This is a blog post I have dreamed of writing since before this was even a blog. My journey at the Open University predates even my journey as a mother and I cannot believe it is over now.
Today, I became a graduate of The Open University, achieving first class honours in my BA in Childhood & Youth Studies. Second only to making and meeting my wonderful daughters, I have never felt pride like it. Because I did this. I did this for me.
I never truly believed I could. A decade ago now, my lovely husband (at the time, my lovely boyfriend) and his best friend, who worked in higher education, challenged my lack of self belief after many lagers (or in my case, sangria) at a bar on holiday in Spain.
They both wanted to know why I was so certain I couldn’t do it. I argued that them saying I could didn’t make it true. So C, the best friend asked me to give him every single one of my reasons. Time, money, intelligence, I argued. Excuses, he said. I remember opening my mouth again to argue some more, but finding there were no words. And it took a few years for my lack of reasons to take root in me, but by 2014, even I knew I had no more excuses. Besides, how could I claim to know anything about myself; my capabilities, or the barriers I faced, if I didn’t at least try?
So I registered to study, beginning in Autumn 2015. It seems I’ve never done anything by halves, as Kev and I married and I started a new job AND commenced my degree all within exactly 4 weeks.
A 6 year part-time programme felt like such a long time and I wondered how I’d ever get good enough to get to the other end. But now, I think about all the things I have achieved in 6 years.
I have bought my forever home, I have grown and given birth to 2 incredible little girls who I am privileged to have call me Mummy. I have learnt to drive. I have completed this degree. It is sincerely more than I ever previously thought I’d achieve in a lifetime.
The last 16 months have encompassed the 2 study years that would determine my classification, when the world has been dealing with the COVID pandemic and international lockdown, when I personally was forsaking the calm and cared for pregnancy I had longed for, and grieving the loss of my mum.
I am the first in my family to earn a degree and I so, so wanted to be able to tell my mum today. I’m not sure I know what she’d have said. Probably something along the lines of “Well, I knew you could”, but it doesn’t half break my heart that she is without the opportunity to see me graduate now.
But I do know that my daughters will be there with me. The thought of them has spurred me on, because I wanted to be able to show them that despite the barriers that inevitably do exist in the life of this disabled mummy, I still made something special happen. For myself. I worked for it, I earned it. Not at the prescribed time, when the world says you should go to university, but at a time when I knew I was doing it for myself, to prove to myself that I had strength I had denied before. I want to show my little girls that dreams can be chased down at any age. As we say to Squidgelet about pretty much everything “you just have to try. Then you’ll know.”
And now I do. Undeniably so. My body may be tired and hard-worked. But my mind is sharp, smart and passionate. I did it. Me. Without ever really knowing I could, I did it because I wanted to. I wanted to know that I could. To know that I truly had no excuses.
I’ll never claim to have done this alone. Kev has listened to me cry and scream part way through pretty much every essay I’ve ever written about how it’s too hard and I don’t know what I’m doing. Except it’s proven now that I did know.
I could never have had the time to read and write all my essays without my in-laws offering endless and unwavering babysitting, tea and hot dinners when I just didn’t have time. It’s not just raising kids that takes a village. It’s chasing dreams too.
So my days of using my staff discount at the coffee shop in the next town over all day long on countless Saturdays and days off hunched over my laptop may be over (props to the team there for never batting an eyelid when I was the first one in requesting chocolate porridge and tea before 8am and not leaving til almost closing!) but I’ll remember them as time for me, time when I chased dreams.
Because I got this one down. Another in my wonderful family. And now I have the gift of time in working out what my next dream will be. These are exciting times.