Tag Archives: masters

Goodbye, I’ll Miss You

mastersLast week, after two years hard graft, I handed in my dissertation.

As I pressed the ‘send’ button, I expected to be flooded with euphoria.

I envisaged cracking open the Champers, unwrapping a bar of Dairy Milk and viewing my cleared desk with bliss.

Reader, I cried.

I felt bereft. I couldn’t bear to leave my desk. My books were neatly back in their shelves, mounds of paper shredded or filed. I had a fresh page on my notepad. The scribbled ramblings I had wasabi-taped to my walls were in the recycling bin,.

All evening I wandered around the house, sadly picking up my stapler, stroking it and putting it back in its place. I opened a book about critical thinking skills for old times sake. I rearranged my Sharpie pens in their pot, light colours to the front.

What was going on?

The Masters has been a cruel mistress, luring me in then kicking me in the guts, leaving me anxiety-ridden and confused. At other times, I would be in seventh heaven when I manged to string a couple of sentences together that actually made sense. Many a conversation with The Teenager would be interrupted with me suddenly saying, ‘hang on, an absolutely genius point has just popped into my head, gimme a bit of paper.’

I struggled to write academically, my sentences more often than not beginning with, ‘I think my work is good and getting better’. Whole days, weeks would go by when I wrote nothing and every time I walked past the papers on my desk, I would sigh.

In the week since I pressed that button, I’m lost. I’m binge-watching trashy shows, reading trashy novels and eating trashy comfort food. I feel weird. I don’t miss the anxiety and I do feel chuffed I finished it. I just … miss it. I guess it’s because I nurtured it from nothing into something I’m proud of, despite the lack of long words and sentences.

The Teenager, my eternal sage, put it bluntly yesterday: ‘Are you sure you wanna do a PhD? Not sure I can handle it. Did you get the chicken nuggets in yesterday? I’m starving.’

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Leaping Into The Unknown

leapParalympic champion Kadeena Cox, who has MS,  won gold in cycling and athletics last year.

She has now had her UK Sport funding suspended while she takes part in ‘The Jump’, a Channel 4 winter sports programme.

They claim it is ‘due to the nature of the activities in the show’, i.e. ski jumping. Cox later tweeted, ‘B4 judging my decisions ppl should imagine living life as a ticking time bomb. MS has changed my outlook on life, so I’m gonna enjoy skiing.’

Well said, on so many levels, and how short-sighted and discriminatory for UK Sport to judge her decision rather than supporting her as a fantastic role model?

In my own way, although much more small-scale, I know exactly what Kadeena means. All of us with MS have a ticking time bomb and a lot of us want to cram in as much as we can, while we can.

Back in 2011 when MS first made itself known to me in all its hideous colours, it was the shocking obliteration of my mind that spurred me in to action. My very first proper symptom was being unable to speak properly – I was weird enough to have a lesion sitting right on the speech part of my brain, so I started speaking nonsensical English with a German grammar form, fumbling for words and generally having the lights go off, one by one.

For an aspiring writer, it was devastating. I had almost finished my second degree, in the hope of spring-boarding to a great career. Suddenly, I couldn’t string sentences together and essays proved impossible. Luckily I was given amazing support and time extensions and finally gained a 2:1. It was hell, but I did it. MS was not going to beat me.

So what’s the most ridiculous thing I could do next, given the circumstances? Start a blog. Of course. Start writing. Go after that life-long dream, which in my case was way less sports-oriented and more becoming a writer. Why not? That ticking time-bomb.

Even more ridiculously, I signed up for a Master’s in Creative Writing. Lol. It was awful, I nearly withdrew, I got support, and I’m now in the middle of typing up my dissertation.

Kadeena uses the word ‘judging’ and she could not be more right. People do judge you. If you have a disability, you should do exactly what society deems appropriate and if not, you break some unwritten protocol. I’ve been told, ‘what were you banging on about, you got a 2:1?’. Yes, but only after working ten times as hard as I would have pre-MS. I’m stubborn like that.

I’ve been told, ‘You? Take a Master’s?’ Yes. I like to challenge myself, not on the ski slopes, but on paper. It’s been a voyage of self-discovery (i.e. most of my writing is awful, but some of it is good). I’ve been pushed beyond mental endurance and it has been good for me. Horrible at the time, but in retrospect, fantastic.

So could you just stop judging us? Why not get a life instead?

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Mastering The Enemy …

mastersYou know when you can’t string a sentence together with MS and your brain goes foggy?

Yup? What better time to start a Master’s degree (insert smiley face here).

That’s the way I was thinking two years ago (MS does funny things to your brain).

Back then, MS was The Enemy Incarnate, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, and had to be defeated at all costs. I had been writing random blog posts for a while (still do, lol) and wondered whether I could write anything else. So, I looked around, called a few universities and signed up for a Master’s.

It was then that sheer terror set in. On many levels:

  • MS – brain fog, memory issues, parking …
  • Age – how would it be to go back to Uni when I was the old enough to tell the students off?
  • Style – or lack thereof. How to pretend I fitted in. Scarf? Glasses? Something academic-y?

So, I got my mugshot taken for my ID card, shuffled along to the first meeting and wished I had shuffled right back out again. I was completely and utterly out of my depth, brand new notebook and pens notwithstanding. My fellow students used words like, ‘protagonist’ and ‘Stein-esque’.

