Today’s post is a guest post by Charlotte Underwood:
University never appealed to me. Honestly, the idea of living in halls, being miles away from home and having to commit to something for 3 or more years makes me feel physically sick. I am not that type of person, I like comfort, I like familiar.
I vividly remember nearing the end of my school years and feeling like all these extra lessons to get me into University were pointless. I had already decided; I was determined in the fact that I would not go to University.
I never felt like University was the right place for me.
In truth, I have never been an academic person. I still have nightmares of my school years, they just filled me with so much terror. Between dealing with bullies and feeling like I had to accept low grades to a huge lack of support in both my learning and mental health, I guess I just wanted to get out of the education system for good.
In my mind, I decided that I was better suited for a job. I have always been hands-on and creative, and surely there must be something that I can find to suit me. Though this thought was short lived as I’ve worked in a fast food joint, a pub, and as an administrator, none of which felt like I belonged. I needed something more.
For as long as I can remember, I have been told that I would make a great counsellor, because I am empathetic, emotional and understanding. I was always worried I was too stupid or too fragile to take on such a role. But I’ve sort of taken it on in my day to day life without realising it, which is why I am pursuing it.
So, after achieving the most average GCSE’s, having to take four attempts to finish college and 6 years later than the average person, I have been accepted into university. And the best, but strangest, part of it all is that I am excited.
For my whole life, I have let my introverted nature and anxiety consume me so much so that I have never tried to reach above or beyond. I have let people tell me that I will never amount to much. I have accepted that I am not as ‘smart’ or ‘talented’ as the rest of my peers were. I had given up on my own possible successes because people had not seen past my mental health, and in time, I couldn’t see past it either.
I am terrified if I am honest. I am scared of meeting new people and having to do group projects. I am already sweating at the idea of all those presentations I will have to do. I am already overwhelmed by the idea of finding and sticking to a placement. The whole process, the experience is everything my anxiety is afraid of. And that is exactly why I am doing it.
Because what I want more than to bathe in the comfort of my own bed, is to achieve the dreams and goals that I had as a kid, before I was taught that they were not achievable. I want to give young people the support that I needed when I was their age. I want to help shape and grow the mental health sector. I want to be able to use my life to its full potential so that I can make a change, even a small one. So, I am willing to battle the woes of University to achieve that.
I don’t know where the confidence or the motivation came from, but there is comfort in being able to see the path in front of me and having a passion lead the way, instead of my anxieties. I do not think there is any way to force a person to go to University. I think, no matter what age you are, if it starts to feel right, then maybe it’s time to explore it; and if it doesn’t work, you can quit and there is no shame, you tried.
I will be studying for my degree at my local college who has a partnership with the closest University to me. I can stay at home, see my husband and pets every day and stay on familiar ground. If you do research and you don’t think you can handle the full university lifestyle, look at your local colleges and universities, look at train and bus links; chances are there is something to suit everyone. And if you are older like me, know that more and more mature students are appearing, so you’re not alone.
Always know that age does not need to be a limit. From my experience, if you keep trying and you find your feel, even if you wobble, you will find your way. There is no right or wrong in the path you take, as long as you look after your mental health and you are following what makes you feel the fullest inside.
It took me 22 years to have an idea on what I wanted from life, and I am still figuring it out.