It was my birthday earlier this month. I was 30 something. I have gone into the next bracket up on surveys. Which is a tad annoying as selecting the next category up creates more categories below which makes you older officially not just in years but in survey land. And also makes me wonder what I have achieved in all those years.

Well it was 20 years since doing my GCSE’s. I did worst at art, as I did in my A-Levels. Which is ironic as it was the only bloody one I cared about. Maybe it spurred me on to get a first in design at uni. Sometimes you can get complacent if you always do well in something, then forget to put the effort in and so do badly. For me it was the opposite – I had to prove the examiners I was creative, and eventually I did but it took a lot of effort. Our uni course (interactive design) was a minimum 5 day a week 10-8pm (most days) effort in order to get everything done. While other friends had jobs, I was there trying to get my head around HTML and Lingo which I really hated. I visited schools to user test my Nut Allergy CD and waited for the dial up tone at home in order to do online research & create simple websites. No two lectures a week for me. But no exams either. I haven’t done an exam since A-Level maths. I somehow fluked an A (ask anyone who was in my class – I didn’t ‘do’ maths) so I suppose that’s one way to bow out of exams.

I often wonder what the point of exams are. They seem to have nothing to do with real life. I don’t sit there reading books, writing essays then answering multiple choice on parenting. I just get on with it (ok I read one book and got a bit annoyed with it, opened another and gave it to charity – arse off Ms Ford). I honestly feel some people thrive in an exam environment and some don’t. I think coursework is much more relevant and I’m glad that’s what I did for my degree. After all a steady stream of work is what life is all about, not just 2 hours of hell. Unless there is a toddler tantrum occurring.

Now is it even worth doing a degree these days? I went to Hull & lived in a house with no central heating, 2 doors down from drug dealers, for £20 a week. I came out with hardly any loan and paid it back within a few years of graduating. Nowadays you can be paying £9k / year for fees plus living bringing the average to around £40k (someone in the know reckons anyway). At first this sounds horrific, but if you don’t earn much you never have to pay it back. The more you earn the more you pay back, a bit like tax. So maybe it’s not so bad after all – if you come out of uni with a highly paid job then paying back the loan is worth it as you wouldn’t have the well paid job if it wasn’t for the degree.

I will encourage my boys to go to uni. I’d advise them to take a year out as I believe the extra year helps you decide what to do, earn a few bob & mature & drink a bit. I would also try to make sure they did a course relevant to a real life job, therefore meaning no need to do post grad courses in order to get a career.

However, if they don’t want to go to uni that’s fine – just as long as they have some sort of plan. A greenhouse, some plants and lots of spaced out friends does not a plan make. I have a feeling, although I don’t feel like I’ve done much in my life, if I was to compare myself to those my age who are still cultivating & smoking their hippy plants, I may find that I have achieved more than I feel I have.

They may be more green fingered but I’ve got a blog. 2 non-green fingers up at those examiners and pesky survey making people – next time I may just pick another category for the sheer hell of it. That’ll serve them right for fuelling my mini mid life crisis.

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