Fraud! That’s how I felt on graduation day. Am I a cheat? No, but smiling through photos and congratulations I told myself over and over this piece of paper means something. It means success! I should be proud that someone like me, a nobody, worked so hard and aced every test they had.
Fraud! It’s not that my future wasn’t sorted. I’d figured this out; my CV was red-hot with great grades, extra-curricular, work experience and one top industry internship. A second internship was already lined up for the summer plus a company was ready to sponsor my Master’s Degree. The career manual works.
Fraud! Give me any syllabus and any time-frame and I’ll pass your test, but don’t ask me who I am… that’s one thing I just don’t know.
During the final throws of this education, I was constantly at the edge of panic. Fear of failure had me frozen. I’d become boring. Ashamed, I kept to myself. Anything that wasn’t for my future, or eating or sleeping was a waste of time.
At its peak, every obstacle on my path to a successful graduation saw me shatter, certain the world was out to prove my incompetence. Despite a spotless academic record, I felt stupid. Why was I a passenger in my own life? How had I made it this far? In the face of one more obstacle, I took myself to the student therapy clinic.
The advice was simple; get home and re-centre, how soon can you get home? There were a few days between the dissertation deadline and the exams. Two days travel seemed like a waste of good learning time, but the lady was right. I booked a train. In a second more in-depth session I was advised to see a doctor for anxiety pills. What had I done to myself with this pressure?
On hearing my results – a first class honours degree and the ‘head of school’ prize – in a rare moment of vulnerability, I admitted that I didn’t want to prove myself anymore.
I didn’t want to do the Master’s Degree. I didn’t want to do the internship. This was met with the gentle cooing of “Just go and see… it’s a good opportunity”. So, after years of doing what others expect, the habit was was just too strong. I went in order to stay on the right path.
It was a shock to everyone but me that, following a complete burnout, I packed my suitcase and got the train home one morning, instead of going to the office. Penniless, broken and having made a terrible impression by fleeing a fantastic career opportunity after just a few days, I cancelled my MSc place and thought… now what?
Working Towards Being Myself
This website is my main virtual home as I take steps to owning my own learning and building my own place in society. I’ve chosen to share my story as a reminder of where this started and for others who may feel they’ve lost themselves during the process of formal education.