This time last year, I started a marine biology course, pretty much on a whim. Life wasn’t going very well, I was very downhearted about my career, and I knew I needed something to aim towards. I’d been interested in fish keeping for a while, and I knew I wanted to further my knowledge in marine environments, but I wasn’t sure how to do it, or if I’d be clever enough to. Then one day, while sitting in the waiting room of hospital with my Dad, I booked myself on to the first result that came up when I googled “Marine Biology online courses UK.” It was a snap decision, really. I did no research into the course, or the awarding body, and I had no background knowledge of the subject outside of a fish tank. But if not now, when?
At first, I was very eager. I was just crewing at the time, so in between my cues I could spread my work out and get into study-mode. It was even better when I was Flyman, as I had the whole floor to myself. I taped up diagrams of tectonic plates, wrote all kinds of chemical formulae on postcards that I’d match up between cues and completed 4 essays by the end of the run. Matt started to teach me to swim with the intent of then learning to dive. I was on the biggest roll I’d been on in a while. Go me.
Then, of course, other things happened. I stopped working on it from September to March, for various reasons. I was ready to give it all up, and surely I could be forgiven for doing so? But, after I got my new job I was filled with a renewed vigor, and I got that drive back.
Failure is possibly my biggest irrational fear. (My biggest real fear is drowning but let’s just discuss mental fears for now.) In most cases, I’d rather not try than run the risk of failing. I never took music grades past Grade 4 in case I failed music theory, I never booked my driving test because I didn’t want to fail, I never pushed myself outside of my comfort zone because being okay in an easier situation was better than failing in a new one. I’d really like to emphasise, there is no need to push yourself as long as you’re happy. Happiness is more important than anything. But I wasn’t happy, and was stopping myself trying to change in case I failed, which is failure in itself.
When it got to the point where I thought I’d failed, I was incredibly angry with myself; not even for failing, but for putting myself in a position where I could fail, rather than just resting on my laurels. I’ll admit, I wasn’t in a good place mental-health wise at the time, so it became very easy, and almost a comfort, to constantly beat myself up in own mind. Why did I even try? Of course I was going to fail. I’m so stupid, I would never be able to understand these concepts.
Getting a new job was such a success for me. It was only the second job I had applied for since my accident, and I got it against some very fierce competition. There was no way I could turn this into a negative, and with that success, I started to go a little easier on myself. Even if I did fail my course, I’d learnt a huge amount. In fact, being able to understand any of it without a scientific background was pretty good too. Being able to sit down and apply myself like that wasn’t something I’d been able to do since I’d done my GCSEs, so that joined the pros list. The unit I had actually completed was good too, I had written four interesting essays.
Those successes aren’t equavilent to getting the qualification, sure, I wasn’t blowing too much smoke up my own arse, but it was still a small success. I bashed out another 18 or so 1,800 word essays in the space of two months, and requested an extension for the last few, explaining my situation. The board very, very kindly gave me an extension to get the last module done, and to give me time to amend any units, should I fail them.
Occasionally, I get that familiar feeling in my stomach. That familiar sinking feeling that creeps up for no apparent reason, and I begin to stress that I’m wasting my time, because maybe I will fail them. It’s okay if I do, I’ll just try again.
I did get my first unit mark back last week, though, and I got a distinction, so maybe I can calm down a little bit.