Well, that’s it. After 5 years I have graduated from the Open University, and it has been one hell of a ride. I began in earnest in 2011, after deciding that what I really wanted more than anything else was a career in teaching. The enormous support and encouragement from my husband also helped me keep going, especially in those moments when I was disappointed over a grade, or the workload was battling with other responsibilities (3 kiddos, moving twice etc). I have made more than a few self discoveries about my own abilities. The most important realisation has been that I cannot let others set my horizons for me. I will no longer allow others to tell me what I am, or am not, capable of before I have even had the chance to try.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t come up against some opposition to both my choice to take an OU degree and my desire to become a teacher. Reasons ranged from, “It’ll be hard” (as if that was ever a good reason not to do something), “but teaching doesn’t pay much” (teaching is a calling, not a money spinner,) and “But it’s not like a real degree from a proper university?” (I have really lost count of how many times I have explained that the OU is a ‘proper’ university, and it’s actually harder to get a passing grade.). Despite this, I think at least in part due to a healthy dose of belligerence and general bloody-minded determination to have my own way, I completed it. Right, that’s the griping done: I studied, I learned, I gave up sleep and developed a caffeine addiction (okay, MORE of a caffeine addiction).
This morning I woke up with the jitters. I’m talking mutant butterflies here people! The stress of the lying google maps app, which fails to mention road works and sends you on a random route round the diversions, hadn’t helped but we arrived in one piece and on time. Managed to race through check in, explained that we had to bring our 3 year old because the nursery was closed that day due to training, for which they were highly sympathetic and gave us an extra refreshment voucher. Kudos to OU for being family friendly.
Next up was robes, pictures, and yes, more queuing. This is the point where it actually did begin to feel real. I had done this. Despite kids, and despite life, I had worked my socks off and actually achieved something (big drum roll here), and I wasn’t beating myself up about it. I deserved to be there. That doesn’t mean that I wasn’t cringing for the official photo. If my grandad and parents hadn’t wanted one, I wouldn’t have gone for it. I even managed a smile. (Those who know me, know my feelings about photos of me. Lets just say I am happier at the other end of the lens).
Being around ‘people’ in large numbers has never been one of my happy places so the prospect of getting on stage in front of a large number of people that I did not know was not an idea I was relishing. I just fixed my eye on Sean and Henry, and tried to ignore the rest of the audience. That said, I managed to queue by the stage for my diploma, collect it, cross the stage and get back to my seat without falling on my face/off the stage/both without social anxiety kicking in and freaking out.
The speech form the now honorary doctor of the university, was highly informative and very moving and I encourage you to watch it here. It’s the Birmingham 2016 one but it’s not up just yet. If you follow the comments for this post, I can let you know when its up.