One of the most persistent questions I was asked by people that I knew whilst studying for my English with Creative Writing degree was this: ‘Oh, right – so what are you going to do with that then?’
Once, in the pub back home where I live, I was talking to an old-timer at the bar about my studies. I told him that I was doing a BA, and he slurred through his tobacco-stained beard: ‘You know what that stands for, don’t you? Bugger All!!’
As you can imagine, he was quite impressed with his remark and chortled wheezily into his pint. I was a little less endeared, however, and it did make me wonder what the bloody hell the point in it all was. Obviously I have a penchant for writing and reading, and so an English degree always seemed like the most obvious choice for me.
But what was I really going to do with it?
I didn’t want to be a teacher, I knew that much. I didn’t feel I was of the cutthroat persuasion needed to make it as a journo either – I knew that much, too. In my head (as was in the heads of most people on my course) it was only a matter of time before I would become the next great British novelist, playwright or poet. But, to be frank, such daydreams are only distractions from the real pressing matter at hand – if I don’t make it as a writer/artist of some description, how am I going to use my degree to pay the bills?
To be honest, I just didn’t have the answer.
Know What You Want
Some people are lucky. They know from a very early age exactly what they want to be when they grow up, and from there they spend their lives in pursuit of that dream. Most of us, though, don’t really know what we want to do with our lives until quite late on.
I certainly didn’t. I remember wanting to be a vet when I was about 9 or 10, but I soon changed my mind. Sometime around the age of about 15 I realised that I wanted to be a writer. But, it was a very vague, unrealistic sort of dream. I think that it wasn’t so much that I wanted to be a writer, but more that I would have liked to have already magically written some great works (i.e. without having to have had to put the actual work in).
In fact, it wasn’t until I was 31 (the age that I am now) that I actually managed to realise my goal. I got my first job as blogger last year, and have been doing it ever since. And I love it. I’m not a children’s author or a screenwriter or a dramatist – but I spend my days putting one word in front of another, peeling off my eternal reams of wisdom for visitors to various websites all around the world. And if you’re reading this, then I got to you too!
The Point Of The Matter
The point is that with a degree you open up many doors for yourself. The bearded gentleman in the pub was wrong. Doing a BA wasn’t worth Bugger All (and anyone who tries to influence this cynicism upon you is also wrong – I suspect that is a particular view that is shared by those who have made their respective ways in life forgoing a university education). Even though I didn’t quite know where it was leading me at the time, it was important to follow the path that I wanted to follow.
I loved my time at university. So much so, in fact, that I stayed on for an extra year and got myself an MA. And, even though I’m sure to some pursuing an MA would equate to nothing much more than Monkeying Around, I disagree.
Your Degree Is For Life
A university education provides each and every one of you with a very distinct, higher level of learning that is simply not provided at school or college level. What you learn on campus will stay with you life. For me it wasn’t just the deep study of a few hundred years of English language text. It was much, much more.
I learned how to write an essay, formulate an argument, debate my ideas, collaborate with peers, speak in front of large groups of people, make new friends, make my voice heard within a professional environment amongst lots of other bright, intelligent people, be diplomatic and accepting and interested in a vast array of new ideas from new people (most of whom had minds far greater than my own, I have to say).
And, on top of all that, I got the actual qualification that I was after. I learned all about the history of the English language and how it has been and can be used to transfer ideas and emotions across whole networks and nations of people.
And, I’m going to take that with me throughout my whole life.
Whether you know exactly what career path you want to go down when you leave university or not, it simply doesn’t matter. What you learn here you will keep with you. There’s no pressure on you to do the “right” thing with your degree, and there’s certainly no “wrong” thing that you can do with it either.
You may choose to veer off at a completely different angle to what your qualification suggests. And if that’s what’s right for you, then that’s what you should do. But, no matter where it is you end up in 5, 10 or 20 years time, nor what it is you find yourself doing, what you are learning right now during your time at university will stay with you wherever you go and inform a lot of the choices that you end up making.
So, make the most of this fabulous time in your young lives. Keep your minds open to everything, and never stop learning or seeking to learn. I wish you all the best in all of your journeys – and this is only just the beginning.
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