Monday, 13 November 2017


The outcome of my time at University.
When I started my Uni course back in 2014, I wanted to become a Lecturer of Particle Physics, because that is what I had told myself was my passion. Within a week of starting, I saw that this was not the path I would be taking. So I turned to my backup plan of teaching, but that too didn't work out. By my third year I was in the difficult but not unusual position of having to finish a course I hated, and having no idea of what to do with my life. I could have changed courses, but I was always taught to finish what I had started, and people reassured me that I would make it through and come out with the all-important Physics Degree at the end of it.

In third year I got a job. Not a big job, but a job, and the appeal of earning money for my time rather than spending money for it was a huge attraction. Taking more and more hours meant that I begin to regularly miss deadlines. I missed my girlfriend, and was taking time out every two weeks to visit her in Derby. My bedroom in the new house was dark and covered in damp. In January, about half-way through the second and last proper term, I was diagnosed with pneumonia. I had been walking to work in freezing cold conditions with liquid on the lung, and had barely noticed.

All of this was contributing to, although not completely the cause of, my plummeting grades. The simple fact was, it is hard to focus and learn something you have grown to hate. Third year Physics requires the internalisation of most of the first two years, and I might as well have arrived straight from Sixth Form, because I had forgotten most of it. The only course I did not fail outright was the group project, and I will freely admit that I did fuck-all on that. The worst failure was probably the Java course, where I submitted only one piece of work on time and failed to submit even the final coursework, the one worth half the marks. Through this I kept my mind busy on other things, all the time watching in slow motion as my degree careered wildly off the road.

Also, don't get me started on "Design The Spine" or the
"Physics Garden".
During this time I managed to burn a lot of the bridges I had spent the last two years building. Because I had been skipping most lectures by leaving after the first five minutes, I never got to see the people I sat in lectures with, and they seemed bemused and maybe a little disappointed by the way I was going. My best friend at Uni, the one who had pretty much defined my amazing second year, I barely saw because of competing schedules. And, eventually, I was barely interacting with my flatmates of three years. We used to spend long evenings watching TV together and cooking, and while it wasn't close, it was good. At the end of second term I left my job in sad circumstances. I was poor, depressed and lonely. I was even beginning to worry my girlfriend, however grateful she was to see me.

Obviously, I failed my third year. Nine modules out of ten. I had one month to learn enough to pass each of my eight exams, and finish six pieces of coursework, including the entire Java module. I was used to failing by this point, having failed my first and second year exams as well, but by this time it was clear that the odds were stacked heavily against me, and that hard graft would not be enough. As it turns out, no, a month is not enough time to completely learn the Third Year Physics syllabus, and while I did pass several more modules (including, thankfully, Particle Physics), I failed the year overall.

Apparently I can refer to myself as Andrew Smith DipHE, although unless I'm a nurse or carer it's usually discouraged. My "Diploma" was a consolation prize, of sorts. It turns out that I might as well have not bothered going through my third year hardship at all; I would have got my Diploma of Higher Education if I had dropped out a week into October. While I am grateful that I have some recognition of the work I did at University, it will always be a mark against my name. Without it, I have no way to explain what I did between September 2014 and August 2017. With it, I will always be seen as someone who failed where so many others succeeded. Not quite good enough. Not quite.

I have contemplated coming back here to write many times, even in the knowledge that the readership is basically nonexistent. Nostalgia Filter was a way to put life in focus, if only for a brief time, but I had to stop it when it started to interfere with the various busybodying that accompanied my long, ill, lonely denial. That is yet to be seen. The good news, though, is that I have moved on. I am now living with my girlfriend, in Derby, and have a part-time job. I have no idea where I am going in life right now, and although I've heard some people say that's a good thing, I will need a long time before I am convinced.

I am going to miss you, Lancaster.

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