Monday, 2 November 2009

it will all be worth it

People always ask kids what they want to do when they "grow up". It's only now I realise how misleading that question is. I know very few people who have only had one career in their lives. Most people I know have had rich and interesting fits and starts and stories about how they reached the current point in their life.

As I had no clue what I wanted to do "when I was grown up" I entered the habit of setting myself short-term challenges. Going to University was kind of like one of those challenges; I studied what I enjoyed, rather than a particular vocation. One summer at Uni I challenged myself to get a "real" summer job and gained experience in Marketing. The next summer I challenged myself to getting a summer job in New York and had fun working on the Coney Island Boardwalk. The next year I challenged myself to find a "graduate job" or get elected as student union president, but was unsuccessful in either.

During a slow day at my "non-graduate job" for the government I decided that in order to change the world, I needed to learn more about how the world actually works. How was I going to do that? I suppose I could have done any multitude of things; the world is a big and varied place after all...

So I made a swift decision to apply to do a part-time MSc in European Politics. Yes, really. I am sure that there area much more interesting ways to find out how the world works than this, but this approach appealed to my geekery for all things political and educational. I was swiftly accepted, swiftly and inadvertently embarking upon a huge, huge challenge.

I went about things the hard way, I think. I was working full time in order to afford fees and rent, volunteering with a political party and attending night language classes as well as doing my Postgrad degree. (This is far too much for a mere mortal to attempt - do not do it.)

Banks collapsed around me and the jobs market looked less and less pleasant. I tried to motivate myself to study while working in a job that, frankly, I did not enjoy. I had set myself this challenge purely out of interest, but part of me wanted to make sure that it was a worthy investment. Grades were and weren't important: I chose to write on topics that I knew little about in order to broaden my knowledge, but of course this probably affected my grades, along with trying to balance deadlines with other commitments and time-pressures.

All through this I had a handwritten ink-note blu-tacked on my bedroom wall to keep me going: It will all be worth it.

Although I don't necessarily recommend setting yourself the same challenge, I do not regret it at all. I challenged myself to learn how the world works, and while I am under no delusion that I am now a worldly expert, I certainly I have learned a great deal. I learned more than I could have expected, and much more than was included in the course curriculum. These unintended lessons have been just as revealing as the classes I attended. I have learned about the world, and also learned about myself, and other people.

When I handed in my final piece of coursework and started packing to move back home, I tore down that little note of encouragement. I didn't need it anymore. It tore away some of the wall paint with it, I guess the idea had stuck...eventually.

I got my grades last week.

Was it worth it?

Well, of course, as you know, I don't have a job related to my desired vocation...yet.

Was it worth it?

My grades were good enough for me, and nobody can take them or the experiences I gained away from me.

Was it worth it?

Damn right it was, but I'm bloody glad that challenge is over!

And as for the current challenge, well, it's to recover from the last, mentally and financially, as well as to prepare for the next...

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