June 2011

The next few months are going to be ferociously busy, chaotic, and extremely stressful. I promised myself this weekend at least, to relax, to not do very much, and to just generally chill, but I’m finding that very difficult to do, and more to the point, not good for me. Its like I can feel the grasping tentacles of depression underneath me, waiting to grab me, suck me down into another cycle of depression (which I’ve avoided since last September, primarily because of college) – and the best way to sidestep those grasping tentacles is to keep putting one step in front of the other; to keep walking, and not to lose the momentum I’ve built up.

Obviously with the impending move there’re a number of things that have to be done in association with that, from obvious stuff like finding somewhere to live down there, packing, move notifications and so on, through to more obscure stuff like sorting through things, trying to pare down some of the stuff we’ve got. The house has to be given a really good clean before I can hand back the keys, and of course I’ve got to hand in our notice to our current landlords, as well as getting the garden looking decent. There’s basic housekeeping stuff to be done on the computer – such as sorting out the thousands of photos I’ve got, the websites I’ve bookmarked, and my directory structure on my hard drive, all in preparation for next year, because once my degree kicks in, I won’t have time for all that. I also expect (and hope), once I’ve gotten my place officially confirmed (around mid-July to mid-August) to receive a book list from the University for the books needed for next year. Any reading I can do ahead of the start of the course is only going to benefit me in the long run, as well as giving me some indication of what we’re going to be covering. I know the first year takes the long view, covering history in large sweeps of time, from the Anglo-Saxons through to modern day, from English history through to foreign countries, but other than that… no idea. Its exciting and nervous all at the same time!

I also have to sort out finance: not so much student finance, that’s all in hand, but DSA – Disabled Student’s Allowance. This is what pays for my notetakers/interpreters at Uni, and I think I have to have an assessment for it. Its one of those bureaucratic things that can go badly awry if you don’t get it handled right, so I have to hope that it does. I’m waiting on a letter from the doc now (confirming that I do indeed have Diabetes and IBS – this is down purely so that its on my records in the case of problems during an exam), so once I get that, sometime next week, I can get the DSA application in the post and hopefully kick things off with that.

There’s other stuff that needs to be done too, though. Firstly: I need to get my diabetes back under control… badly. With college work taking over everything, I’ve let things slip and slide over the last year and its showing on my waistline. I also need to work on coping mechanisms for keeping healthy eating patterns going when I go back to uni and studying, because my health cannot afford for me to continue the way I have been doing for the last 10 months. At the moment, I’m deliberately overdoing the sugar and rubbish, to make my body feel as awful as it can. I know it sounds counterproductive, but I’ve done this before (and its how I quit smoking, by the way: I chain smoked till I felt sick, went and had a sleep, then got up and didn’t smoke any more) and it seems to work to provide the initial impetus: the idea is that once you give your body healthy foods, its craving the vitamins and minerals and good stuff that it all just tastes fabby. The hardest part of any change in eating patterns is the first four weeks, especially when you switch to a low-carb diet, as your body craves the get-energy-quick-fix that it’s used to having, and it leaves you feeling distinctly grumpy. This is why I OD the way I do: it provides the incentive to get through that 4 week period, because after that, I start to feel absolutely bloomin fantastic, thankyouverymuch – I suddenly have zonks of energy, look and feel cleaner and purer (inside, I mean, not talking about hygiene!) and just generally all round bubblier. And with the impending move, that’s something I’m going to need, very badly.

Secondly: once we’ve moved there are things that need to be sorted out, ideally before I start at Uni on 3rd October. Some are obvious – registering with a new doctor, dentist, opticians, finding a new library, finding new shops, and so on. Some are more personal. We’re hoping to get a little 2 bed house, so that we can have visitors to stay. If we’re lucky enough to get that then we need to put some effort into finding suitable furniture for the second bedroom, as well as a second desk – at the moment, Michiel and I share a desk, and while that’s been okay for the last few years (its a big desk) and we certainly don’t have any space to put another one here, once we move I am going to want my own space for studying. We need to find new services too – such as a new internet provider, sort out the new house and unpack stuff and start to learn our way around Leicester. Its exciting and nerve wracking all at the same time. I just hope and pray that we’re doing the right thing with all this.

