When I look back at my lucky breaks in life, the biggest and luckiest was to go to a good secondary school. I’m not sure my mum would have agreed with the word lucky, as she lobbied hard to get me in there.

I have read biographies of achievers, and they make it clear that they wanted to better themselves from the get-go. But it was not so with me. I wanted to go to the local school. Mostly, I wanted to be with my mates. The school where I was offered a place was on the other side of the city, and I knew nobody. However over time, I not only survived, but thrived. As well as all the bits of paper I earned from this school, though, one of the big things it gave me was the confidence that I would succeed.

I once posted about my early involvement in politics (here), so much so that in my teens, and armed with the confidence I was gaining from school, I harboured desires to go in that direction myself. And if you want to become a lawmaker, what better way in than to study Law?

So, as I progressed through school, I always had this goal at the back of my mind. The problem was, how to best manouver myself into position. There was an A-level (age 18) qualification in Law, but it was very rare to find that course offered anywhere, and I would certainly need to move from the school I had been settled at for five years. Fortunately, universities realised that A-levels in Law were few and far between, and were quite open regarding the subjects they accepted. As long as the grades were there, the subject was less important.

I decided just to concentrated just on the subjects I was good at, Math (first) and Physics (second). Despite these subjects being very numerate, when the time came to apply for a university place, I could easily apply to study Law. And I trundled on to my exams.

Politics, though, also had a countering effect. One of my friends worked as something called an agent. It sounded like their job was interesting. They weren’t the front-man, but were paid organisers. I even apprenticed at being an agent myself – in a local election which we expected to lose heavily. The stakes weren’t high and it gave me a hands-on opportunity to learn the trade. While I had applied to study Law, it would not have been required if I took this avenue so my choice of Law as a university subject became less concrete, to the point where, just before my exams, I really wasn’t sure which direction I wanted to move forward.

I was still good at Math and Physics, and I started mulling over pursuing these subjects instead. Again, because I was good at them. Stick to what I knew!

I ummed and erred, becomming less and less sure that I wanted to follow a legal career, and eventually decided to switch subjects to one of those I already knew.

I also had my eye on what job I could possibly be qualified to do afterwards. I had little knowledge of IT, and thought that a degree in Math would qualify me for nothing more than becoming a Math teacher. Little did I know!

But this thinking drove me toward Physics, despite my Math being stronger. With hindsight, since I ended up in IT anyway, it wouldn’t have made much difference. I suspect I’d have found Math easier, but Physics was probably the more interesting course. Plus, Physics is considered to be a good general degree, by the end of the course, you haven’t narrowed your options down too much.

So, following through my logic, I switched courses from Law to Physics. Physics was a far less popular course than Law in any case – many universities had spare places on their Physics courses – so I also saw my entrance requirements fall away and had no problem getting in. Provided I could work the finances, there was a place for me. As it happened, I did well enough in the A-level exams that I would have been able to study Law in any case, but I did not know that at the time.

So, that is how I ended up reading Physics. My only other concern – that I dropped my best subject – turned out to be unfounded. One of my university’s main field of research was in solid-state electronics – semi-conductors. We did a first-year course in this area, during which I decided that I couldn’t stand it! (more wondeful foresight)

Fortunately for students who didn’t want to specialise in this field, the university offered a theoretical option, things like Quantum Physics and Astrophysics, which was far more to my taste and far more mathematical.

At that time, ironically, I didn’t really harbour any ambitions to work in IT. As it happened, the Physics degree got the first job (as a scientist). The experience I gained in that first job got me into IT, and from there I rose up the scale and worked for banks in both New York City and London as something called an architect – exactly the same as in buildings, but in software instead. And it is not over yet – I still develop products from the comfort of home, so I can’t complain.

Author: Mister Bump UK

Designed/developed large IT systems, interrupted by a stroke in 2016, aged 48. Now mix development of health-related software with voluntary work and writing. Married, with a grown-up, left-home daughter.

11 thoughts on “Choices”

  1. Math and Physics – wow! You were clever Pete. I wasn’t but by default, my first job was as a computer operator – something very new when I was a youngster. However, I learned I didn’t love computers and went into the Personnel department which eventually became Human Resources. I had some fun jobs as HR Manager but soon got bored. The only job where I never got bored was mental health nursing as every single minute was different šŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The concepts are bizzare, they messed me up. The math, however, was almost elementary. With either Quantum or Astro, the genius was in working out what the math meant in terms of real life. That’s where someone like Hawking was so good, for me anyway.

      Liked by 2 people

                  1. Yes it was, I was wrong. Apparently they were returning from a feast that given in his honor. The press kept asking him to pose for a picture. He tried to say that it was enough but they won’t listen, so his stuck his tongue out. Later he cut out his face of the photograph and made it into a postcard to send it to his friends. Cool dude that Albert!

                    Liked by 2 people

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