diamond geezer

 Thursday, June 23, 2011

(nb - this is a companion post to "It's exactly twenty-five years today since I went to university")

It's exactly twenty-five years since I finished university. Twenty-five years since I discovered that I didn't know as much as I thought I did. Twenty-five years since I stopped drinking coffee at three in the morning and wondering who'd nicked my milk from the fridge. Twenty-five years since I packed away my books and waved goodbye to certainty. All in all twenty-five years since I've been out here making a go of things on my own. And I was lucky, I got through the system back when it pretty much guaranteed you a job, not a long-term five figure debt.

My last term at university passed in a blur. Most students get stuck into a decent social life at the beginning of their course, then tone things down at the end for revision purposes. I went the other way, slowly upping my number of friends until my college room was the heart of our social circle. Making friends with the second years, who didn't have big exams to prepare for, helped keep the visitors flowing, as did a never-empty jar of Nescafé and one of the few television sets in college. I'd never before managed to hold down quite so many close acquaintances as I had I that final term, and my social life's never been as busy since.

The examination dates for my subject were right at the end of term. My college was keen to throw everybody else out of their accommodation to make way for a far more profitable conference of grown-ups, but those of us with late exams were permitted to stay on within the dwindling community of remaining students. The weather during exam week was ridiculously hot so I was literally sweating over every question, and the World Cup was on too, so Maradona's Hand of God was a most unwelcome interruption during my last night of revision. I'm not convinced that doing any additional revision that evening would have made a difference, but it's convenient to be able to blame Argentina for my subsequent performance.

It's exactly twenty-five years ago today since my very last university exam. I had a good stab at question 25, and a fair attempt at 61, but ground to an unconvincing halt partway through 62. When time finally ran out it was evident that my degree wasn't going to be a stunning one, so the alcoholic celebrations at the end of those last three hours were more in relief than exuberance. Someone had brought spray string, which took forever to remove, and which I understand is banned these days on pain of death. We partied, we went out for a late night pizza, and then we attempted to stay up until dawn to make the most of every last second. I was at least sober enough to be pissed off by my fellow examinees spraying fizzy lager all over my room, and thankfully managed to keep the lunatic in the corridor wielding a fire extinguisher from gaining entrance.

My last 24 hours at university were a bit of a rollercoaster. I was trying to lap up the last few hours of the university experience, only to realise that normality had already departed. I retrieved one last camera film from the chemist but discovered that it hadn't wound on properly, so the memories contained in my last college photographs were all superimposed and therefore useless. And in my pigeonhole I received yet another rejection letter from yet another company who didn't want me - more my loss than theirs, I suspect. When Dad finally arrived to cart away all my belongings I had absolutely no idea where any future career might be heading, just that life would never be quite so easy ever again. Nor quite so much fun.

I rarely communicate now with the university friends I used to know so well. I exchange Christmas cards with a few of them, in which we often scribble how nice it would be to see each other again but never do. I've forgotten virtually everything I was ever taught as part of my three year course, although I still keep folders of now-incomprehensible lecture notes in my spare room. And nobody comes round for coffee until three in the morning any more, which is probably just as well because I realise now that we could never put the world to rights anyway. Few moments in my life were quite so much of a jolt as that sunny June day twenty-five years ago when, with a tear in my eye, I walked out of the known into the unknown.

We students had it so much easier in those days. We took on courses because they interested us, not because of their future market worth. The government paid us to be there, rather than the other way round. And we didn't have to worry that we might be damning ourselves to a lifetime held back by debt, because back then we weren't. It's easy now, as a semi-successful forty-something, to see that investment in my higher education paid off several times over. But not for today's would-be graduates. Too many excellent students won't be getting what I got, they won't risk it, not now that a place at university brings fear of potential long-term financial burden. Blame my generation, who got everything scot free, because we're the ones making the big political decisions twenty-five years later.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream