I’ve come to Adelaide this weekend to have some quiet time to work on my new business.
I wanted to make coming here worth while by doing something, or spending time somewhere I couldn’t in Melbourne.
Today I’m spending the day at the university I left 26 years ago.
I’m sitting in the quiet part of the library – downstairs from the main entry. It still looks the same as it did 26 years ago, whereas the main entrance to the library is completely different.
It’s so quiet in here that even my sniffing from the tears welling up as I leap through my memories of the history I have here, feels too loud.
I remember sitting here studying, trying to keep things in my head. Trying to understand and remember the things we needed to learn to pass exams.
I remember hating it. Feeling dumb because it just wasn’t “clicking” for me.
The science that I loved so much in high school felt so difficult and foreign here at uni.
Primary School to High School to University
In primary school, there was one thing that stood out to me that interested me – in grade 6 I had a book “The Reader’s Digest Scenic Wonders of the World”. I loved it so much and I would copy the pictures of places that interested me most. I wanted to go to each one of those places to experience them for myself.
In grade 7 Dad had a work trip to Darwin, so my Mum, sister and I flew up to meet him there and then caught the bus back to Adelaide via Alice Springs. It was an incredible adventure – more enjoyable and educational than school for sure.
Then, at the end of primary school, my grandmother died after battling breast cancer – this event had a huge impact on me and the childish innocence I had was gone.
It was then that I decided I wanted to do science research to find a cure for cancer (that was in December 1982 and not a lot has changed in mainstream treatment today) and so science was my path in high school.
Over the 5 years of high school, my vision shifted from doing science research to becoming a doctor.
I didn’t get the points I needed to get into Medicine at uni, so rather than repeating year 12 (in hindsight, that probably would have been a better option), I went to uni, enrolled in the Bachelor of Science with the intention of getting high marks in that first year to be able to move to Medicine in second year.
After being a high achieving student in high school (a lot of A’s, a few B’s and the odd C), that first year of uni was a complete shock.
I failed every single subject in that first year, re-sat the exams over the summer break and passed two of my four first year subjects (barely).
Instead of moving on to a different course to find something I actually liked, I persevered for another 3 years and finally admitted defeat after four years at uni.
I stayed for as long as I did because I didn’t want to disappoint my parents – my dad was big on persevering and “sticking with it”.
It was only at the beginning of what would have been my 5th year, that I finally had the courage to tell my parents I wasn’t going to continue.
Romanticising returning to finish my degree
I moved away from Adelaide to Melbourne in 1999 and over the last 18 years, whenever I’ve visited Adelaide, I’ve entertained the idea of returning to finish my science degree.
I’d drive past the uni on most visits to Adelaide.
I’d think back to that first time I went into Bonython Hall with my Mum at the beginning of 1988 where I imagined me graduating in that hall in 1991. I’m sorry that my parents never got to see me graduate in that hall.
In my wondering about returning to finish my degree I was always put off by the logistics – I’d have to move to Adelaide because the Science degree isn’t offered via distance learning and I’m too attached to Melbourne and my family. Everything else though seemed like an exciting adventure. And the study, surely would be easier because I’m older and wiser.
Today though, sitting in the library has brought back the reality of that study. I almost feel sick thinking about it.
Three years of 30+ contact hours per week, plus assignments and studying for exams, just so my parents could see me graduate – the time of me doing a science degree has definitely passed (if it ever was my time for it).
University isn’t for everyone
That heading is hard to write. It still holds a lot of emotion.
I wish I had known there were other options; although thinking about it now, I was so desperate to please my parents (and going to uni was the accepted way to do that), that I don’t think I would have heard or considered any other suggestions.
I wish someone had told me I was way too young to be attending university. I was 16 when I enrolled and turned 17 in that first year.
Why is uni seen as the “holy grail”?
For me there has been a lot of judgement and baggage on attending or not attending uni.
Finishing high school and going on to uni, graduating, getting a job meant you were intelligent.
Finishing high school and not getting enough points to get into a uni course meant doing an apprenticeship at TAFE or just heading straight out to get a job – this meant you were average.
This meant that despite earning a Diploma in Business Management (Hospitality) (which I started a year after leaving uni), despite blitzing it and getting A’s for every subject I studied there (I loved it, I was good at it, which meant it was easy to do well), because I did it at a TAFE college and not a university, I still feel the diploma is “less than” and not as good as getting a degree.
I didn’t want to be average but in not finishing my degree, I took it to mean I wasn’t intelligent. I know that’s far from the truth.
When I studied homeopathy from 2003-2005, I was great at it. I only ever got A’s.
Side note: In thinking about this now, I think I actually sabotaged myself by deferring my homeopathy studies in 2005 – did I think it was too easy, not sufficiently prestigious or well-respected enough (like “real” medicine)? 12 years later and I’m returning to homeopathy with what seems like an entire lifetime of life experience.
Imagine, if I had known about Homeopathy when I was 17.
Imagine if I had known before starting uni how damaging and corrupt mainstream medicine and scientific research can be and how miraculous homeopathy can be, perhaps I wouldn’t have coveted medicine and science so much and put it on a pedestal it doesn’t completely deserve.
I can’t go back and change what I did when I was in my late teens/early 20’s.
All I can do now is embrace my twenty year old self, have a cry with her and let out all those feelings of being a failure because I couldn’t finish my degree.
It wasn’t me that was the failure, it was and still is, the schooling system.
A system that isn’t the right fit for everyone coupled with a society that deems there is only one way to be successful (school, university, job).
Today, I’m sitting here with an abundance of skills, creating a website that will bring the knowledge of homeopathy to every individual who is looking for a different and safe way to bring health to themselves and their family.
I’d say that’s an amazing achievement for someone who didn’t finish their degree 26 years ago.
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou