I am a sixty year old mother of three and grandmother of five. You don’t get to my age without having made a few wrong decisions and I’ve made my share. But along the way, there have been a some right ones too and sometimes a decision turns out to be so very right that you just can’t believe your luck.
That’s how I felt when, after many years working in HR, training and health & safety for an international energy company, I took voluntary redundancy with the intention of finding a part time role where I would no longer have to drive thousands of miles a year. I allowed myself a bit of breathing space and the job never happened because one morning my daughter, a college lecturer, suggested that I could possibly think about a “course in something”. That afternoon I mailed The University of Worcester – just an enquiry; a vague notion that there might be something to interest me. The reply was almost immediate. It was already August and too late to bother with UCAS so I should send a CV and personal statement, it said. Five days later, the day before my fifty-seventh birthday, I was interviewed and offered a place there and then. It was that quick. I was in shock. I called my daughter. “They’ve offered me a place,” I said, tears running down my face. “I can’t believe it. I never thought they would take me.”
“I never thought they wouldn’t,” she replied.
Always one to analyse decisions, deliberate the pros and cons, and make plans for ‘just in case”, I can barely believe that not for a single moment did I have a any doubts about this; not once did I question what I was doing. It was as if I had been biding my time; waiting for this moment. Three weeks later I was a full time mature student – a fresher on the Bachelor of Arts degree course studying English language with Creative & Professional Writing.
During the first weekend an intensive writing retreat was held. Oh, how I enjoyed it, every moment. It’s hard to describe something as the best ever because that somehow diminishes the importance of the rest. Nevertheless, this weekend was up there with the best. It confirmed, gloriously, that I had made the right decision in deciding to commit the next three years of my life to studying.
I was, by a good many years, the oldest on my course and friends asked how I ‘got on’ with the young students, some young enough to be my grandchildren. I told them that I got along fine; they were like any other group of people, some I liked a lot, others I had less to do with. When we were struggling with an assignment or waiting for our grades, we were all in the same boat and I was just one of them. At first there was some mild bemusement, but if thought it strange that someone my age should decide to join them, they never said.
Three years later, each time I drove through the university entrance I still felt lifted by the sheer wonderfulness of having been granted such a fabulous opportunity. I discovered a drive and focus I didn’t know I had and my hard work was rewarded not once, but twice with scholarships for £1,000 each for Outstanding academic achievement. But the best part was when, in 2016, I graduated at the wonderful Worcester Cathedral with a joint First Class B.A. (hons.).
As a student my income was tiny compared to what I used to earn and given that my husband, several years older than me, had just retired, spending inevitably had to be curtailed but new clothes, once bought with barely a thought, no longer mattered. Indulgent holidays, regular spa breaks, my passion for beautiful shoes all gave way to …what? Well, nothing really because the somewhat startling truth was, that for those three years, I no longer needed any of those things. Content and fulfilled in a way that I had never before been, I was, and remain, a different person.