Mythbusters

A while ago, a couple of bloggers posted about how they elected not to go to university/college – I think the context must have been one of these “knowledge versus wisdom” prompts. I picked up a perception of students locked away in their classes, accumulating all this hypothetical, text-book knowledge, while the bloggers instead gained their (useful, practical) knowledge out in the “real world”.

That wasn’t consistent with my experience, and I wrote my thoughts down, but for some reason it stayed in my Drafs folder. I came across it the other day, spruced it up, and figured that it was good enough to publish. So, here goes.

For me, university had two aspects, academic and pastoral.

Academic

My university course was three years duration. We had exams at the end of the first year. These were very much make or break exams – if you failed them, you were kicked out. People did fail them.

From that point onwards, provided you completed the course, you had your degree in your pocket. So, those first-year exams really were crucial. What was up for grabs was the grade of degree you obtained. Grades went from “pass” to “first-class honours”. I guess there must have been a “fail”, but nobody ever failed. As long as you stayed the course.

I think what you get from a university degree is a piece of paper which says, not that you know all this stuff, but that you have the capacity to absorb information at a certain level of complexity. That’s not to say the complexity is beyond anybody else – but the graduate has a piece of paper to prove it.

When I left university, I was far from knowing everything about everything. My first employer recognised not that I could come in and do their job, but that I could come in and learn their job. I think that’s true in general – students are not bestowed with skills which are directly transferrable to the real world – a degree is an indication of capacity. It’s not knowledge (or lack of).

Similarly, I wouldn’t expect somebody to retain that knowledge. It’s very much like an athlete in training – people time things such that they peak in time for the race, or their exams. I can remember very little of what I learned at university, but it’s been replaced with other things instead. It doesn’t mean I got dumber.

Pastoral

My three years was at a non-campus university, in a large city. It was my first taste of living independently.

For starters, I learned to live on a budget – around £20/week (that’s about £40 today, not massively different in $ or €). Take out accommodation, and that’s what I had. Heat, light, food, everything else. At the same time, there were presumably safety nets to prevent me from falling flat on my face, so it was not totally independent.

Then, when I think of the “life” aspects, general interactions with people, going out, forming friendships and relationships… all of that happened afterwards, but a lot more slowly. At university, it was concentrated down into three years.

In those three years, I would estimate that I probably lived ten, and I can only conclude that everything would have been even more concentrated, had I lived on a campus.

The other day, a word prompt word was intangible, and I certainly think that the word comes into play here. Away from home at such a young age, that concentration of valuable life experiences, compressed into this small timeframe. Well, that’s the dictionary definition, isn’t it? I mean, from that point on, you can process all that experience into wisdom, or not. It’s down to the person, just like in the case of a non-graduate.

It is a bit more difficult now – you have to take a punt on whether your job will be good enough to pay off the fees and living expenses. In my time, the fees were automatically paid by the state and we got a grant to cover our living expenses. The flip-side was that you got a better job as a result of university, and would pay more taxes as a result. It’s a six and two threes, but my way made money less of a barrier to embarking on a course.

Certainly in my day, I would have recommended the experience to everybody who had the opportunity to do so. Furthermore, I would urge students to go someplace different to their hometown, just for that semi-independent experience.

I have to say that even though I got a good degree in the end, my biggest regret is not going as far as I possibly could with education. Those letters behind (in front of) your name, once you have earned them, whatever then happens, nobody can take them away.

All I Want for Christmas…

for Fandango’s One Word Challenge (FOWC) of 19 October 2020, scuttlebutt. It’s not really a word we use in the UK but here is my attempt, nonetheless.

Tell me, have you heard the goss?
She only went and shagged the boss!
Talk about a yearly raise,
But suddenly, he’s full of praise.

That christmas party, looking back,
Cocktail dress. alluring black,
That cheeky pout, that wicked smile,
She’s surely putting on the style.

Attack the task with greatest zeal,
That dress intended to reveal,
Treading lightly, as a thief,
Across the room, she spies the chief.

Gracefully in five-inch heels,
A gait that oozes sex appeal,
That delicately perfumed smell,
Her latest purchase, from Chanel.

She meets the boss, they’re seen to laugh,
Her golden tresses falling back,
She acts as though a blatant flirt,
But boss, of course, is not inert.

From this point they are ne’er apart,
A charming pair, and oh, so smart.
And as the music starts to flow,
They damce together, tight and slow.

The night is over, party ends,
Her attention has paid dividends,
Tripping lightly as a feather,
This newfound couple leave together.

Heartless

I had no affinity to my hometown (Liverpool), I got out at eighteen. I never even attempted to stay in touch with anybody from then, apart from my parents.

I did feel an affinity to my university town, Cardiff, but not enough to stay. I stayed in touch with several student-friends for a few years, and one until a few years ago. I don’t know why – he didn’t seem to want to talk any more.

I did feel an affinity to my next home, in Oxford, but in the end, was happy to leave. The house was burgled three times, the car was broken into and its tyre slashed. I kept in touch with a few people for several years, but I gradually lost touch with all except one (with whom I’m still in touch). I also met a friend from Paris, who was studying in Oxford (and we are still in touch).

I felt a strong affinity with New York City, but after I left, I never went back. Part of that was opportunity, but equally I did not push very hard because I was doing well back in the UK. I quickly lost touch with everybody I knew there.

When I got back to the UK, I settled in Southampton. I liked the place but spent very lirrle time there. I did meet Mrs Bump while I was living there, in nearby Bournemouth.

We settled together in the New Forest. It is the only village I ever lived in, and I love the peace. But… I spent a lot of my work-time in London. My closest friends were up there. Since the stroke, I have not visited – that 200 mile roundtrip I used to make each day now feels significant – those friendships which survived are now virtual.

Of the people I know where I live, I have Mrs Bump and we are inter-dependent. I know a few tens of people casually, but there are only about a half dozen I know any better, and none of these is particularly close. It honestly does not bother me.

I tend to think that my home is here, but then I have thought that before, and been able to move away from places. I don’t want to move again. My heart is actually with Mrs Bump, wherever we might end up, rather than a place. The stroke made a lot of these questions absolutely clear (but please don’t tell Mrs Bump). I think it only takes one or two, but those people are priceless.

for Weekly Prompts Weekend Challenge, where the heart is.