Friday, 16 September 2016

The Next Chapter

Only a few short months ago I uploaded a post that spoke about my dilemma regarding my undergraduate Sociology dissertation.  Under all the stress of the final year, and concerns as to what my future would hold I had felt like giving it all up.  I had declared to myself that University was not for me.

In truth, I had become scared.  Scared of failure, and in my fear I had almost quit.  Thankfully for me, I completed my dissertation, although I changed the topic at the very last minute which consequently led to a piece of work that didn't have nearly enough time dedicated to it!  But I did it, and was pleasantly surprised when my final mark came through.

I was capable.

It's funny how fear of failure can sometimes cause us to throw in the towel and not bother trying at all.  I deeply regretted allowing my depressive episode overwhelm me during my third year of study.  The University offered numerous levels of support, but I was too afraid to reach out.

In short, I do not like admitting that my mental health is not always great.  I feel ashamed that I have a disorder which can take away all of my energy and leave me wishing for eternal sleep.  And it frustrates me that my condition is cyclical.  It also reassures me.  It will eventually pass.  The highs and the lows.

I gained my undergraduate degree, and while I passed with honors, if I had had the courage to reach out and admit I was feeling overwhelmed and my energy levels zapped by a depressive episode, I could have gotten the support needed for a plan of action that could have meant I would have completed the two modules I ended up dropping.  In total I passed the required amount of credits to earn a degree with honors, but I was angry at myself because underneath the fear of failure I knew that if I hadn't given up I could have done so much better.

For any students who may happen to come across this post, I have one piece of advice:

If you are struggling, if you feel low and tearful, stressed out and overwhelmed - reach out, speak to the University, do not struggle on your own, because you are not alone.  And don't give up or drop out (unless that is something that you conclude is best for you).  Don't let the fear of failure take away your dreams.

Following my graduation this June, I set about looking for jobs in my areas of interest.  As a mature student, I already had a wealth of employment experience, although I did not want to return to the jobs I had once done.  I've always found it difficult to internally rationalise simply doing a job to earn money.  I wanted to work in an organisation or field that actually benefited humankind.  I also really love writing and reflecting on my thoughts around issues that grab my attention.  So my aim was to procure work in the third sector which I hoped would allow me to use and improve my writing skills.

The one position that really filled me with excitement was one I had seen advertised with the British Red Cross.  It was for a volunteer Refugee Case Worker.  And it was applying for this and similar positions in various non profit organisations that led me to come a little closer to what I hoped to do with my future, and where I could possibly see myself in five-ten years from now?!

I wanted to return to my original plan I had had before I began my undergrad career.  I wanted to undertake a Masters, I wanted to continue learning and expanding on my interests and knowledge and indulging in my love of writing.

I found the perfect Masters Degree, I applied, and whilst I hadn't truly believed I would gain a place, I hoped beyond hope that I would.  Waiting for the email that would inform me of whether I had been successful or not was absolutely awful, I felt like I was suspended in limbo.

Whilst I awaited my fate, I continuously applied for jobs and attended interviews.  I hadn't had much luck, many applications being thanked for but 'not progressing the application further'.

There's an old saying about buses; none for ages, and then they all come at once.  In my case this was true; first a job offer, and then the very next day an offer letter for my place at University.  Out of the two I was more ecstatic over the uni acceptance letter than the job offer.  Whilst financially I am going to struggle, and the workload will be challenging and testing, I just knew that I had to do it.
I remember what I wrote in my UCAS personal statement about the reasons for wanting to study sociology.  I had wanted to gain the knowledge and understanding so that I would be able to do my part in creating a more equal and peaceful world.  I wanted to help those less fortunate than myself, those who suffer simply due to where on the planet they happened to be born.  Naive as it may sound, I want to make a difference, and I want to help to create a better world.

So, come Monday I begin the next chapter of my life.  And I can honestly say for the first time in four years I have complete clarity as to where I am heading and what my goals are.  For a while I didn't have a clue, but now it feels like a huge light switch has been flicked on, and I honestly can't wait to get started.  And this time I wont allow my fear of failure stop me.  It's time for me to step into my full potential, and show myself what I'm capable of......

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