Up to the age of 11, I might have thought of myself as a bit academic. That is, if being teased for being a ‘four-eyed, goody-goody, square swot who sits at the front of class’ was anything to go by.
I remember being taken to a tea room in Oxford by my parents, who were soon to leave me at my new secondary school. While looking out at the exciting bright lights beaming through the Gothic turrets, I was dreaming of when I was going to become a maths student at the university. Maths? Yes, but little did I know that dream was soon to pop.
Little also did I know that I had learned to learn in my own way and it didn’t strictly fit in with the best way to approach learning for future success. I had diverted unawares from the golden path of academic achievement. I carried on enjoying challenges as they appeared.
When I gazed up at the halls of Oxford University in 1981, I didn’t see maths as academic. It was just logic and I had learned how to solve problems.
Today, I know I’ve got through everything up to a postgraduate certificate without memorisation, only by learning through trial and error, struggle, pop, got it. This method is recognised for learning to ride a bike, roller skate, water ski, drive a car and even maths…but not for academic success, winning prizes or becoming a prefect.
While at secondary school, I could see myself in a few years to come, lounging in a frilly shirt and flowery skirt on the reedy bank of a river, with the towers of a great university on the horizon behind me. This dream wasn’t just for a future for idling (though fun is important to me) but creating and discovering great truths and ways to contribute to the world.
A friend has just called and she pinned the whole thing down for me as she’d had a similar experience to my own, on her course. The analogy she used is playing football when everyone else is playing rugby, and to keep trying to make it work, like an anorexic trying to put on weight without eating.
The message I got was to pick my actions and choose my audience. Most importantly, to not get sucked in to the confusion swirling around, just because it’s there.
There’s a reason why I chose my path which was because it was the right path for me. Even if it didn’t head where I thought it would, I know I’d let my instincts lead me along the same path again.