I can’t help it, but instantly Taylor Swift’s song ‘fifthteen’ burst into my head when I read this daily prompt. Stop it, stop it – get out my mind. It’s not that I don’t like Swift, it’s just that it’s the wrong year, and has no connection to my own time as a sixteen year old as it was released a decade after that fact! Right, I think…I think I’m free of it.
So…Sixteen? I was just starting Sixth-form. I had to catch a bus every morning to the nearest town. Perks of living in a tiny village. I remember one October day, huddling in the stone shelter out the way of the rain. Proper heavy rain, with deep grey clouds above. Cars flashing past, splashing up the puddles then, out of the mist, I could see the yellow glow of the bus lights. It zoomed up to the bus-stop and carried on going. No college for me that day! I wasn’t prepared to make the four mile hike in.
When I managed to catch the bus though, I remember chatting with excitement to three other girls who I’d known through secondary school, (one who became a very best and even closer friend a couple of years later – but that’s a saga to be told another day…) We’d be talking about how our lives would go, from here on out. What choices we would make about University’s and why. I was definitely going to University because, and this is somewhat ridiculous – after reading, and obsessing over Enid Blyton books throughout my childhood, I had once demanded that my parents sent me to boarding school. They said NO. And that was that.
My dreams of having a ‘trunk’ and a tuck shop, of being Head Girl, waking up in dorm rooms was over and only slightly mitigated by having a tuck shop at my secondary school and the fact that it was very unlikely I would ever be head girl, anywhere. So, I was going to Uni. I was going to study literature because, well I quite liked sitting literature exams and I liked the idea of reading books for a degree. I also have a lot of useless, historic literature related knowledge, like what a piz’nez is… I loved reading; I loved writing essays – win win. From experience, I can now appreciate the fact that my parents were so laid back about my degree choice. In the past decade I’ve come across so many peers who were told they could NOT study certain things, or had to choose something like ‘Law’ in order to be doing a ‘proper’ degree.
For some people this is a positive thing, I have one close friend who is amazingly artistic and talented and just wanted to make things for her degree. She was ‘encouraged’ by her parents to pick a degree that would lead more directly to a job, instead of ‘fine art’. She chose a model making course and is now a very successful model maker within the film industry, credited on Harry Potter, Captain America, Gravity…the list goes on and on and on and I’m so proud of her. Not only that, but she’s doing a job that she loves. For other people, the firm shove in a particular direction is very negative. I have another friend who is another wonderfully talented artist who was told she had to do a proper degree and become something ‘proper.’ She was ‘encouraged’ into studying Law with the view to becoming a lawyer. After a few years of repeated modules, I’m not convinced she’ll ever be as happy in that profession as she would have been, had she followed her creative dreams. So, I was lucky that my parents didn’t try and push me into any particular direction. Now this is slightly owed to the fact that they knew very very very little about higher education and my mother feels that it is somewhat pointless to have a degree (don’t get me wrong, she’s very proud) but she also spends a lot of time telling me that it’s not necessary to have a degree because you could get one and work in MacDonald’s – yes…yes you could. And what is wrong with that? They have an excellent career progression scheme. But you do have a better chance of a more successful, higher flying career.
Not discounting work experience at all, because I’m a firm believer that you need to have both. Experience being a proper ‘people’ and working your socks off in low, entry level jobs and building experience and connections in the work – place. Learning how to be a professional –kind of grown-up-person-thing. But it’s important to back skills up with qualifications. Yes, you can see that I can manage difficult, challenging situations and I am very very unlikely to pour soup over an annoying customers head – but I can also string together a sentence, in writing – see I have degree to prove it! You can feel confident that I will answer your e-mails and not embarrass the company with ‘street ism’s in professional correspondence, isiiiiiiitttt??? Kind of thing. Sorry, I digress… I chose literature. It was something I loved.
I also decided that I would travel during my time at Uni and have a year studying abroad. All to kick-start my life as a ‘travelling writer’. I had no idea what kind of career or path my life would take ‘beyond the degree’ but I knew I was always going to write. I planned to live for six months in all the countries I wanted to visit and have a patch work life. Building on my experience with different cultures and landscapes in order to make my writing better.
I have to say, that despite being lucky enough to travel through quite a lot of Europe and living in North America, that whole patchwork thing has dropped to the wayside. I’ve managed to begin building a good career in something I never expected to, and no I’m not a teacher, despite the belief that that’s what ALL literature students ‘do’. Can you imagine me a teacher? Honestly? I was always worried that I’d be that teacher who hides from her class in the stationary cupboard…
But all the rest of those dreams I had on the bus? I made them come true. I stuck to what I believed was the right path for me. I went to Uni, got my degree, have travelled and I write. I may have ended up a little sideways to where I thought I’d end up, but I’d not change anything for the world (well maybe travel more?) But it is also my firm belief that it doesn’t matter where you end up, as long as you’re happy. As long as you have a plan in mind and put one step in front of the other, on this crazy road called life, you’re doing great and you’re moving forward. Who cares if you end up askew from the original destination?
Well…that’s a rather long post from me and I’ve definitely gone a bit off topic! What do you think? What do you believe in?