Whichever way you look at it, there’s a lot that needs doing, and if I allow myself to think about it all at once I rapidly start to feel very panicky. Up till now I’ve been able to tell myself “think about it when college is over” and mentally put it to one side. I can’t do that any more… and I don’t know whether its providence or what, but having something like this to do over the summer period is what I need to sidestep those grasping tentacles of depression. I just hope it doesn’t get beyond my ability to cope with – its not for nothing that they say a house move is one of the most stressful things you have to cope with in life….

But for now, for the weekend, I’m chillin’ out, baby. I’ve some books from the library (no history books!) that I can race through over the weekend. A college classmate (who’s become a good friend) has lent me a DVD, “The Notebook” so I’m looking forward to watching that. Mum lent me “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I”, and while I saw it when I was staying with her, Michiel hasn’t, so I have to watch it again. (oh *dear*(!)). She also lent me “The King’s Speech”, and I have a book on that too, from the library, so that ties in nicely. I’ve some DVDs I’ve bought/given to me as presents, but never watched: “Atonement”, “Cloverfield”, “Torchwood” (the boxed set), and of course, Torchwood: Miracle Day is on the box over the summer. (YAY! Captain Jack Harkness: purrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr), and some stuff on the PVR which I recorded ages ago and never got round to watching, all of which I’m really looking forward to. Come Monday I start the one-foot-in-front-of-the-other-thing again, sidestepping those tentacles and working to pack up this part of my life in preparation for a new life in Leicester.

Well.. its over. the Fat Lady has well and truly squawked her last…. Until October, anyway.

I took the last exam this morning, the Neo-Assyrian exam, although I didn’t need to. I got into a stubborn mindset and wanted to complete the lot (although I do feel a tad sorry for our very stressed-out-looking teacher, handing him marking he didn’t technically need to do). I’m still waiting on some results: the Neo-Assyrian and Early Empire exams from this morning and last monday, and the results of my Independent Research Project (the disability one I’ve posted here) and the core development module (which involves putting together CVs n stuff like that), but I know I’ve passed those two, and really, at this point, the grades for them are almost irrelevant. I’ve passed the course. I’ve got the credits needed to get into Leicester Uni for the next stage. That’s all that’s relevant. (except a little matter of pride, which wanted distinctions across my whole certificate.. and I’ve got that, which I am so pleased about. And if I get distinctions for the remaining marks.. I’ll be almost happy. (Is it bad that I so want to go back and redo that first essay, to get the Merits pushed up to distinctions, so that I get distinctions across the board? it is? oh. um. well.. I’ll shut up then. But I do. Sorry. Can’t help it.)

Right now though.. I’m feeling kind of sad. I enjoyed the studying. Someone left a comment on my blog a few months ago about how I have to make the work my friend. I can’t remember who it was, but whoever it was, thank you, because you’re absolutely right. That’s what I’ve done, gone in there with the right mind set, made it my friend.. and now, like any friend who’s suddenly absent in your life, you find you’re missing it terribly.

I should be feeling exhilarated. After 10 long, intensive, hard months, I’ve achieved what I set out to achieve back in September: I’m going to uni in October, I feel prepared and ready and… I should be jumping for joy. But I’m not, not just because I’m going to miss the work, but because I have enjoyed being there so much: the work was at a level where I felt very comfortable with it, it was interesting, just challenging enough to keep me on my toes, but not so challenging that I was struggling uncomfortably. However, I was finding it easier and easier to absorb large chunks of information – by the time of the last exam I was doing just one day’s worth of preparation, and the last essay was written with just three day’s research. It showed – the essay definitely wasn’t as good as my previous efforts, and I said as much to the teacher (and apologised, but I had to focus on the exams instead, this was a few weeks ago) but she still gave me three distinctions for it. So I think, if I’m honest, at this point, I’m ready to go up to The Big School and start wearing long troosers.

