I am really REALLY pleased to be able to share with you some good news, and that is that I have got confirmation that I have been awarded my degree today. I want to say I’m proud but to be honest I am more relieved than proud at the moment!
I am now permitted to use the title ‘Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Humanities with Creative Writing, classification 2.1’ – or BA (Hons) Hums (Open) for short.
So how about that then?! Yes, me. With a degree!
When I began this whole shebang I never thought I would see the end of it, and it was a bit of a walk of faith really when I began it. Let me tell you a bit of my story.
When I went to sixth form at the age of 16, for some reason, I didn’t go to the same one that my friends chose, and it didn’t do me any favours at all. I failed my exams at the end of the first year and instead of growing up and knuckling down to study, I opted to leave college and went to work instead. I was seeing Kevin (who is now my husband) and there were a couple of other reasons that made it just not worth the effort of going to college, and a training course at the ICI seemed a better option. Well it would to a clueless 17 year old with her head in the clouds, wouldn’t it?!
At the time, I thought I was doing the right thing but over the next few years I felt I was missing out on something. My friends had finished college and were on their way through university but I was married and had a toddler to care for. It took a few years but I got round to thinking that maybe I’d made a mistake in leaving college at the age of 17.
I came across an advert for the Open University and I thought it offered a chance for me to do something about my lack of education. I had done a BTEC in Business and Finance at day release with the ICI but that was work, not education. I toyed with the idea of doing an English A Level or something, but when the advert for the OU kept cropping up I thought – why not? It offered distance learning which could be done in my spare time whilst still working full time, being a mother and a bandsman and all the stuff I was doing with the Brigade and church. Easy. (Ha!).
At the time, the modules were about £1500 each and so it was with MUCH trepidation that I stepped out. I was paying for it on finance terms and I threw myself in to it. To be honest, I thought at the time that I would do the first one and see how that was before making a decision. I did a foundation course (level 1) in Arts and Humanities which covered the basics of history etc as well as teaching me the basics of how to do studying with a distance learning course. I really enjoyed it and was thrilled to sit an exam in a REAL university building at the end of it. It opened my eyes to a whole new world of learning and I thoroughly enjoyed the art history part and learned that there is so much more to learn than I ever thought was possible.
I then opted to do a literature module, but about half way in I got into difficulty (too much else going on) and I dropped out. I tried it again the next year and successfully completed it. I fell in love with Pride and Prejudice and Great Expectations on that course, and I promised myself I would work my way through the Dickens canon after it. (Note to self: you can do that now!)
I tried a Philosophy module next but got into difficulties again about half way through. The subject matter was thoroughly absorbing and I was really enjoying it, but as before, life got in the way and I had to drop out. To be honest, life got in the way for the next 15 years or so during which time the module fees crept up and up and my time got squeezed more and more.
Until about 2010 when my life suddenly stopped in its tracks. I found myself out of work, ill, and with lots of time on my hands. I had always imagined going back to the Open University but it was one of those “yeah, one day” fantasies like the ones I have about visiting Iceland or Canada. In other words, not in my lifetime.
But then I did a bit of digging around and I realised that Student Finance England were now offering student loans to cover the costs of studying with the Open University. Ooooh. Possibilities opened up! I spoke to the very nice people at the student helpdesk with the OU and I realised that I just about had enough time to complete my degree if I doubled up on a couple of modules and did 5 modules in 4 years. (There are rules about time limits on starting modules for your OU degree and finishing them) I thought it sounded do-able, but I didn’t want to throw myself straight in to studying two level 2 modules after a break of so long. Plus, my health was not good and I was on big doses of painkillers and other drugs to try and keep me functioning. So I opted to do a “gentle” module and chose to study the history of medicine from the middle ages to the turn of the 20th century.
Only, it wasn’t gentle and it had an exam at the end of it. Eek! I was thoroughly prepared to do it (having done weeks and weeks worth of revision beforehand) but I was so nervous on the day that I could barely hold my pen to begin with. In fact, my nerves were so bad I couldn’t even work out where to write my name on the front of the answer booklet.
I passed it though, and my marks were higher than the literature course I’d done earlier. So, heartened slightly by that, I decided to double up the next year.
I studied creative writing and a music module at level 2 the year after the history of medicine one, and very nearly threw in the towel so many times doing two modules at the same time. I wasn’t working as such, but let me tell you, being dependent on codeine and tramadol and a whole host of other drugs to keep my pain at manageable levels meant that it was tough going. Really tough!
So, I was nearly there. After all this time and looking at the end of my degree 18 years ago or so, I was in a position where it was almost touchable. All I had to do was to do two level 3 modules to finish my honours degree. But things were starting to develop at church, and I felt called to serve in a bigger way than I was doing at the time and I was in a dilemma. Do I study a single level 3 module for the next two years and risk delaying my next steps in the church, or do I double up and free myself up the year after to be able to follow my church pathway?
I did the hardest one, and did two level 3 modules at the same time to finish my degree on advanced creative writing and a module on children’s literature. And boy was it tough!
Not only the level of study was more intense and difficult, but it was harder for me to keep going. I was so near yet so far and time and time again I felt like jacking it all in and saying forget it. But I have been blessed to have a lot of people on my side cheering me on and keeping me going. If I start to name people then I couldn’t possibly name everyone, but I do have to say a big thank you to Kevin, Emma and Ethan who are the people closest to me and who have suffered every assignment with me.
And so we’re here, nearly 20 years after I started, and I have just clicked the button to accept my degree. I truly never thought this day would come and I feel just a bit emotional.
I’ve learned so much about so much and my mind and my eyes have been opened wide. I have met some lovely people and I have spent some valuable time with people who have shared my journey at various times. I couldn’t have done it without them.
The question now is what next? Well, I don’t know is the honest answer. I have some ideas, but as with anything in life there are no certainties and no doubt my future will unfold one day at a time in its own sweet way. I did so much writing over the last two years that I want to go back and revisit some of those pieces and I have a couple of ideas that I want to turn into writing projects.
Whatever happens, it will be with a buoyant BA after my name. Yay!