. I wasn’t very well-liked by the other school kids, but I was too oblivious to actually realise it at the time.

I was ignorant. It was blissful. I look back on those four years with affection.

Then high school happened. Continue reading

Writer Confessions

I never read much as a child. In fact, as a very young kid, I remember having problems physically reading out loud – trying it would make my breathing go all weird. Maybe it was an anxiety thing, similar to a stammer, I don’t know, but I’d have to stop after each word – each and every single word – and gulp down a breath before I could try the next. That was when I was first learning to read and, as you can probably guess, wasn’t a positive experience.

Around that time, I remember being at a meeting between my teacher and my mother. They were discussing problems I was having with learning to write – my handwriting being unreadable, spelling being way off, and a bunch of my letters muddled, backwards, or in the wrong order.

As an adult looking back at that memory, I shake my head and wonder how on earth it didn’t ring alarm bells signalling something was wrong. But, well, either the alarms didn’t go off or no one was listening.

I was almost twenty when I was diagnosed with dyslexia. Huzzah! Suddenly, everything made sense, even if it was a bit late to save my university career.

In the intervening years between my early school experiences and my later ones, I fell in love with books. Or, at least, the idea of books.

I had started collecting books that seemed really interesting and made a list of books I wanted to write but, while I was writing a little (mostly emo poetry and short stuff that should never and will never see the light of day), I was intimidated by anything over three pages and didn’t actually try and read any of the books I acquired.

Actually, I was so clueless about which books were age appropriate and what might suit me that the ones I did have – picked out of a box at a jumble sale based completely on the covers and how cheap they were – really only worked as pretty things to look at and collect. I’d bought huge, dense tomes that most adults would struggle with and had no idea what genres I liked or even what a genre really was.

It’s not the beginning you would expect from someone who now writes professionally and reads roughly fifty books a year, right?  Continue reading