What doesn’t help, is that I felt so comfortable there. I know I’ve said this in the last paragraph, but here I mean it differently. I felt so comfortable in the college building. There’s a nice little cafe in the entrance lobby (which is a gorgeous atrium), where you can buy decentish cheap (70p) coffee or have a proper meal, and its rare to find the tables all completely taken. I could get there at 8.15/8.30 and chill before class started at 9.15. It took a lot of pressure and stress off, in the morning, knowing that I had time and that provided the initial bus made it in, I could walk the rest of the way. The library was a good one, with lots of computers and a printer, which we had free use of, and a photocopier. You could buy office supplies from the libarian too, not too expensively. The whole set up was educational, but adult educational. I felt safe there, and with my background, where I was bullied at school, that’s important to me.

Leicester is a whole new quantity, and although I’ve been there once before, its still unknown. I don’t know where things are. I don’t know what the library is like. I have a whole new learning curve ahead of me, and new people to meet, and that makes me very very nervous. and that’s why I’m sad.. I’m losing my comfort zone.

I have been asked if I would like to return to the college in September for one day, on the induction day to act as a role model, someone who’s been there and done it, for new deaf students, and I’ve told them I’m more than happy to do that, provided it doesn’t clash with moving. I’m incredibly grateful to the college for all they’ve done for me: for the teachers, Kevin, Rachel, and Debi for being so damn inspirational and encouraging, for the notetakers, Eleanor, Georgie, Heena, Jenny and Julia, who have made this experience of education such a totally different one, and have enabled me to relax and not feel as though my deafness was impeding me for the first time in a very very long time (I love you guys. Can you come to Leicester with me?). For the rest of the staff, who’ve been patient with my deafness. I’m gonna miss you all. Thank you for all you’ve done.

Technically… my course has finished. We’ve finished the teaching part of the modules: we’re in the last few weeks now (officially the college year ends at the end of June) where things like last minute paperwork and the last few exams get done, and we all put our portfolios together.

That’s actually a lot easier said than done. I think I’ve explained on the education page about the make up of the course, but in a nutshell, to pass the course, you have to get 60 credits. Those credits are made up via a combination of coursework and exams, and you have to get a very specific combination of them in order to pass. And that’s the part that gives people headaches, trying to get to grips with it and making sure that the portfolios (which contain all our coursework/exams) contains all the various bits of paperwork that we all need.

But… the odd bit of paper apart, I got some results back this morning after sitting the Bronze Age Collapse exam. And those results were the final ones needed. We always do more modules than are actually required to pass the course – it means that if someone falls ill they can miss a module without massively affecting their grades – so despite the fact that I’ve still got some results to come back, I’m now in a position where I have the right number of credits, in the right proportions, to pass the course. And all at Distinction level, as well, which is what I wanted¹.

So, what’s it with the fat lady?

Well, I decided a while ago that even if I got the necessary credits to pass the course, I would not just flake out on the last few modules, but still take exams and put the necessary work in to at least pass the remaining assignments. My reasoning is this: we’ve been told that assignments for any modules that are superfluous to the actual granting of the diploma will still be listed on the back of the certificate, so I have a record that I have studied these subjects, even if the actual grade that I achieved on the subjects is not recorded. So for this reason, I’m continuing the study.. just for one more week (and, I suppose, secretly, deep down in the depths of my soul, part of me is whispering.. “but you enjoy it. that’s the real reason you want to carry on. you’re add-iccttt-eeeeedddd…).

So.. I ain’t singing. not just yet. Just two more exams to go. One on the Early Empire (“Discuss the role and character of one of the Emperors during the period 14-193. Assess the character of the chosen Emperor in relation to the available sources” – I’ll be covering Caligula) and one on the Neo-Assyrian Empire (“The Assyrian Empire was, on balance, a major contributor to the development of civilisation in the Near East. It ill deserves it’s reputation as a destructive force in world history”. To what extent would you agree with this statement?)… and then it really is over.

And I’ll be singing loud and clear!

¹ Although one of my early assignments gave a result of 2 merits and a Distinction, I now have enough other assignments to relegate that one to the pile of modules that won’t have the result recorded. Of all the ones where the grade is recorded, they will all be Distinctions.