I remember when I first met my tutor at University and she asked me what I was hoping for from my University experience. I told her that my ultimate goal was to graduate with a 1st class with honors, she asked me how badly I wanted it and I replied:
‘More than I’ve ever wanted anything in my life.’
That was the beginning of our relationship. She became my most important confidant and guide through my journey into University.
She was like a University parent, often calling me out on the bullshit I threw at her if I didn’t attend a lecture because I was hungover, she knew. I never missed a single deadline for an assignment because if I seemed disinterested or too lax in my approach to work, she would do that disappointed parent thing and I’d feel guilty. She never once made me forget this whole degree was for me and it made me want to work that much harder.
It was just very unfortunate that I had this big epiphany in my second year that made me realise I no longer wanted to pursue a career in Journalism, at least not in the way my peers wanted to. This realisation made me pull back from a lot of the progress I had done through the degree. I had this emergency meeting with my tutor and I explained to her that I wanted to help people, not break people down. I discussed my interest in taking a side diploma in Health and she supported me, but she was quick to remind me I was on track to get a first.
The work I was producing was high quality, my talents fit well in Journalism. Back then I was a stickler for spell, and grammar checks (I know I shouldn’t have gotten lazy and let that slip, but hey, this is my blog, I just write as I feel, it isn’t a writing contest), I was hungry for new and innovative articles. I wanted to make people feel, I wanted people to read my pieces and feel a rollercoaster of emotion, mainly I wanted people to feel a piece of me when they read my words. I was good at my course, I really was. But this mid-uni crisis just made me fear that I’d become the kind of journalist who hounded families of deceased people just so I could document their first interview detailing their grief. I became so blind to what journalism could be about that I thought about all the horrible journalists who lose their integrity all for the purpose of one pointless article. I didn’t like the idea of being that kind of person who put sloppy journalism before humanity.
My writing, my style, my purpose for writing was because I wanted to make people think, I wanted to empower, I wanted people to feel. I didn’t want people to hurt in a negative way, writing about people’s affairs or the latest scandals. I just wanted to be and feel like a good person and be able to write something that may make a difference to even just one person’s life. I was so vain that my goal with my writing was to help another person just like it helped me when writing it.
So I went for the health course. It was part time and I attended 1 full day of lectures for the diploma, I was going to Uni full time and managed to switch my lectures around so that I had a free Tuesday every week to attend college. I was also struggling financially and didn’t like the idea of asking my parents for more money than they were already giving me. The way I saw it, if they could give me more, they would have in the first place and I just hated the idea of having to rely on them for more and more. My costs had increased, I mean I now needed more books for my diploma, I was doing double the work I was before, I was busy studying. In third year I didn’t have much choice but to find a job on top of my work at the students union. I ended having 3 jobs, attending University full time and college part time.
My daily life involved going to work at the service station early in the morning, then going to University when I finished Uni I would then go to my evening job, finish there at around 1, get a few hours sleep and start my early morning shift again. I woke up in the dark, went to sleep in the dark, even in the Summer. On the weekends I had my 3rd job. I lived like this for so many months that I didn’t even see myself burning out.
I powered through because I only had a few more months to go before I was due to graduate. But my god the effects of taking on so much in one go was so detrimental to my grade I didn’t even realise. Whilst my grades in College flourished, my grades at University plummeted. I guess I wasn’t putting that much thought and effort into my assignments, I lost the heart for it because I was just so exhausted. If I had any regrets it’s that I didn’t give myself the fair try to finish Uni the way I wanted to when I first started. I wish I could go back and do it again. I’d do it right.
This whole experienced taught me a big lesson in prioritising and because of what I went through when I later became a project manager, my organisational skills and ability to prioritise tasks was something I actually excelled in, so I guess there was the positive to come out of it.
When I had a meeting with my tutor and we discussed my grades going from 1st class to 2:2, I asked her nervously if it was still possible to get a first class honours. She struggled to say no but ultimately I know that was the case. I decided I would happily settle for a 2:1 but by that point, I didn’t even realise how much my grades had suffered.
I tried to do a last, push to recover missed points. I spent months researching for my dissertation, I organised trips to travel around the UK. I wanted original pieces for both my dissertations, creating polls, creating plans, doing interviews, travelling, just to get some good material for what would be my last attempt at graduating with at least a 2:1.
Let’s fast forward to when I was due to receive my results. I had already passed my diploma, I finished my course receiving mainly distinctions. I was feeling optimistic, but part of me didn’t want to be too excited. So when I read the email saying I was graduating with a 2:2, I was completely devastated.
I genuinely cried for several days. All that work, gone, all the work I should have done but didn’t, was haunting me. I had nightmares. I didn’t even want to go to the graduation ceremony. I was so ashamed that the one thing I thought I would be good at, I basically in my eyes failed. A 2:2 was worth nothing to me. I wanted to apply for graduate schemes, I had my eyes on several companies who’s minimum requirement was a 2:1 degree. Not only had I fucked up my degree, but my future in that moment felt so bleak. For months I had been planning my applications for those companies and now I was no longer going to be able to tell them of my existence. Not just that but I would then have to explain to future employers why I only got a 2:2, if I didn’t then they would think that was all I was capable of, I knew it wasn’t true, but they would have to judge me only on my degree. I mean they would have nothing else to base their opinion of me on, I was a new graduate, that’s all they had.
Equally, so I was devastated that I had let my parents down. They had raised me to work hard and to be smarter. The fact that I was the first person to graduate in my entire family was over-shadowed by the fact that my grade made me feel so ashamed and worthless. So I cried some more.
I felt so much anger because I knew I could have done better, I knew now what to change and how to do things properly but it was too late. So I had to try my hardest to find a way to accept this result and hold my head up high.
It took a long time but eventually I got there.
I am proud of my 2:2 Hons degree because I worked damn hard for it. I pulled all nighters, I practically lived in the library. I had no social life for a year solidly because I had my jobs and I finished my diploma. In fact, I received my diploma and graduated the same year after working round the clock to complete both achievements. I’m proud of my 2:2 because I know I earned every bit of it. It’s my grade and I have just as much right to celebrate it as someone who received a first class honors. I haven’t ruled out the opportunity to someday return to University and try out a new course, maybe aim big for a first class again, but for now I am happy that I have my 2:2 because I could have just as easily burned out, quit all my jobs, stopped going to college and failing my degree all at the same time. But I didn’t, I persisted, I continued to work and that is what I got from my hard work.
So if you’re like me and suffering from denial at having ‘failed’ your degree, remember that you are 1 in a small percentage of people getting degrees, you should celebrate the years of hard work, because University isn’t just about getting that degree. You probably made a lot of friends, learned a lot about something you didn’t know about before, one of the greatest things I experienced from being at University was being able to grow up, I discovered a lot about myself and the kind of person I was. I met lifelong friends, I fell in love, I finally did the one thing I didn’t think I could do which was move away to a new city away from all the comforts of home and you know what? I survived.
For all my fellow 2:2 graduates, I salute you, our grade is not a reflection of who we are as people and we should be proud to achieve such an honour as a degree. We worked hard, we fought for our place at University and we graduated: now it’s time to make something of our lives and put our 2:2 to good use! Remember that it isn’t your grade that defines your future; it’s how you use it.
Do something to make your parents proud today, your kids proud someday but most importantly, you proud every day!
Peace and Love