I’m Okay, You’re So-So – The Ups And Downs Of Study

This week has been an iffy week with study. But that’s nothing new. It seems to be a trend. 

My first week, the introductory week – I felt I had a handle on things. I knew my way around the OU site well enough, as I had been familiarising myself with it as much as I could before study began. 

At the end of the introductory week I felt optimistic about things and eager to get under way. 

Then, Cleopatra happened! I was really enthusiastic about the first week of study and learning about Cleopatra. Well, more learning about Cleopatra’s “reputations”. The last time I studied academically was… in 1990 – a loooong time ago (I had studied vocationally on and off during the 1990s). I studied what was the equivalent of the GCSE, which in New South Wales at that time was referred to as the GCE (General Certificate of Education). I had left school at 14 with no qualifications. This is not how I wanted things to be. 

So, in 1990, aged 19 (turning 20 towards the end of the year) I decided that I actually DID want SOMETHING to my name. I wanted SOME academic level of education. 

As usual, it was the more scientific elements of the course that I enjoyed more – mathematics, biology, chemistry – I wasn’t very good at them. I got by. I think I achieved a pass. English was always a struggle for me. But I just about managed a pass in that too. But my really good result – my A pass was in history. And my pass was achieved with an exam on ancient Egypt. 

With that in mind, I had really high hopes that I would enjoy the week on Cleopatra. Well, no one was more surprised than me to find that the week on Cleopatra to me felt like pulling teeth! 

I think because the week involved…the whole module actually is more about teaching you HOW to study well. Really making you focus on academic study and how to be a great, resourceful and researching student, it sent me on a spiral. 

I want to do well. I want to achieve an objective! I have my own goals for this diploma. I want it to take me down the creative writing path. Again, my years of feeling like I barely have a grasp on the English language at all has me absolutely flabbergasted and astonished that this is now the course of academic study I am taking. 

At the end of week two, I was full of doubt. Questioning if I even had it in me to do this. 

I had to learn to look at it and myself objectively. I am LEARNING. I have this crazy notion in my mind that I should know this stuff already. When I have the inner dialogue with myself about why I was feeling so low and disheartened at the end of week two, it was because I expected myself to know how to answer things.

It’s a lifetime of picking up bad habits and doing things in the way you know how that is acceptable and gets you through. I have to learn so much again, not just academically but intellectually, emotionally, philosophically. To learn to live with the emotions that come with “Yes! You are going to get things wrong. You literally cannot know EVERYTHING. You are LEARNING. And you will grow. And you will get better.”

So, I gave myself a talking to. “It’s week TWO. WEEK. TWO! Stop being so hard on yourself! And stop thinking you should know EVERYTHING already!!”

Week three was studying the reputations of Mary, mother of Jesus (as she is being described in the study module). Again, no one was more surprised than me that I would enjoy an element of Religious Studies so much. There were a few little downs over the course of the week. I obviously didn’t start out feeling terribly optimistic, despite the talk I gave myself, and reassurances from friends telling me to give myself a break and not to be so hard on myself. Overall the week on Mary was a much better one. 

This week we’re looking at Elizabeth I and over the past 20 years I have in my own time and at my own pace studied Tudor history. 

My study is now feeling more balanced. It’s a true rollercoaster. One day great, the next day… not so great. But I am learning to take the rough with the smooth. 

The bad day was Tuesday. A thing happened on Tuesday afternoon here. What I had assumed was an attempted break-in because the door was trying to be forced with such strength and effort, I was convinced someone had tried to break their way in through the side kitchen door. I was in the kitchen at the time and it really shook me up. I was a complete nervous wreck for the rest of the day.

That evening we had a group tutorial session. I was buoyed by that. My fellow students and my tutor are good people. I felt nervous but willing to interact and be involved. We were left with some exercises to do the next day, which then had me spiralling down again.

I put ssooo much pressure on myself. And on Wednesday I had a real wobble. In retrospect, the aftermath of what happened the previous afternoon playing its part combined with me just being far too hard on myself yet again. I got teary-eyed. Full-on emotional wobble. 

But Monday felt great. And Tuesday felt really good academically as well. And I really enjoyed the group tutorial. So I took those good feelings and wiped Wednesday away. A fellow student got in contact with me and told me not to put added pressure on myself. So, there shows how much I am trying to run before I can walk when even a fellow student in my module is telling me to be kind to myself! 

And so…I am learning! I am learning to ride the rollercoaster of academic learning again. That like with most things in life there are good days and bad days. And the good days ALWAYS make up for the bad ones. And yesterday was, again, a good day. I am enjoying Elizabeth I as I thought I would do. 

I like being a student. And I love the study. I love learning. And I am wanting to “fail better”. I think I am starting to “fail better”. These first few weeks of study are proof of that to me.