Last week, I returned to college to start a long and potentially life changing journey. Right now, I am just relieved that I’ve started, and I am endeavouring to tackle this challenge one week at a time. I’m still not sure how to juggle the world I already inhabit with a brand new world. I need to learn to switch seamlessly between the two. Thoughts of what the fuck to put in the packed lunches tomorrow popping into my head whilst I’m trying to engage in a seminar, or the sudden realisation that no-one has any clean pants to wear whilst attempting to contribute to a group discussion, do not really help! Right now, I have to try and take each week as it comes and try and avoid any thoughts of the long game.
With this in mind, and in order to try and get a few things out of my head to make some space for some more useful information, I have compiled a list of…
Things to remember on returning to the world of higher education at the age of 44 and a half.
DO buy a new bag, pens, pencils, notebooks (posh from nice shops, no PUKKA pad from Sainsbury’s in my backpack!) even though these items exist in abundance in my home, to the point where I cannot close the drawers in my desk due to the piles of un-used but very cute, pretty, cool pads lying within.
DO NOT pick up your 7 year old’s punching unicorn pen by mistake – this will give the wrong impression entirely when taking notes in a serious seminar about serious things.
DO NOT read the course handbook before you have started the course and then hyperventilate, cry, tell yourself that you have made a hideous mistake and should never have thought in a million years that you could do this.
DO NOT read any course literature whilst a. Sitting in bed or b. Sitting on a comfy chair, as you will definitely fall asleep after reading 3 sentences and wake up 45 minutes later dribbling and panicking.
DO devise a way, whatever you can, to avoid falling asleep on opening any book relating to your course.
DO NOT take a stack of books to the library, sit down, fall asleep and wake up hours later, horrified but not surprised, as this was how I spent 3 years of University and 1 year of Post Graduate study.
MUST STAY AWAKE – I CANNOT RE-ITERATE THIS ENOUGH.
DO remember to listen when your fellow students are telling you their name.
DO NOT introduce yourself and then forget that under no circumstance should you start thinking about whether your children have eaten their dinner, brushed their teeth or done their homework, when you should be fixing someone’s face and name in your addled brain.
DO buy chocolate and other essential ‘snacks’ to get you through the evening and relish the opportunity to eat these in full view of others, instead of secretly stuffing it in your face in the downstairs loo in order to avoid detection by children who are only allowed sweets on a Saturday.
DO access the facilities of your local library.
DO NOT admit to the librarian that the last time you were in the library was approximately 6 years ago and that you never returned the 4 childrens’ books that you borrowed. It is as a result of this heinous behaviour that I have not been back to the library – too embarrassed to look these good people in the eye and too scared about the hefty fine that I might receive. But this is all in the past, and I merely tested the fact that childrens’ books incur no fines for late return. I have, I believe, contributed a great deal of money in the form of council tax and I hope that my sins are now absolved. I am now fully embracing the world of the library and will be a model customer and avid user of said facility.
DO NOT work out that by the time you get to the end of the whole degree (if indeed you make it that far), you will be 50, yes, 50 years old. I mean, for fuck’s sake. That means I have to accept that I am in my mid 40’s now and arguably should not be entering the realm of the student.
DO NOT dwell on the fact that in the eyes of your fellow students you are middle aged, greying, a bit boring, look like shit, remember the 80’s and enjoy an evening of crochet and desert island discs on the radio.
DO ironically observe that when you are finishing, your oldest child will be well on her way to taking her A-levels and your youngest child will be in her first year at secondary school.
DO NOT ironically observe that your children will almost have left home by the time you are qualified. This is quite depressing. Although, perhaps they will be able to give me some good tips on writing essays and revision.
DEFINITELY DO NOT work out that you left university 21 years ago.
DO NOT regale anyone with utterly tedious stories about when you were a student the first time round. It’s not big and it’s not funny and it’s definitely not of interest to anyone else.
DO NOT regale anyone with utterly tedious stories about your children. This is hard because my children are cool and funny and brilliant and I want to tell everyone about them. But on reflection, stories about what they did this morning at breakfast or their many and varied academic/sporting/musical achievements are of no interest to anyone but me.
DO NOT prioritise cleaning the toilet or hoovering the disgusting floor over having a conversation with your child or your partner, or just sitting down to watch the bake off (even though it has moved to channel 4 and I’m still not sure about the new presenters)
DO remind yourself that whilst you feel old and exhausted and pulled in more directions than can be expressed, this is something that can be achieved and that it is worth it.
DO drink wine
DO NOT: PANIC
DO NOT: QUIT
DO NOT: PROCASTINATE
DO Get off your arse and go and do some studying!