Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Welcome to hell.

As you may (or should) know, if you've been reading ILB for a long time, I've spent the last few years doing a vocational course, which in turn leads to an academic diploma and a professional qualification (this is separate to my English Degree, which I got years ago and is still something I'm pleased to have - it's the degree of champions, you know). As this blog is anonymous, I'm still not going to say what it is, but it's really not difficult to work it out. Really, really not. But if you do work it out, don't put it in a comment. That's not cool.


While my approach to taking the course was unorthodox (I'm an English graduate, wherein creativity is awarded - what do you expect?!), and also whereas I wasn't enjoying the course at all (the college taught it very badly, the organisation was terrible, the assessments were pitiful and the placements were slapdash), I did pretty well on the academic side of things, passing all the written exams first time around and getting a couple of distinctions along the way, some pretty high ones relating to compendia I put together over the course of the weeks. And as the course snailed by, I got through it by keeping my sights on the end point. I'll get my diploma, I said to myself. I'll get my qualification too, and then I can get a job I like, and birds will sing, et ceteri.

[I've just inadvertently reminded myself of the fact that one of my tutors didn't approve of my use of the phrase et ceteri in an essay. It's Latin for "and the rest", and I used it as opposed to etc. or even the archaic &c. which I used about four thousand times in my GCSE Food Technology exam. I got a B.]

However clever and smart-arsed I might be, the placements proved to be a bit of a problem... eventually. In my first year, I didn't like either of the work placements I did, but I did them and there weren't particularly any problems. But after that, things got tougher, and as my health went up and down, so did my enthusiasm (if I had any). I had some really good placements, and some not-so-good ones. I failed one placement because I wasn't being taught anything by the lazyincompetentslackjawednincompoops who were mentoring me, prompting a repeat placement which I passed without even trying (or could have, but I was trying). Punching my way through the hordes of situations which threatened to beat me into submission before I finished this accursed course, I reached the final year, final placement, final week.

And failed.

Now, this is probably due to a number of things, but it's been the general consensus from people who hae heard my side that it is in fact mostly the fault of the people on the placement, particularly my mentors, who - while I'm sure they have the best of intentions - started the placement by telling me that I had a lot of work to do. Fine, I thought, 14 weeks, that's enough time to put a lot of work in. And, by gum, I did. I put so much work in that I didn't seem to be spending any time outside of work. I was even asked by the head to take some weeks sick leave due to fatigue in the middle of the placement (which I did, putting me three weeks - nine if you count the extra placement -
behind all my friends, some of whom have started new jobs already). And I returned to work, had an unpleasant interview with Mentor #3, in which she said that if I really wanted to pass I needed to work very hard indeed.

So I did. And I badgered Mentors #1, #2 and #3 consistently to appraise how I was getting on. My 'client group', for want of a better phrase, seemed to be pleased with what I was doing, but they're not exactly in the situation to appraise me either. The mentors, good as they were, took a rather lacklustre approach to my progress - on occasion, teaching me how to do certain things, but on more occasions, not doing so. So when it came up towards the end, Mentor #3 seemed disappointed that I hadn't learned enough of the 'skills' required to get the qualification.

So why didn't you teach me them then, eh, Mentor #3?

I fought. And I fought. And I fought. I quadrupled my efforts. I came back home with my feet in blisters, I arrived at Oxford sometimes and all I wanted to do was sleep and cuddle. I even went to my union and had a discussion about what I could do. Nothing seemed to work, even though I was putting my all into this situation. But I still failed.

Although I thought I was good enough for the job, I wasn't overly surprised when Mentor #3 told me that I failed. The day beforehand, Mentor #1 had given me a mark that fell just below the passing grade for the placement anyway (despite about 498402 attempts to get him to wait and re-mark me), so I would have failed on a technicality if nothing else. But what none of them seemed to clock was the fact that this was the final year, final placement, final assessment, and since I'd already re-taken one placement, there was no safety net here. Either I passed the whole thing, or I was effectively out of the course.

So I'm out of the course.

Not surprised, but yes, still upset. I wandered about for a bit, phoned the course leader to ask her if I could get the diploma without the qualification (I can, actually, so I haven't wasted these years), and then when there was nothing else to do, I went home.

TD called me. She said that I didn't sound too upset. Well, I was upset. I also felt extremely ill. (I still feel ill now, actually. My body feels like lead, my throat is raw, my eyes are streaming and I'm not only coughing, but have those stomach cramps, only worse than usual. An infection from work? Most likely.) I had a conversation with her about what I'd do now, and what plans I had for the future. She told me that I didn't seem to be taking it very seriously. I had plans about moving to Oxford, actually, working temporarily and also looking for more permanent jobs in and around the area. You know, get away from all this, fresh start, clear my head a bit. As she'll be doing a Ph.D. for the next three years, she'll also need someone to look after her room for a while.

You see, backup plan. It all seemed like a good idea to me. I'd formulated it in the days before my final interview, just in case the placement didn't work out.

So then she told me that, because of my attitude...

...I know, right?...

...she wants to 'take a break'. So she can work out how she feels about me (I know how I feel about her - I love her, and that's unlikely to be changing at all, ever) now that I'm basically a loser. Although I fail to see what I could have done differently! I tried as hard as I could, on a course I didn't even like, so that I could get a job that I wasn't sure that I wanted, to get a little financial stability for myself so I could press on with my - our - life! WHAT ELSE COULD I HAVE DONE?!

My dad found me crying in my room about ten minutes later. He didn't know what to do except make me a jacket potato, which he did. My mother then came in and wasn't helpful for a while, and then she went to play in the orchestra she plays in on Tuesdays, because I told her to. Music is important, I told her, but I also wanted to be left alone.

For the first time since I left university the first time around, I'm unemployed, broke, and (temporarily) single. And yet I tried as hard as I could. Well, there's a important lesson somewhere in here. I just wish I knew what it was.

Oh, yes.

Never try.


Anonymous said...

I'm sure things will work out with TD. I guess if you didn't really want the job, now's your chance to find something you really do want to do? Not really sure what to say here, so *hug* :)

richard cephalon said...

be advised that your mentors or ph.d. advisers can and do often fail you as the one seeking, needing, wanting, desiring guidance and, well, mentoring.

someone failed bigger than fuck if they did not tell you until the final end that you lacked certain qualifications. where the hell were they when they first realized this deficiency? why was not their first move one of bringing you in and beginning to sharpen your skill sets? how do they shave in the morning, looking at themselves in the mirror, knowing that they have not only failed their sacred duties, but have nearly destroyed a human being?

i went to ph.d. school in a science. my major adviser waited until i had collected my data, and then filed a National Science Foundation grant proposal claiming that his research group of scientists from europe had done all of the work i did. my name as the originator of the study, as the collector of data, as the statistician, my name never appeared in his 30-page document.

long story short, the university threatened to sue me for theft of university property if i refused to turn my data over to him. i had no choice...

several years later i started another ph.d. program at another university. with an honest faculty behind me i did quite well.

i am so sorry this has happened to you. it has little to do with you not really wanting to work in that profession...

Innocent Loverboy said...

Thanks for the support, Richard. It really sucks that that happened to you, especially since you effectively did the work that he stole - and on a Ph.D., as well. As a person who's done both a BA (Hons) and DipHE so far, I can guess how awful that might be at said levels - but for a Ph.D., that's scandalous.

Since I don't particularly want to do the profession, I probably won't go for the same course at another university. This is the third university I've been to so far and I'm hardly going for a record.

Tania: I'm hoping things will calm down with TD and we'll have some sort of reconciliation. These things often do that after a while. I'm not going to antagonise her any further by contacting her before her set date. But, as you can tell, I'm more upset about this than I am about failing the course!

To both, the main problem is what I do for a job now. I had a part-time job planned, but that was hinged on being available in Oxford and, particularly, to TD's lovely mother, who was the job link, as it were. Now, evidently, that's not really an option., So couple the fact that I've no idea what I want to do with the fact that the jobs market, especially in places like London, is as it is at the moment, and we have a dilemma...

misspiggy said...

So sorry things are rubbish at the moment. You never know what you may fall into career wise that could be just right for you - at least now your options are open, and you're not trapped in a job path that's wrong for you. Lots of people have a very varied path to career satisfaction, there is no easy route for most of us.

re the TD situation - if it's relevant, before I was settled and happy in my career, I got very jumpy indeed when boyfriends didn't seem to have all their career moves mapped out. Projection or something probably...

Please take time to do things that are for YOU alone, and in the unlikely event that things don't work out with TD, it's very much her loss. If all else fails, teaching English overseas is a good one for getting a change of scene and throwing yourself into something absorbing and rewarding?

Mister M said...

Sorry to hear things have turned a bit brown and smelly for you ILB but I'm sure it'll work out for the best in the end.

There's lots of sound advice here and I'd echo what the lovely Tania has said - take time to think about what you really want to do and go for it. TD will come 'round (won't you TD?)

Innocent Loverboy said...

Piggy: Thanks. I tried to teach English overseas - I minored in Japanese at university (first time 'round), and applied to JET and GEOS at various points (JET twice) to see if I could do the teaching-English-in-Japan thing, but alas, I didn't make it further than the interview stage. Not sure if I'd like to leave the UK at the moment anyway, following my realisation that I wouldn't be heading to Japan (or anywhere else) any time soon, I set about carving myself a niche here - besides, all my friends are here too! And how would I cope without my loved one?

Mister M: Thanks to you too.

In reference to what both of you have said, I don't really know what career path I want (Mentor #3 asked me this question, and I reeled off jobs like singer, stand-up, dancer, actor, writer, Justice League secretary, ahem...). I'm meant to be using these days to think long and hard about it, so I'm thinking. Seriously.

Scarlet said...

I'm really sorry hon that you're having such a sucky time :(. As far as finding a "career" goes, I still don't know what I actually want to do, and I've been in my job for 6 years! You'll find the path that is right for you soon enough.

With regards to being on a break... Hopefully that's all it is, I know I shall keep my fingers crossed for you.

Innocent Loverboy said...

Thanks, Scarlet. I should start looking for jobs at some point; I've made some tentative prods, actually, but may not throw myself in until next week when I've a) had adequate rest, and b) know what the status of my diploma might be.

Miss Deanna said...

I'm so sorry to hear that your mentors have been crap. If you don't want the job then maybe it is for the best, but it's never good to fail something because of someone else's incompetence!

Regarding TD - she obviously still loves you or she would have broken up rather than going on a break. Speaking from experience though it takes two to tango and you need to think about why she's upset otherwise the break won't work. If I were you, I'd try to sort some things out so that when she gets back to you you can wow her with the new improved ILB!

Good luck hun with everything - we're all rooting for you!

Innocent Loverboy said...

Thanks, Deanna. Don't worry, the new improved ILB is just around the corner... although, from the looks of things, it's just like the old ILB, except having had the courage to shift this dead weight of a terrible course from around his neck. Ammounts to pretty much the same thing, in the end!

ladypandorah said...

Eugh, I can't believe how awful your mentors seem to have been. I very much sympathise with you, ILB. This is simply not what anyone wants or needs, these two major complications at the same time.

Hopefully, as a few people have already considered, once things have been allowed to settle themselves, TD and yourself can get talking over some more positive aspects.

I get your frustration, and wish that things get back on the more-or-less right track soon.

LP xxx