Many of you may know that in 2015 I dropped out of university for the second time in my life. If you don’t know the story, you can read it here (my university story) and I’ll be referring to it in this post, too.
For those of you who may be interested, here is how I came to the decision to start studying again.
My brief uni experience before:
- Moved away for uni in 2013, dropped out after panic attacks in the first week and returned home
- Went back in 2014, but studied at a local uni and stayed at home; studied Psychology with Criminology
- Around Christmas time I doubted the uni and course
- Chose to see the year through to get my 120 credits and certificate
- I was lonely; I didn’t have any real friends
- I felt bored
- I felt like I was pushing myself up a hill without any purpose
- I just wanted to write
- Considered switching course to English and Creative Writing, but didn’t.
Something about jumping onto another course, switching paths yet again, just didn’t sit right with me…
I felt pressure to decide something once again. That once again, I had made a misstep with university and needed to right a wrong.
But it wasn’t a wrong I was ready to right.
I didn’t want to try my hand at university for the third year in a row. It felt like I was taking a step, saying “whoops not that way”, then taking another step, and being like “whoops wrong again”, and then I just wasn’t prepared to take yet another step and have that potentially be the wrong thing, too.
I was exhausted from thinking about how to make university work for me when it seemed like a losing battle.
If you ask me now if I have any regrets about this whole issue, I say no. Questions, ifs, buts, and maybes – yeah. But no regrets.
My only rumination about it now is this: If only I’d chosen to study at my local uni the first time around. If only I’d chosen to study English and Creative Writing the first time around. Maybe, just maybe, I’d be a graduate now…
But there’s no way for me to know the answer to that.
In a way, I see the 4.5 years since 2015 as an extended “Gap Year“. A time to get to know myself outside of formal education. A time to explore, create, love, be free, and discover.
This breathing space was what I needed, even if I didn’t know that that was what I was doing at the time.
You see, when I dropped out that second time, I thought, “I’ll take another route to become a famous writer. I’ll write and read and publish; I’ll find a job without a degree in the meantime and just keep going towards my dream.”
This wasn’t wrong. It was true and what I intended to do; it was a good plan.
But I see it now as simply a time to try my hand at many things. To see what I could do, who I could be, without having an authority figure tell me what to do. Because yeah, essentially, teachers and examiners do expect certain things from you. At this level of study, you are freer to do what you want, but you do have to follow a rulebook.
This “gap year” was my chance to be free from a rulebook for once. To see who Siana was, and what she could do, when facing a blank page.
Who I am
As I say, the time away from university was very much about self-discovery and confidence. In school, I was an anxious, depressed, unsure girl. At uni those two times, I was just as fragile. Just as uncertain.
But now, I’m so much stronger, braver, more confident, resilient, and self-assured.
I feel like I know myself a lot more now, and going on that journey outside of education is hard but very important. You see, for some people (if they’re not careful), formal education can make them grow up quite sheltered from the real world. Thinking that things are easy, scripted, and linear.
Life is not that way at all. And so, I think that taking time away before studying has (and will) help me to see from a different perspective and be ready for the world in ways sheltered graduates at 21 wouldn’t necessarily be.
The only thing left to answer is why now? Why 4.5 years later? Why at this point in my life at 24 years of age?
I feel ready now…
Being the anal overthinker that I am, I backtracked over the 4 and a half years since and listed what I did in that time.
In 2015, I was fresh out, and so that was my 6 months of adjustment. In 2016, I became the Mental Health advocate that I am today; publishing my first self-help book, doing speaking events, blogs and YouTube. This was when I became more serious about marketing my published works and writing as a professional. I also began travelling in 2016.
2017 was a weird one, but I got my first full-time writing office job. I also went to Africa and France. 2018 was all about freelancing, as I went self-employed in Feb of that year. It was a great year for writing professionally, alongside discovering myself and growing. I read unlike I ever had before. And with my partner, we travelled to Italy, Portugal, and the Netherlands. Best year for holidays!
But 2019…this has been a…transitional year…
2015 = Adjust to real world
2016 = Mental Health community
2017 = Real professional writing job
2018 = Freelancing career & travelling
2019 = Rediscovering what I want and need
The only good thing from 2019 has been my amazingly focused writing. I’ve written so much this year! I mean, in 2018 I wrote two middle-grade fantasy novels (both in around 1-2 months). But this year was a heavy content publishing year.
My site filled up so fast!
The reason for this is because after I lost clients and started to define my niche and find the right people, I was given a lot of free time. I started to read a lot, learn a lot, and self-explore and grow.
At the time, I was happy and going along with it while crying and praying for clients so that I could earn again. But now, I realise it was about something else…
Preparing me for this next step.
Writing thousands of words a day, teaching myself things, taking that information and then sharing it with others, was the practice I needed to study again.
Learning how to be self-motivated, dedicated, focused and disciplined despite not having any real routine or deadlines or boss/teachers, has proven to me that I can study again. Last year, or the years before, I’m not so sure I could have.
I was a different person then…
Now, I know how to handle my anxiety and depression in ways I couldn’t back then.
I know a lot more about myself and I’m semi-confident in that person.
I know what my interests are, strengths are, weaknesses, insecurities, emotions and the like and how to work on them.
I’m not afraid to study English due to the volume of books I have to read for the course. I’m not afraid that I’m “just a fantasy writer who can’t write anything else.”
I know that I’m self-motivated and disciplined. I know more about my craft and the industry; I feel like it’s where I belong and I’m excited to learn more and grow with the help of a university.
I’m 25 next year and so I think it’s about time I stopped living with uncertainty and had some solid foundations to stand on for once.
(I don’t consider the time I’ve spent away from education as “drifting” – as one relative once put it. Drifting gives the impression that it was aimless, but it wasn’t. I knew what I wanted, I just tried to find another path to getting it. Now, this is me choosing yet another potential path to getting to still the same goal.)
I’m not ashamed to admit, though it’s a sad truth, that having a degree can help you in life. I accept that and it’s simply time that I get one to help me and my family be secure, even before I’m a published author selling books for a living.
Why do this?
- Confidence (I feel insecure about my intelligence, writing ability and lack of a degree sometimes)
- Hone my writing craft
- Credibility and qualifications that I may need
- Security blanket, plan B, and safety if the published author plan doesn’t work out in the foreseeable future
- Just to try my hand at something new and see if it works…
Oh, and I won’t be doing it in a conventional way, of course! I’m studying with the Open University part-time distance learning. This provides the flexibility and freedom that I think I need with this next chapter.
Let’s see what it brings…
Wish me luck!
(With being busy studying, I may not be uploading as frequently as I used to on my platform. We’ll see how it goes, but I thank you for your patience in advance!)