When I found myself single at the age of 42 and sitting alone in front of the TV every night, I started thinking about what I really wanted to do for the next 40 years or so. I no longer had the security of a life partner and suddenly I had freedom of choice that I hadn’t had for most of my life. It was as daunting a decision at 42 as it had been at 17 when I finished year 12 and had to choose between university or leaving home. I left home.
That’s when it hit me, I had a second chance at life; this time I could actually do what I wanted to do, and if I chose to study it could be what I wanted. It was then I started noticing advertisements for Open Universities on television and it seemed to be divine timing of some sort. With some help from a student adviser over the phone, I signed up to study for a Bachelor of Arts degree and ended up doing a double major of Literature & Composition; and Communications. I did it all through the safety of online learning, where my PTSD doesn’t effect anything. I knew if I had to go on campus it would never happen and I didn’t want anything to stop me. Not this time. Never again.
At first I used it as a distraction from what I saw as the nothingness of my life; when I was studying I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself, I didn’t have time. I hadn’t studied since I was 17. That’s a 25 year gap. It was incredibly difficult to do but the best incentive in the world for me was the negativity I listened to for years; I wanted to prove that I wasn’t stupid, or good for nothing, or a waste of space, or air or effort. So really, I started studying for spite.
I have many years of memories of belittling behaviour, derision, contempt, lack of respect and absolute subservience to refer to whenever I started to think I wouldn’t make it through my degree. And there were many times when I thought it was too hard, but I kept reminding myself of why I needed to keep going. After a while I actually was studying because I wanted to secure a better future for myself, it had nothing to do with spite and nobody else was responsible.
In August this year I went to Brisbane where I walked across the stage and received my degree with other graduates and it actually sunk in. I did it. Somewhere along the way I forgot to care that I was single, I was too busy studying. I stopped worrying about paying my bills because I knew I had them covered, and started worrying about essays and referencing and learning. It was a lifeline I didn’t think it would be. I’m so grateful that I have had the opportunity to go to University, even if I have never actually set foot on a campus. Nothing is impossible if you really want it and are ready to work for it.
It’s a whole new game now, I am a survivor and a university graduate.
Take care, stay safe