September 29th 2020: First Day of Big School

I went to Big School today, as was lined out in my 30-b4-30 list.

As of yesterday, which I’m considering Day 0 of my MA in Journalism, I’ve become a student once more. For anyone who doesn’t know me, which will hopefully be most readers here, this is a big deal because I have a bit of a checkerboard relationship with third-level education.

I’m a two-time college drop out, one-time college graduate and, somehow, a one-year associate lecturer. I’ve spent almost every year of my life in some sort of education environment, either as a student, a lecturer, a workshop facilitator or a guest teacher, and when I finally graduated from my fourth attempt at college, I was pretty certain my studying days were behind me. As of today, Day 1 of MA in Journalism, that is no longer the case.

Yesterday, Day 0, orientation, felt like the beginning of the end. It was face-to-face and on-campus (a rarity in these COVID times) and I got to meet a number of lecturers and five of my classmates. Somehow, a one-hour orientation and a two-hour coffee (a social Knowing-Me-Knowing-You session among the students, gently encouraged by our course chairperson) resulted in a pounding headache, a stomachful of nausea, a three-hour nap and a whole heap of anxiety. I can’t explain how it happened, but the simple act of engaging with the idea of a return to education, a return to classmates and a whole new field of study, felt like too much for me.

Today, Day 1 of actual lectures, was better, although not at first. My first lecturer brought us the question, “Why are you here? What do you want out of this?” and that’s a tough one to swallow. While my peers were able to talk about their ambitions in the journalism industry, I scrambled to articulate that I want to teach and I need a Masters in order to do that. Probably not a very popular answer.

The truth is that I also enjoy the idea that I might be capable of a career in journalism; that I could be the one to break a big story that will lead to change for generations; that I might be able to expose some corrupt power and fight for minorities and write something that inspires equality across the board. I like that idea. I love that idea but I’m not sure if it’s reality.

This class also saw our first exercise where we were sent a press release for which we were supposed to then “turn copy” (lingo – ooh, ahh) within 20 minutes. I, with the leftovers of last night’s headache, nausea and mental cloudiness, hardly even attempted it. Fortunately, I didn’t get called out, which is merciful, but it truly shook my confidence. Will I be able for this? How will I work to such tight deadlines? How will I get used to peer critique? Honestly, I still don’t know.

Lunch came and helped rehabilitate me somewhat and then the next class was much better; in fact, it was enough to almost entirely clear my headache and nerves. The next class, my saviour class, was News Production: Radio. Did I mention I lectured in Radio Production last year? Well, I certainly didn’t in class anyway! I wouldn’t want my lovely lecturer to get any notions about what to expect from me. The lower the bar, the better. But the class did serve as a much-needed pick-me-up and for that, I am exceptionally grateful.

I still don’t know if I can do this. That’s the truth. It’s on my 30-b4-30 list but, although that’s an excellent motivator, it doesn’t actually empower me in any way to get it done. I’m going to try and I guess we’ll see.

Just in case I haven’t been clear, this blog is for me. It’s a digital diary and little more. It’s a space where, primarily, I will both document my personal, academic and professional endeavours and discuss my mental hygiene along the way. As someone who suffers/has suffered from both anxiety and depression, I understand the importance of engaging with the experiences of others.

What I’m trying to say is that, although this blog is aimed 100% at no one, hopefully someone will take comfort in knowing that I’m out here struggling too. Struggling, overcoming, struggling again… and so it continues.

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