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.
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.