Disclaimer: I’m not normally an Eminem fan. He has inflicted some awful shite of the world of music. But ‘Lose Yourself’ is a decent tune and that line is jumping out at me recently in relationship to my life. Realistically I had one shot at a university degree. And I blew it.
Your always hear about “it’s never too late to study” and you hear about people going back and doing second degrees, and we all sit back and admire these people because they have dedication and commitment. Undoubtedly they do. But do you know what else they have? Money. All this business about it never being too late only applies if you can afford the enormous costs of going back to doing a second degree. To get this money you need either a rich family/spouse, a lottery win or your own savings. To have savings you need a job. To get a job that pays enough for you to save up and be able to do a second degree before your 100th birthday you need….a good first college degree. And good = 2.1. Sometimes good even means 1st. But good certainly isn’t 2.2 or lower, at least not according to the academic snobs and HR folk out there. It doesn’t matter under what circumstances you received it, a 2.2 degree just isn’t good enough. And guess what I ended up with?
It doesn’t matter that I was in the top few percent of my peers in terms of second level exam results. It doesn’t matter that I was awarded a scholarship. It doesn’t matter that I chose an extremely difficult course where after just one year our group had almost halved due to people either failing the year or dropping out. It doesn’t matter that I suffered the onset of depression during my undergrad years, to the extent where getting out of bed in the morning became a personal achievement. It doesn’t matter how many other aspects of myself might make me ideal for a particular job. Nope. All completely irrelevant – after all, I’m just a 2.2 holder and therefore not good enough. And even if extenuating circumstances were to be taken into account, what employer out there wants to hire a depressed person? It wouldn’t matter how able to cope I was; hell, the sheer relief of even having a job would be a massive weight off my shoulders and go a long way towards helping things. But they’d just see me as too risky; depressed person with a 1st, fair enough, but with only a 2.2? Pfft, why should our organisation even let him inside of our door?
They say university years are the best of your life. Sadly, mine didn’t so much turn out that way. Sure I made some friends and had some good nights out but the effect of good memories is severely dampened by the subsequent hole I’ve found myself in. So why exactly did I do badly* at university? (*badly by my standards, I mean; a 2.2 degree may be a huge achievement for some but I had always been praised for my academic ability in first and second level, and so falling into average territory at third level was just a massive kick in the teeth and the equivalent of failure for me)
Simple – I didn’t enjoy my course and did not enjoy studying it. I only persevered with it because I thought I’d be seen as a failure if I dropped out, and other peoples’ perception of me has always been something that matters much much more to me than it should. Also I had the aforementioned scholarship to think of; my parents aren’t poor but they’re not exactly loaded either, and the financial burden of me dropping out plus the loss of the scholarship really didn’t make any financial sense. So I felt like I was pretty much stuck where I was. If I could go back in time, I certainly would have dropped out or, better still, gone back a bit further and not picked that course in the first place!)
I have a few ideas of career paths I might like to go down some day but it hurts to think about stuff like that, because with my oh-so-average BSc I’m not gonna find a well paying job where I can save up enough to do a second degree in something I care about much more. I’m doing an MSc at the moment, which I hate less than my BSc but still wouldn’t say I love, just for the sake of having something to do and to make my CV look less “average”. It was going ok until one single disastrous exam took the distinction I had been averaging away from me. I don’t have my results for that exam yet but I’m certain I’ve failed it, and ever since that day I’ve been so much more depressed than I usually am. I’m supposed to have been doing a lot of reading material for my MSc project over the past few weeks and have got nothing done because I’ve mostly been lying in bed all day, not sad or angry, just……nothing. Feeling absolutely nothing. And of course I have plenty of time to sit in front of a laptop and write this self-indulgent waffle; could I have used that time to read stuff I’m actually supposed to be reading? Yes, if my brain worked properly. If I worked properly. But clearly it doesn’t and I don’t.
Being an undergraduate gave me a fantastic chance to set up a good future for myself. In equal measures, I blew it and it blew me (and not in the good way). Other peoples’ success makes me resentful now; every time I hear of someone getting a 1st or 2.1 in their degree I feign congratulations and try to be happy for them. But deep down all I can think of is “oh great, someone else who’s better than me. I should be on your level, not below you.”
Right now I’ve definitely lost myself but not in the moment like I should have. Instead, to paraphrase another song, “I’m stuck in a moment and I can’t get out of it.” Fuck you depression. Fuck you.