"Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire." ~William Yeats
I left school at 16 without a full bucket or even a fire lit. And yet. And yet. There simply must have been a spark there somewhere. I had intentions of university but I left college only 3 weeks into my A levels. Boy trouble. I come from a very working class family so any qualifications were not really expected of me anyway.
Several years later, a chance comment by a fellow chalet-mate on a ski-ing trip, turned my life around entirely. I don't know how it came up but we got chatting about dropping oranges on Brighton sea front and researching who would help her to pick them up. I remembered her fondly when I found myself doing similar research on Brighton sea front a couple of years later. She'd been at a summer school as part of her psychology degree with the Open University and I was eager to know more about it. Within hours of arriving home from the holiday, I was signed up for my first course. Over the next 8 years, Management and I got married, moved house, we took a year out to go backpacking and then both changed jobs when we returned. During that time I studied for approximately 14 hours a week, in my lounge, on the beach, in our spare room, in Wales, in Northamptonshire, in Hampshire and in France, on trains, on planes, on buses, in the garden, even in the loo. At times it made me tear my hair out. At times I was bored beyond belief. Sometimes I was inspired and excited. I lost sleep through stress and I lost sleep through thinking about things I had learned. At the end of every module I felt relief. Within a week I was itching to get a new set of course materials through the post. I discovered a thirst for knowledge and a desire to write again that looks like it's never going to go away. I met so many inspirational people and I am lucky enough to have found some great friends through my studies too. Without meeting the people I did, I would never have made it past 24 hours of breastfeeding, let alone over 5 years in total. I would never have had a home birth. I wouldn't have had the support through my first miscarriage and the many years of depression. Of course I met some very unpleasant people too or just plain weird but mostly they are my kind of weird.
Getting the books out and setting myself up for an evening of study after a full day at work was mighty hard at times. I hated spending hours at the word processor while other people were sunbathing in the garden or shopping for new shoes. Some people were clubbing all night while I was revising into the early hours. So many times I wanted to give up. But I didn't. After 8 long years, I passed my final module and gained a Bsc Hons in Psychology. At last I was going to wear that gown and actually graduate. But there was still one more hurdle to overcome.
We had decided to really make a celebration of my graduation, no bubbly though, I was 4 months pregnant by then. Unlike with a bricks and mortar uni, you can choose your venue for your ceremony. We chose The Barbican and we were all really looking forward to it - my Mum and Dad, my step-dad and step-mum, my Mother and Father in law. My Father in law being there was important to me, he had never thought me worthy of his son and I had wanted to show him I was. Of course it was nothing to do with my education, or lack of, but it brought us closer together and I have a lot to thank him for.
8 days before the graduation, Management and I went for a routine scan and our whole world collapsed. Our precious baby girl's heart had stopped. I gave "birth", had several operations for retained placenta and I was, of course, a mess. I didn't know if I was physically up to the graduation, let alone mentally. With special dispensation though, I was able to sit near an exit, near the front, so I could escape if I needed to. I managed that walk across the stage, wobbly legged and feeling sick, with my family cheering, my scan pictures tucked up my sleeve, one step at a time. In the whole 8 years, those final few steps were by far the hardest. But I did it. I was a graduate.
Since then, I have continued to study with the OU just for fun. I love to learn new things and get new books through the post. I want to inspire my children to want to learn too. I've taken classes in scrapbooking, writing, photography, nutrition, child care, anything and everything, I want to learn about it all. My next OU course starts this month so expect more creative writing here very soon. I can't wait.
That chance conversation about oranges lit my educational fire. And I'm so glad it did.
This post is brought to you by Sian's Story Telling Sunday over at High In the Sky.
Bye for now