Welcome to the first instalment of my journaling journey as I navigate my way as a mature student at Derby University
You are never too old to set a new goal or to dream a new dream.
C. S. Lewis
I decided I would have a go at journaling about my experience of attending University this year as a mature student. Why not follow my journey as I journal about it here, and share with you the trials, tribulations and joys (hopefully) of my adventure into the world of studying and academia as a (very) mature student.
I am attending the University of Derby to study for an MA in Creative Writing. Why ? Well actually mostly for the fun of it. Lets face it, I’m not just starting out on my career path. I’m not looking, or expecting to ‘work’ for an employer. So why would I choose to enter into the world of studying again at my age ?
In part I was inspired to apply for a place here at Derby University in response to a number of things
One of the effects of Covid for me had been a real sense of disconnection with people. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in this.
I was desperately searching for a writing course or workshop I could join which was NOT on-line. I was looking for a connection with real live human beings. I wanted communication, connection and conversations.
I wanted to challenge myself and take a deep dive into the world of writing
I had been working on writing a non-fiction book and, rightly or wrongly, thought that this might help me develop that project further than I might get it on my own.
Full of good intent, my plan was to start to share this journey with you from the very start. However, ‘the very start’, as it turned out, involved me having something of a melt down, generally struggling and verging on throwing in the towel. During the first three weeks I concluded in my own mind that I had clearly bitten off more than I could chew. What had I been thinking !! This was definitely not fun.
During these first three weeks of my time at university, I’ve had zero time and zero energy for anything other than what it was taking for me to keep going. And lets face it, sometimes that’s exactly what life is like ! And what was I going to share with you here anyway ? My failure ? Before we start something new, we are full of good intent, which of course is great, we can imagine and picture exactly how it’s all going to go, we have a plan, a vision of how life is going to be. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out the way we plan it and this was one of those times.
The first major hurdle I have faced has actually been physically getting into the building. At 63, I’m not as fit as I could be (shame on me, right), but we are where we are and if we wait for life and ourselves to be perfect before we do anything, maybe we’ll end up doing nothing.
I have a dodgy knee, sciatica and my stamina is not great. As I didn’t meet any of the very strict criteria for being allocated a car parking permit, I couldn’t park on site. A very kind friend had offered me parking space at her home but this proved to be a 30 minute walk from the campus. Add that time on to the 45 minute drive and it was resulting into some early morning starts, and long walks. Lets just be clear, me, not so much of a morning person really! My whole body clock need a period of time to readjust.
The second big hurdle has been all the technological know-how that’s required simply in order to access the course. Its been a major learning curve which has taken a lot of time and energy that I should have been using to actually, do the work. Consequently I’ve permanently felt like I was playing catch up while running on empty.
Finally, in the third week, I decided I need to do something to manage my time and energy more efficiently if I wasn’t going to risk bailing at a very early stage. And I really didn’t want to do that, lets be clear, I was really enjoying the course content, I wanted to be here and I wanted to do the work.
Note to self; during the whole application process I was very clear with myself, and the tutors about my motivations for applying to do the course. I wasn’t particularly concerned with ‘passing’ , I was doing this for the experience…right ! First week in, I noticed such an immediate and massive shift and just how much pressure I was putting on myself. Not only was I totally bothered about passing but I also wanted to ‘pass’ well. So funny, to notice this in myself. Turns out I do care, I care a lot !!
During conversations with a tutor about my need to manage my time & energy, it was suggested that I change from full time to part time. This did little else except affirm the story I was telling myself, that I was in some way, falling short, inadequate, not good enough. I felt crushed. However, it then became clear, that I was in fact signed up to more modules than I should be doing ! The story started to have room to shift. Maybe it wasn’t all about me and my inadequacy. Maybe there was some light at the end of the tunnel.
The necessary change was made to my module schedule and I immediately felt a sense of relief. Ok, now things felt more possible, maybe now I stood a chance. I couldn’t help feeling a bit of resentment for all the stress I had felt during those first three weeks when I was tiring to keep up with an unrealistic schedule. But I needed to ‘move on’ and focus of the work now.
Note to self; If something doesn’t feel right, trust yourself, you’re probably right. It’s OK to ask for help, be persistent, stand up for yourself.
Where I am now…
So here I am in week four. Still standing and feeling like I’m beginning to settle in to a rhythm. Its not been a smooth start and my perspective on my motives took a huge and immediate shift. I’m finding I have to work really hard and long hours. I have very little time, energy or bandwidth for anything else right now, even dancing, and that’s saying something! But pass or fail, I’m ‘all in’, I’m committed and I’m going to make the most of this amazing privilege and opportunity. Because that’s what it is, right ? Not everyone gets do do this stuff, not everyone gets to follow their heart and their dreams, to see what might come out it, to see where it will lead.
It’s been a bumpy start. My first assignment is in and there are several more assignments with deadlines looming before Christmas. Leisurely morning lie-ins with a civilised cup of teas are a thing of the past. The reading and the writing is relentless. The learning curve is steep. I’ve stepped completely outside of my comfort zone. But right now, I’m relishing every minute.
I’ll update you in a few days, when, if nothing else, I should have found out if I’ve passed or failed my first assignment !!
Credit: Original Artwork by Charlie Mackesy