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Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Education Station

"In youth we learn; 
in age we understand."
Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

Well I sincerely hope the above quote is true as I made a slightly rash decision to sign up for a part time course this year. I had been toying with the idea of doing something this year for a while, but I was put off by the fact I don't have the best track record when it comes to education. The truth is I pretty much bombed at school and proceeded to drop out of almost every course I started once I'd left. 

Over the years I've made many excuses, but when it comes down to it I think I was just full of laziness and bad habits. My parents were never the type to push us, and I think that kind of rubbed off on me and in turn I've never really pushed myself. Much like they figured I'd always live with them, I always assumed that University and a career just weren't on the cards for me, and I guess that made trying seem pointless. Academics never came naturally to me. I've always been more of a physical or creative person. As a kid I wanted to be a dancer, a vet, in the army, a police woman or a bin man. As you can imagine, being disabled and using a wheelchair doesn't really lend itself to any of those jobs. I mean, I wasn't exactly bottom of the class. When I started secondary school I was in the top classes. The first snag I hit was when my breathing problems started at the beginning of second year and I struggled to stay awake in classes. I was eventually taken into hospital and I missed a bit of school. Everything went down hill after that. I got behind and started to get mini panic attacks when I'd go to class and not have a clue what we were doing. That meant I missed more class and it was kind of a vicious circle. The fact they allowed me to skip class so much didn't really help. You tell a kid she doesn't have to go to maths if she doesn't feel up to it, she's probably not going to maths. 

Looking back, I probably persuaded myself I needed to skip class more than I really needed to. I didn't just decide I didn't want to go. I'd convince myself I had a legit reason to skip, because it wasn't like I didn't care about school at all. I'd always be in two minds. On one had I'd beat myself up for missing class and on the other I would tell myself it was necessary. I would worry about getting behind while I procrastinated, leaving all my work to the last minute.  While doing anything but work, I believed I didn't care about school or my grades and that it all didn't matter. When it came almost time to hand work in, I had major meltdowns. In a weird way I also felt like if I didn't really try, I didn't really fail. Worse to have put all your effort in and fail, than to fail and it wasn't your best anyway. A stupid logic, but a logic and habit I'm still trying overcome today. 

I ended up having to drop three classes. French, Spanish and Science. In first year I had been at the top of my Spanish class and that was why in second year my teacher had pushed me to do French as well. I'd also always been very good at Science, but after missing so much I freaked out every time I went to class. In the end they decided it was best I concentrate on the subjects I was passing. I ended up only going to school 4 days a week at one point too. I'd have Wednesday off to rest. Sometimes I feel like I was just being lazy, but even now I find it incredibly tiring being out of the house too many days in a row. I wonder how much of it it is due to my disability and how much of it is just the type of person I am. In the end I just coasted. I did the bare minimum to get by. I had little to no social life in my later years at school and spent most of my time in the library with my classroom assistant. I didn't study for the GCSE exams I did do, but just passed all but one subject. Thank goodness for coursework. It really brought my grades up. 

In hindsight I wish I had stayed at school. I thought leaving and going to the freedom of tech would be so much better, but my pattern of procrastination and worrying continued. I ended up dropping out of my art course when it all became too much. I underestimated how physical art was. I never properly went back to education after that. I started a couple of other courses and dropped all but one. I finished a Psychology AS Level, but failed. I had put so much more effort into it than I had any of my courses before, but it felt like my mind just didn't absorb the material. When it came to the exam my mind totally blanked, and I didn't have the course work grades to fall back on as course work wasn't part of the course.

I'm ashamed of myself when I look back on my education history. I really could have done so much better for myself and I wish I could go back and change things. I see my disabled friends graduating University now, and wonder if I had realised that was a viable option would I have tried harder and not fallen into the bad habits I still have today. I wonder if I wasn't disabled and the careers I had always dreamed of doing were an option, would I put more effort in? I like to think yes, but I know I can't use my disability as an excuse like that.  I am who I am. 

So that brings me to last week. My parents were away for five days and my sister and I were playing house, practising for when we move out. I mentioned to my sister about doing a course this year and she was really supportive. I looked into what they had on offer and thought about doing a leisure art course, but they didn't really have anything that grabbed me. Then I realised I didn't want to do a leisure course, I wanted to do something that might benefit me. I had hoped for some sort of creative writing course, but they didn't have any. That's when I seen GCSE English Language. I already did it at school and passed with a C, but that was eight years ago and I had always felt I could have done better. While I was browsing the prospectus I noticed it said the enrolment day was THAT day. I felt like that was a sign I should go for it. If I had too long to think it over, I might chicken out. Eva and I got dressed and she took me down to enrol. I didn't realise that I would have to do an assessment to see if I was right for the course then and there. They took us into a room and explained about the course and then we had forty five minutes to write one of three topics. I wrote about someone I admire. I picked my sister Eva. In the past I may have been too overwhelmed to be able to do an on the spot assessment. I may have decided to go home and say I'd go back a few nights later when they were having another enrolment/assessment night, so I could mentally prepare. I could have told myself I had a valid reason to leave it since I hadn't got my wheelchair tray and couldn't reach the table to write. Likelihood is that old me would have psyched myself out and I probably wouldn't have gone back. New me just got on with it. I found a work around to reach the table and was able to write myself, rather than have my sister write for me. I'm hoping I can continue rationalising and pushing myself to succeed, rather than run away. 

I'm still waiting to hear if I got in or not. Since I signed up I've been stressing over whether I should go through with it or not. I'm scared of having to do presentations in front of the class. I'm scared of being socially awkward and not making friends. I'm scared of falling back into old habits. I'm scared that my panic attacks will get worse again. Most of all I'm scared of failing. But I know this negative mindset is exactly why I will fail. I know I'm smarter than I give myself credit for, and I'm so much more confident than I used to be. I've been pushing myself to better myself and although a part time course, one night a week from September to June, not to mention a course I've already got a pass grade in, doesn't seem like a big deal. It's a small but necessary step towards getting over all those bad habits I had at school. Prove to myself I can finish, I can make an effort, I'm not dumb or lazy anymore. That being said, I purposely picked a part time course so I wouldn't take on too much at once and set myself up for a fail. Still, I'm hoping it will lead on to more. Some day I would like to be proud of myself and feel like I've achieved something in life. I don't want to coast anymore.

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