I became a university student in October 2015. Finally. This lifelong dream of pursing higher education has now become a reality, and I am so happy about that.
I left school when I was sixteen, moved cities with my family and then joined a sixth form before getting beaten up by ‘friends’ and choosing to discard my A-levels in favour of a full-time job at New Look. Fast forward a good ten years later, I’ve been back to college twice, once to complete NVQ Level 3 Children Care Learning & Development and then to complete an Access course, and now attending university is my next step.
I did intend to further my educational journey in 2014, applying for social work degrees at all the local universities. But I had a change of heart and cancelled my applications, because I felt I needed to focus more on my creativity. I’d been lucky enough to have worked in the voluntary and social care sector, working within communities and even doing my dream job, all without needing a social work degree. My main concern was that I wouldn’t be able to help people as much as I wanted to within social care and I didn’t want to do a role that might potentially compromise my values and beliefs.
I knew that even after a long day as a social worker, I’d still be dreaming about coming home to write. So it made sense to focus on my craft.
I had a little search and found the Creative & Professional Writing BA at Wolverhampton University and I knew instantly that I had to do it. And so here I am. Three weeks in I’d made some friends and I’m now feeling less overwhelmed and more focused.
There’s been a lot for me to get used to; weekly reading and writing assignments across three modules, online discussions, two hour lectures at one time, and the most amount of notes I’ve taken because I want to pass.
Outside of that, I’ve had to introduce a new routine for me and my children. Mondays are long days because I finish at 6pm. I pick up my children at 7pm, who’ve been picked up from after school club and been given dinner by a lovely child minder. We’re home by 7:15pm. They’re bathed and in bed by 8:30pm.
Then while I’m waiting for my dinner to finish cooking, I’m tidying up our home, ironing school uniforms, making a packed lunch and likely to switch my laptop on for an hour if I have the energy. Because outside of academia and motherhood, I’m also Annika the author, blogger, self-love advocate, public speaker, ambassador and general social media Queen, and none of this has stopped either.
Having said that, taking time out from my super long to-do lists and having an early night for a few nights has made a difference.
I’m meant to be writing my fifth book but that has been on pause while I get settled into all these changes. Even my blog writing has taken a bit of a back seat but it is absolutely necessary because I really don’t want to be putting out any rubbish. But that’s the creative aspect of me.
Meanwhile, mummy mode continues throughout.
My youngest child is three and having night terrors at the moment so I’m hardly having a night of unbroken sleep. Then she was also ill with a viral infection, which meant that every time she coughed at night I was wide awake. It is like an automatic maternal instinct that makes me jump out of my sleep and run straight to her room, no matter how tired I am.
My oldest child is six and has homework and reading to do, so we work hard to get that done on time. It’s sometimes a battle when you’re a single parent and both children want your attention. Again, this is about finding a simple solution and helping to create a balance in our routine.
The point of all this is to illustrate that although I’m super busy in all aspects, I’m learning to slow down where I can. I’m a mum too and that requires most of my energy and attention. I’m a student and that requires a lot of the same. I didn’t enrol to fail. I enrolled to achieve. To make my mum’s spirit hover with pride. To make my nan proud. To be the second person in my family with a degree. To give my daughters something to aspire to. To make myself proud.
Sometimes it’s going to be challenging, especially when deadlines are so frequent and I’m eager to get a good grade. So far, this degree is demanding I prioritise. I have to be disciplined and more self motivated than I was before. I have to be organised, and stick to it, which benefits me in the long run but always seems like a massive inconvenience until it’s done.
But this is what I wanted, right? When I quit my A Levels, began to work in retail full-time and my mum died ten years ago, I thought the University dream was out of reach. I never thought I’d get the chance to go.
Yet, here I am. Not even finished the first semester but have still learned something new about myself:
With a little discipline and organisation, I can do the things I thought I could not do.