Last Thursday I got the mark back for one of the essays I wrote at the start of January. It was formative, 5000 words long, and was a bitch to write. The marks reflected my lack of enthusiasm and I got a big old 47 (a fail). I got the email while having lunch with my pals (and, thankfully, Ollie) and my mood went from hero to zero pretty quickly. I’ve never failed anything at uni before. Five years in and it finally happened.
Thankfully, our weekly lunch club has quickly turned into a weekly Words With Friends session and I could text Oliver ‘urgent exit required’ without anyone knowing my shameful secret. Five grown adults, all-ish of us postgraduates, playing WWF round a table, occasionally looking up to make comments about how sociable we all are. True friendship, I tell you.
Anyway, we made our excuses and legged it. I didn’t want to go home because I didn’t want to get into bed and never get out, so we went to a café nearby. Ollie read my feedback to me, sugar coating it like an angel, and I fought back tears as the waitress brought me by tea. At that point one of my (lovely) PhD friends walked in and I thought okay, enough of this. Time to get on with the day.
Since then I’ve had two more essays back. Another formative gave me a Merit so that was a reassuring, and the summative gave me a solid First. It seems like maybe I’m not terrible at my subject after all – it might just be that particular module.
Lol, this blog post is going to prompt another text from my mum asking if I’m okay. I’m fine, mum.
I’m fine because since that Thursday I’ve done a number of things. I’ve put on a pretty dress and taken photos, been for brunch with friends, had a lovely day trip in York, and taken steps to do better next time, when it counts. I’ve emailed lecturers, been for meetings, arranged appointments with academic advisers, spoke to course friends about it and vowed to work harder.
I’ve also made appointments with different people to sort out all the extra stuff I do. My MA takes priority over anything else and, at the moment, gets the least of my attention because of other time-consuming commitments. These commitments aren’t actually a big deal, and I get nothing but CV fodder from them. I need to learn to tell them to back off, I’m busy.
The most notable thing to come out of these appointments and meetings is that no one thinks I’m stupid just because I got one bad mark. One of my lecturers even went so far as to list off all the potential she saw in me – things like my energy, drive, intelligence, etc. So that was really nice. I definitely didn’t go home and cry. I definitely definitely didn’t treat myself to a new foundation on my way home.
Nothing bad has come from me asking for help, academic or otherwise. No one has thought any worse of me or like I shouldn’t be there. A few of my friends have even admitted that they too are really struggling with the huge step up despite seeming so on it in lectures and seminars.
It’s become a bit of a thing that millenials are becoming more and more obsessed with being busy, appearing busy, seeming on top of their life at all times. Being up to the eyeballs in things to do is pretty much the norm, especially in high-pressure environments like work and uni. If we’re not doing our academic stuff we’re volunteering, we’re working, we’re pursuing a million hobbies and running at a million miles an hour.
It’s not healthy, and it’s certainly not efficient. Once in a while I have to take a completely impromptu day off to just sleep because I’ve burned myself out. This year I burned out before the term had even began! We’re always taught ‘little and often’ with everything we do, so why not our timetables and schedules? Why are we so intent with a more ‘all or nothing’ approach?
Sometimes we have to stop, give up, and admit that we might need a little help to do all the things we want to do. People are far more willing to help you if you ask them to, and everyone I’ve spoken to this week has gone above and beyond to make sure that I know what I’m doing and where I’m going.
I’m okay, mum. I’m tired and busy and nervous about writing the next big batch of essays, but I’m okay. See you next week. x
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