My first attempt at a short story (about a decapitated mouse) was met with silence and a withering response. Too complicated, too long, too … strange.

The thing is. I wanted to give up. I went so far as to try to formally withdraw from the course. It wasn’t for me, obviously. I grew to hate my headless mouse and everything it stood for – a symptom of my failure.

But. I trucked along. I attended most of the tutorials, inspired by my fellow students. We critiqued each other in uniquely British-polite ways and nudged each other along the path to true creative writing.

And so I came to the dissertation.

Long story short, it evolved from a germ of an idea into a little pod. And with some nurturing from my friends, it grew into something I’m really proud of. It’s 10,000 words. Just had to get the critical essay done and that would be me – a Master’s.

One problem.

My essay is terrible.

I have six weeks to turn it around and send the whole thing in.

Sounds like a lot of time, but every time I try to sit down and write (re-write):

  • The cat is on my seat
  • The plants need watering
  • The fridge needs rearranging
  • The Teenager needs an emergency cash injection

I will get there. I will purge my dire sentences, such as, ‘I pull no punches with my story’ and change them to something like, ‘with my narrative, I will not hesitate to draw upon brutal imagery’.

Doing this is my way of getting back at MS. I want to push my boundaries, explore new areas and prove to myself that I can still ‘Do’.

The January deadline is looming and keeps me awake at night, along with the usual nerve pain.

As for now, I’m off to organise my books into alphabetical order and clean my fork prongs with a micro-cloth.

Really.

p.s. I cannot end this post without a very special mention to the supremely patient Dr. Kate North, my dissertation tutor. Thank You.

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The One When I Argue With a Mini-Digger …

miniI love my job (the boss may read this).

It’s quite sedentary, excellent for an MSer, working as a project manager on a building site.

I deal with architectural plans on room-sized paper print-outs, customer’s wishes and all the rest that this job entails, mostly keeping the neighbours happy. I sort out who should be where, when and why. And if they’re not, why not?

My boots may be muddy but I enjoy pontificating, pointing and generally positing from an elevated position.

And so it was this week. I directed our newest recruit to the sewage drain and explained the brick-y stuff to our very handsome builder – not for nothing he’s known as ‘Handsome Dave’.

The Boss was happy; we had a newly-delivered mini-digger and dumper. I won’t boast, but I’m pretty good on the mini-digger (I get to sit down all day, what’s not to love?). There’s even a space on the dashboard for a cup of coffee, if I’m careful.

So far, so good. I sat down, showed off a little, then a bit more. Swing. Swoop. Swing. Get me.

I was trucking along, then paused when I had to take the mini-dumper to the pile at the front. Easy.

Problem was, it had rained. I tried my hardest, got the pile of mud to the bigger pile of mud out the front, positioned it carefully, and just as I was about to tip the contents, the dumper went all wibbly and started to fall.

What would you do?

If you’re me, you try to catch it as it’s falling.

So, I did.

Massive burn on my arm. Extremely painful.

I have a handy tip – never try to catch a one-tonne piece of equipment. I ended up at my Doctor’s, muddy boots removed and carried through the surgery when I explained what had happened.

‘Um, yes, I tried to catch a falling mini-digger. Is it bad? Ah. Really? Ah. Infected Right. I see?’

Long story short, I was soldiering on – I waited four days until the burn was so bad even the apprentice asked my why I hadn’t had it checked out.

As I apply the latest plaster and take the antibiotic, I still think I’m lucky that I have a job I love, despite the … setback …

In other news, I have written an extra 1,ooo words of my Master’s …

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I’m So Last Century …

dinosaurSomeone asked me the other day how I get The Teenager up for school.

Easy, I said, just unplug the Wi-fi.

Sit down and wait for the piercing scream of abject agony.

It works – try it.

Anyway, as I’ve been jotting down my Master’s dissertation by hand these last few weeks, The Teenager has been streets ahead of me, organising his A Level files at the stroke of a button.

He laughs at my hand-drawn mind-maps. He chortles when he sees my scribbles, turning his ipad towards me, shining with beautiful study notes.

I take off my fingerless gloves and turn the heating on. I gently explain to him that Great Art involves Great Suffering. I am trying to channel words and images into a superb piece of writing. I could in fact be The Next Great Novelist, given half the chance.

Until I’m rudely interrupted:

‘Muuuuuuuuum. Mum. Mum. What was it like BI?’

‘Wha?’

‘D’uh. Like. Before. Internet?’ Where you deprived? Did you feel, like, sad?’

‘Ah. No. We went to a place called A Library and looked up an Encyclopedia. That’s a book.’

‘Sad,’

‘Not really.’

‘You mean, if you wanted to find something out, you had to, like, order a book? Really?’

‘Well. Yeah.’

‘Oh M’God. ‘

I am a dinosaur. The Teenager cannot comprehend a life without facts at his fingertips. I could be impressed, chuffed even. Until he sends me bizarre links of what is trending on Twitter.

Take yesterday. The Teenager should have been researching British Politics. Instead, I had a breathless text, ‘ya seen Twitter?’

‘Not yet, have you cleaned your bedroom?’

‘So funny, have you seen, OMG, hysterical.’

‘What?’

DamnDaniel.’

‘Oh really? A kid?’

‘S’fun, s’like real.’

I worry.

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