I had an unremarkable childhood – it was normal, I went to primary school and I enjoyed it, I went to high school and I hated it. I assumed university was the next choice, as that’s just what’s done. You do the whole education thing and then, when you’re in your mid twenties after leaving university, that’s when you decide what to really do with your life. I did not expect for me to stray from the beaten path and create a whole new one for myself, but I’ve now come to realise, so what?!
University is heavily pushed on all of us growing up. Most of us plan for it, some of us will go, and some of us will finish our courses. I didn’t know other options existed outside of working in a moderately unskilled job that would make me very unhappy for my whole life. It feels really silly of me now to think I had no other options – it was 2016 at the time and I was still convincing myself that university was what I wanted, even after well over a year of being out of education.
I was reluctant to admit to myself or anyone else that maybe I didn’t want this – I was just going to grin and bear it for the whole 4 years.
The first warning bells for me were not actually knowing what I wanted to go and study. My mum used to say to me – “if you could picture yourself in any job in the world, even if it’s not a ‘real’ job, what would it be?” I couldn’t answer her. Without a final destination, creating your path is substantially trickier. I started off at psychology, peaked with journalism, and ended on primary teaching. 3 almost completely unrelated courses that I was plucking from thin air to try and convince myself and everyone else that I knew where I wanted to go. This spanned across 2 years and 2 separate UCAS applications, plus an unsuccessful attempt at Clearing. I think I was more upset at the thought of staying in my demeaning job than not getting to to university that year.
It wasn’t until the whole situation started to take a toll on my mental and physical health that I decided to admit to myself that I wasn’t okay with this. I had accepted a place at the University of Edinburgh to study primary teaching, swapped it to Strathclyde University in Glasgow, and had applied for accommodation. I was accepted into my first choice halls and went up to visit the campus with my mum one month – I genuinely thought I was excited. Of course I was scared, I think most people are, but I finally had a somewhat clear future plan in mind and it was all happening.
After visiting the university, I started to get ill. I was sent home from work a lot and stayed home a lot because of nausea, which my mum and I mistakenly blamed on the antibiotics I was on for my acne. This was my first experience with my anxiety as I know it now – the debilitating nausea and fever monster that leaves me bedridden. We made a doctors appointment ASAP, and although I’ve not had a good experience with doctors in the past, this guy was incredible and didn’t make me feel like I was wasting his time. He informed me that it couldn’t be the antibiotics, I’d been on them too long for the nausea to be a side-effect. I took a pregnancy test and everything came back clear – which was when he mentioned anxiety.
It was like this curtain had been lifted from my brain and everything made sense. It happened after the uni visit, which must have made my brain aware that this was really happening, but I was none the wiser to these feelings of dread and intense anxiety. I did a lot of thinking after that, I could suck it up and go because everyone gets anxious before uni, right? I didn’t even know what I would do if I didn’t go, so really I should go. But the more I thought about the process of actually going and sitting and being taught things, the stronger the nausea got. I’m eternally thankful for my parents being so supportive of this decision, because I know some people wouldn’t be so lucky. They supported me no matter what and after seeing how ill I was making myself, we all knew withdrawing from Strathclyde was my best course of action.
It was one of the only big life decisions I’ve ever had to make for myself, but now I absolutely know it was the right one. I did have FOMO for a while, as I saw my friends and boyfriend go off to university and make loads of new friends and progress their careers, I was jealous and upset that I couldn’t do that. It took me until going to do a college course with my Apprenticeship (more on that later) that I knew I had made the right decision.
Long story short: I bloody hate being in education.
Don’t get me wrong, I love learning and I thrive off gaining new skills, I just hate being in a classroom. I hate being taught, I hate sitting and having to listen and wait for the whole group to catch up before we can move on. I’ve always been a quick learner and it doesn’t take me long at all to pick it up; I also have a habit of accidentally self teaching a lot of things, so most of the time I go faster than the tutor. I just don’t thrive in a classroom setting, I hate being told what to do and I do believe that if I had gone to university, I would’ve dropped out not long after.
Self-trust is important, no-one knows you better than yourself so trusting the decisions you make is essential.
What’s the biggest decision you’ve ever had to make for yourself?