Educational Waywardness

I think that there is a sort of expectation that everyone has some misdeeds or the like from their past. Stories of amusement, foolhardiness and sometimes outright stupidity. I have some of these types of stories, I guess its a way of acknowledging how far we have come when we look back. Only my whole life has been peppered with these tales, so for me, they act as punctuation, rather than backstory. Sometimes I speak to people who don’t seem to have any of these stories. Part of me wonders why they never pushed boundaries and remained so level-headed throughout, and part of me admires that. They clearly never needed to see where their limits were, they already knew. However, it is much less exciting in terms of storytelling!

After writing my letter to Vivienne, I thought a lot about my time spent in education. Many memories immediately came to mind, most of which involved alcohol. I remember when I was Greenwich University, between the Friday morning lecture and seminar, me and a friend could get to the nearest pub (The Bird’s Nest – I can’t remember the name of the friend but the pub name sings out in my mind!), consume one drink, two games of pool and three songs on the jukebox before having to head back. I was kinda decent at pool back then, sadly not so much now. That was also when everyone could still smoke in pubs (and pretty much everywhere else) and most people seemed to take full advantage of this, myself included. I remember a magical evening spent on a field trip in the New Forrest where another friend pointed out the names of the constellations in the sky (whilst walking home from the pub, I had discovered something known only as ‘White Lightning’, I was eighteen, and this is my only excuse), opening up a literal whole new world and on yet another field trip to a marine research center on the island of Millport (everyone should utterly go there.. I cycled around the whole island in under an hour) I paddled in the sea (post-pub once more) opposite some sort of nuclear plant. This was also the same trip where my friend’s boyfriend danced around in my nightie. Some memories may never leave me.

My mid-twenties university experience had much fewer field trips. In fact, it contained no residential trips whatsoever. Which is disappointing, on so many levels. If anyone ever reading this is in a position to write a university course, put in some field trips, they always make for epic memories. But this time around I did live in student accommodation, which did make for its own level of excitement. I have watched people surf staircases using their duvets as boards, been offered a bite of someone’s banana (utterly no euphemism) as they wandered into my room when I was mid-essay writing, listened to radio shows with a friend into the small hours and another friend wandering into my room in the morning to find him curled up on the end of my bed like a puppy (perhaps I should have locked my door more often). And Vivienne coming home from a night out to find the remainder of her housemates far more inebriated than she was, and mostly lying under the table in the kitchen.

I could go on, and likely will at some point; these stories never cease to make me smile. The memories made under intense situations seem more poignant and I regret none of them. Whilst in conversation recently it occurred to me how as a parent and tutor, I give advice to those in my care, but there is a tendency to whitewash where it has come from. And perhaps this is an oversight, pretending to be perfect serves no one. And I retract my first statement, I think that we all have mad stories.

Map Point. Where am I pretending?

 

A little nervous

Tomorrow I register for university. I am about to start my master’s degree. And whilst I know that this is utterly the right move and will be amazing, I am also scared. What if I cannot live up to my own expectations?

My brother was talking today about the lives that we had planned for ourselves when we were younger. Aged around eleven, I envisaged a life that involved going to university, working for a few years, buying a house, getting married, having babies and being ready for the (part-time) workplace again by the age of 35. It really never occurred to me that there was any variable contained within this. All of my friend’s parents had lived like this (the university was the added new variation, that was my school’s expectation added in for good measure!). Everyone I knew owned their own houses, the husbands worked ‘in town’ and the wives had part-time jobs or were full-time parents. Thinking back, this was my entire worldview, and despite my own circumstance (divorced parents, most anomalous in my world) this was still my expectation.

So I went to university at eighteen (still on track), fell in love with someone who was entirely inappropriate, got engaged (on track!), then left university in the middle of my second year (deviation, but we have still got this!), relationship ended (no white dress?) and it occurred to me that I was not living a life that I intended.

My friends from school (that I heard through generalised gossip) were living that life, my life. They had good jobs, marriages, houses and children. Possibly cars, dogs and expensive holidays too. But my life wasn’t fitting into such a neat boxes, my life was becoming perceptively different. At the time I was aware of this, but I wasn’t sure if my life was on the right path. I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to deviate from my original plan.

I went to festivals, university, took holidays by myself, developed a love of facepaint, saw theatre, museums, had a couple of relationships, owned a house, didn’t own a house, played music, was a children’s nanny, worked in shops, offices, schools, cafes, shook hands with the Archbishop of Canterbury when I got my degree, had a baby, learnt sign language, became a single parent, grew a monster plant of aloe vera (it scares some of my friends), honed a muchly eclectic house, changed my politics and read enough books to fill a small library.

This had not been the plan. I was going to carry out scientific research in a lab and make pottery at weekends, alongside attending fancy dinner parties where everyone sparkled (I held a dinner party once, it was for six people, we all sat on the floor and the instruction at the beginning of the seven-course meal was to hang on to your cutlery, as I only had enough for one set per person. The meal was legend). And this would have been a good life. But now I recognise fully the life that I am actually living, it is abundant with new and sometimes chaotic enterprise! I do sometimes resent that I compared myself to the other life for so long. It is hard for me not to compare myself to others sometimes, but when I am comparing myself to an imagined perfection that never actually happened? That is much harder.

I am learning to accept that I am not already written. I am possibility.

Map Point. Do I fear the judgement of others?

 

Misshapen days

Some days feel undeniably awkward. Nothing feels quite as it should. Things that I make taste good but there is something missing, and today feels like one of those days. I am not quite as connected as I usually am.

This morning was the last day of a short term job that I had. It felt quite exciting on some level, all of us clearing up the space at the end, but on another, the camaraderie, the funnies will now stop. And although it is a small loss, it is still an absence that I will now notice.

I was talking to Spidey earlier (not the one who can shoot web from his hands, somewhat disappointingly) and he was saying the exact same thing. Some days everything you touch just works out, almost without any effort whatsoever. And other days, whatever work you do, nothing feels to quite live up to your expectations, everything feels like additional effort.

I would like to offer something profound here. Perhaps something that would suggest that the misshapen days all build towards the days of brilliance and maybe they do. But it feels like more than that. It almost feels like a kind of expectation, a waiting area before the next breakthrough is made, before the next shiny moment arrives. And from this I can feel less awkward, less (please insert a word here that is an equally measured mixture of frustration, disappointment and possibility). I can feel hope.

Map Point. How does my today feel?