tatjna (tatjna) wrote,

On why I don't identify as an academic. Warning, navel gazing

In response to a couple of comments in my post yesterday, I went and had a look at available scholarships. Don't worry folks, I'm not planning to rush back to uni in a burst of misguided enthusiasm, I'm pretty dedicated to my year of mental slacking - but I want to complete postgrad and change the world and it hadn't occurred to me that good marks would do anything other than give me bragging rights on the internet. So I went and had a look.

I found three that I figured I was eligible for - many of them specify topics other than mine, and others are for people from particular places, then there's those that are only for Masters or PhD stuff. But yeah. There's this one, for people from Northland. There's this one, for any Vic graduate with a GPA of over 8 (mine is), that pays all fees for an Honours or Masters degree. Then there's this one, which is for women over 35 who want to change career. And in pie-in-the-sky thinking, there's also this one which I'm eligible for if I kept up my current record through Honours, which would give me a full ride to Cambridge.

At which point I had a minor meltdown.

I don't think I'm that clever.

Yes, I know, y'all think I'm smart and all, and I am probably being silly (why is tieke berating me from my shoulder right now?), but there you have it.

It's not as if I've been told I'm stupid all my life, quite the opposite. I was in a gifted programme for most of my childhood, and my folks sacrificed a lot of their time (cos they had no money) helping my brother and me make the most of the brains we had - not teaching us stuff per se, but teaching us how to be into stuff in a way that we learned it ourselves. We learned how to be interested, and how to learn, and that's great.

Even my abusive ex used to call me his walking dictionary and brag to people about how smart I am.

So yes, I realise this is not an objective viewpoint I have, and if only I could push the Big Green Button Of Objectivity on myself, it'd be all good right? Mostly I can. But when faced with that Cambridge scholarship thing yesterday, it wasn't my fantastic marks that was in my mind.

It was all the stupid decisions I've made in my life. How can someone who's smart enough to apply for Cambridge scholarships do things like [Stuff about abuse]end up taking years of physical, emotional and sexual abuse from someone who is so obviously a loser, instead of blowing them off right at the start? , or drop out of university to go break in horses and spend the next 15 years doing casual work in shearing gangs and on farms while my peers all got PhDs and careers? How could someone with such a serviceable brain take until she's nearly 40 to find something she's passionate enough about to make it worth the discipline required to go through tertiary education?

"You can do anything you want." they said. To which I replied "I want to be a farmer."
"Oh," they said, "We didn't mean that. We meant anything like being a doctor or a laywer. You can't be a farmer because you're a poor girl from a townie background."
"In that case," I said, "I don't want to do anything."

And so it was, for the next 20 years. Now I find myself in a completely different world, one where everyone else around me (again with the lack of objectivity) has already done what I'm still working up to, including two people with PhDs from Cambridge and one from Berkeley.

Aside: I know I sound like some kind of educational snob here, but what I'm getting at is that of my closest circle of friends I am the least qualified, having only just completed an undergraduate degree. Everyone I'm close to has achieved what I am trying to do already, and most of them years ago. Because they all made good decisions earlier on.

The final thing is that I don't talk like an educated person. My tutors have almost without fail commented on how I communicate in plain English, and they say it's a good thing. I totally get that - communication is one of the things I used to teach - but the fact is, when someone I know says something really intelligent sounding and I have to work at it to figure out what they mean, I feel uneducated because I don't just know straight away. I have to go through it word by word and make the connections in my head. And then I go "Oh, you mean how are burn festivals relevant in practical ways in the rest of our lives? (or whatever) Gotcha." And the fact that I have to do that and then turn it into simple phrases to understand it makes me feel the opposite of smart.

So anyway, the upshot of this is that my identity has never included 'scholarship to Cambridge material'. And being faced with that as even a remote possibility is something I'm finding a bit overwhelming. Yes, Cambridge has a Criminology department. I've no idea if it's any good. But that's kind of not the point, since the idea of studying postgrad overseas has never been anything but a thought experiment for me. The point is that Cambridge is for those people, over there. Classy people. Not me. I'm a sheep shearer that happens to be articulate (and now with QUALIFICATIONS!) and has spent many hours thinking about stuff while cutting shit off sheeps' arses. That's all.

I know a few people who are probably able to identify with some of this, and I know at least one who's overcome it. I know someone who'll tell me I'm being silly and that I should just crush that self-doubt like a bug because it's not useful to me, and tieke is still sitting on my shoulder rolling her eyes and going BUT U R RONG, SILLY!

But I think slowly, and it's probably just a matter of time before I properly assimilate this into my identity. Meanwhile, every time I think about the possibility of applying for that scholarship, I cry because I can't quite believe that about myself and changing your identity is hard. Luckily, I have at least three years before I'd have to think about it seriously.

Meanwhile, kittens!

Tags: sheep shearer not academic, study, working class leftovers
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