This is the first September in my conscious existence that I was not terrified of. Oh, I wasn't looking forward to the end of summer, as it only brings closer the onset of sludge - the weather phenomenon prevalent in Small Country for most of the time between late October and early May. (We very rarely get proper winters, which is a shame.) But for three years of college, and twelve years of school before it, and I suppose kindergarten as well, September was the month that I was forced back to school.
Not any longer.
I was mildly perplexed in high school about my contemporaries' lack of a plan. Twelfth grade was largely redundant, a bit of preparation for final exams and a lot of doing nothing. The faculty had no leverage whatsoever. In math class, we were clearly separated into those who were taking the national exam (A-level equivalent, I suppose) and those who weren't. In case of the latter, the teacher was beyond caring. I hadn't done a spot of homework all year, and while I made the token effort of attending, I spent most of the time talking to my friends down in the back of the class, or reading car magazines. I could not solve a twelfth-grade mathematical problem if my life depended on it. Yet I and others like me were given passing grades for no better reason than the teacher's desire to see as little of us as possible.
But at the end of the year came the national exams, and then college entrance. By this time I had been a part-time mainstream journalist for six or seven years (oh yes), and I was extremely good at English, so my department choices were fairly obvious. The choice of university... well, wasn't a choice, really. Only Posh Uni would do. My parents and my sister graduated from it, and it was the only one that was good enough for me. I could have a primary and secondary option, so because Small Country's language was not my mother tongue (in fact it's the worst of the three in which I am fluent), English came first and journalism second. I took the academic proficiency test for journalism, and by the time I went to the second part of the entrance exams - the personal interview - I knew I had gotten into English (best score that year, 85.5% - the test was designed so that the top end of the bunch would just barely hit 80%), and I just wanted to see if I was good enough to make the free-tuition cut on my second choice. And I said so at the interview. Even then I made the cut, although some lucky person got my spot.
After three years of getting by on charm (OK, not charm - but I impressed enough of the lecturers), I made a token effort on the final thesis and got my Bachelor of Arts. The idea was for us three-years to go on for a Master's, but I was sick of academia and didn't want to commit to a research paper; and the other option, an applied MA in translation, was not worth two years of my life. I do not speak Small Language well enough to make it into the EU interpretation corps, and I have done enough freelancing to be disgusted by the profession. The translator/interpreter is one of those people - like journalists - whom employers in this part of the world treat as absolute shit.
So I'm pretty happy with my technical desk job at a software house, thank you. And when people wonder why I didn't stay in school, with my potential - I just shrug. It's September, and for the first time in my life, I'm doing just fine.
Those dying generations
3 weeks ago