My Masters and Me

I’ve done it. After three long years I finally have the result I’ve been waiting for – a Masters of Education in Teaching and Learning in the Performing Arts (Dance) from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

My life has changed irrevocably since I first applied for this course, attended interview and got my place and there have been both physical and mental challenges along the way…

Just before I was offered my place life as I knew it came crashing down around me. I went from what I considered the happiest years of my life, to the hardest, in the blink of an eye, and the thought of taking up a place to study at that time felt like just too big a mountain to climb. But, after some encouragement and the knowledge from previous difficult spells that I would need something to take my mind of the rapidly descending dark cloud, I accepted and in September 2015 set off on a learning journey which would show me just how strong I am.

The course combined two of my great passions: education and dance, and provided me with an opportunity to take a big step forward towards a career in lecturing. And I am a geek at heart. I love studying. So the course gave me something to hold onto, something to do while I struggled on in a new life not of my own choosing. But you can only hide behind the books and the essays and the dance classes for so long. There were challenges along the way I just couldn’t face like online tutorials.

I don’t ‘Skype’. It’s one of those odd things that my anxiety just can’t cope with. I’m not great on the phone but at least you are hidden from view. The thought of being visible and heard on screen is just too much. I realise this is nonsensical as you spend most of your life being both seen and heard but something about that online environment and letting someone into your private world brings out the sweaty palms and rapid breathing of panic inside me. And so I didn’t do them. I always caught up (the geek in me made me) by reading the notes and watching the clips back but I was never actively involved.

The University wanted us to have ‘Action Learning Sets’ where we met regularly with other students but I was trying so hard just to hold it together for the weekend sessions that I was worried forcing more social interaction would break me completely. I know it distanced me from my peers but it was self-preservation. Sometimes the weekend sessions were too much as well. On occasion I knew pretty early on that it would be too much, early enough to tell people I couldn’t make it but there were days when I would plan to go, I would force myself up, get ready to leave and then be unable to leave the flat; like physically incapable of opening the front door without suffering a full-blown panic attack.

And I struggle with feelings of inadequacy….a lot. I know it’s wrong and I am working hard to change it but I constantly worry people won’t like me and then agonise over why that might be. One person on my course made me feel so bad about myself through her actions that I just stopped attending all together. Thankfully, I had an understanding tutor who met with me one-to-one in Edinburgh to explain things and I kept up with everything I needed to via the online portal. But it’s been tough. Thankfully amongst it all my mental health has improved dramatically, I got a great new job and I had a successful operation on a foot injury all of which made the final year of the course a little easier.

Through the worst time in my life I managed to get a Masters. I am stronger than I thought possible.

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