Monday, 14 November 2016

What Education Means To Me

I remember the first seminar. Open University. I was 28 and wondering what on earth I was doing in this dingy old classroom. About seven other people sat there, all men. Some younger, some older. It was in a school in the centre of Liverpool - the OU hire their classrooms. Six seminars per year. Six precious two hour sessions. The rest of the year was spent learning in almost complete isolation save for a few Facebook groups and the odd email.

I had straightened my hair and was wearing make-up. Nervous. What on earth was I doing? Me. Silly me.

Getting ideas above my station.

Six years later, a first class degree and doing a masters, things have changed. So much. I am almost unrecognisable from that young, slightly embarrassed girl. It was like being stood at the foot of a mountain and now I am looking back, stood above -  waving. Smiling and waving. Telling her she can do it, not to be so nervous, to be bold, brave, intelligent and hardworking. To follow that almost nightly recurring dream.

I'd also tell her not to wear so much damn make-up.

You see, education is everything to me now.

I have one seminar a week and spend every spare moment I can reading. I do have three children and I do work, and sometimes it is a fight and a struggle to get to my books - but I make it. I manage well. I'm not afraid of saying that I manage well anymore. That's a nod to that journey from the foot of the mountain.

You see, I do manage everything well. Constantly juggling and trying to not drop plates. Sometimes I fail. I struggle to get in doors and I trip up, get tangled in my bag and headphone wires on the bus and there is an argument with the teenager almost every night. The two younger girls peck my head and work can be busy - you might think what on earth is she doing? But it's perfectly OK.

Education underpins everything that I do. It is both my crutch and my passion. After I leave the class, I am excited, confident, happy - I am ready to face the new week ahead. I want to read more, absorb more, I want to question everything and sit and just think about the world around me. Most of all I want to pass it on and I want to explain how important it is to be educated. And to educate.

In a rare moment that the teenager wants to talk, we discuss history, politics. We talk about homelessness, current affairs, Donald Trump, feminism. I cuddle with the two younger girls and we watch Horrible Histories. I read them their bedtime stories with a fresh voice. A voice I did not know I had. I tell them they are strong, intelligent and that they can do anything that they put their mind to.

Education has given me all of this. 

I often think of that silly girl stood at the bottom of the mountain - and her recurring dream of educating herself. I often wonder what would have happened had she not took that first step. That huge, frightening step. Make-up to cover her blushes and her own hands squeezed tightly together with nerves.

I find myself telling others You can do it. 

Because if you want to - you can you know.


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