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My name is Steve and I’m an autodidact…


This week, a significant event prompts a little self-congratulation...

When I was young, my father used to impress upon me the importance of getting a god education.  He would tell me, repeatedly, that if you were qualified to be a brain surgeon, you could choose to be a dustman but if all you were qualified to be was a dustman, well... you can see where that analogy is going.  It was well-meaning and helpful advice (albeit it a but harsh on dustmen) and, like every child given well-meaning and helpful advice from their parents, I completely ignored it.  Consequently, I wasted my time at school and, despite being a perfectly able (some said gifted) student, I left with barely an A-level to my name and went straight into the world of work.

I never regretted that, particularly, although if I had my time again I’d make some different decisions. But one thing my father’s advice seems to have left me with is a mania for learning. Once I’d escaped from school, I found that I quiet enjoyed learning things. For a few years, I would take various courses, alternating between a work-related topic and a topic studied purely for pleasure. I’ve studied law, Islamic art and architecture, creative writing, the history of the Byzantine Empire, Mandarin Chinese and business management, amongst other topics. 

However, after a while I started to become dissatisfied with year-long courses and decided to commit myself to a longer-term project, which is why I enrolled for a degree in history with the Open University.  This week, I completed my final exam: assuming I didn’t make a total pig of the exam itself, I’ll be awarded my degree in a few weeks - the culmination of five years’ work.

All the essays, all the reading, all the revision, all the pre-exam nerves - all of that is finished. And I feel... elated somehow, like a weight has been lifted. It’s particularly strange because I hadn’t even realised that the weight was there but now it’s gone. I thought that, when I finished the exam I’d feel sad that it was all over but I didn’t - I felt happy that I’d completed it. Not because I was fed up of doing it - I’ve enjoyed the process.  But happy because I had achieved something that I’d set out to do and, without wishing to break my arm patting myself on the back, I had done it all by myself. No one could do the study for me; no one could write the essays or do the revision or sit the exams on my behalf. It was all me.  

Regardless of whether I pass the exam or not, this week, I achieved a goal. In my work, I spend a lot of time trying to persuade people of the importance of setting goals and achieving them.  The thing I’ve forgotten to tell them is just how damned good it feels when you do it.  Now, what shall I study next...?

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