As a teenaged undergraduate, I lived in a world of blissful ignorance. Two or three lectures a day, a couple of essays to churn out each month, a handful of exams. No biggie. The rest of my life was spent mooching around and listening to UK indie.
Now, 30 years later, I’m set to do something I could never have even contemplated, let alone understood, at that time of my life. At the ripe old age of 47, and as a father of three small children, I’m off to university again.
That’s right, I’m about to become a mature-age student.
It wasn’t until I was well into my third year at university in the early 1990s that I actually ran into a mature-age student for the first time. It was almost embarrassing, like seeing your mum in a lecture theatre. Wasn’t uni supposed to be for young people?
God, I was ignorant. And pretty far up myself.
Needless to say, it was a miracle that I even managed to scrape through my BA (including an Honours year during which I wrote a hackneyed but well-meaning thesis), and it even more incredible when I was offered a position as a graduate trainee in a government department in Canberra the following year, meaning I could put my student days behind me, temporarily at least.
But it could not last. Within 12 months I’d quit my public service job, returned to Sydney and re-enrolled in the law degree I’d half-heartedly started while studying for my BA (don’t ask). One year later, I’d dropped out of uni entirely, and taken up work as a kitchen hand. This provided material for my first published short story but sod all else.
The rest, as they say, is pretty banal, and probably a tale best saved for some other time. But the short version is that after a series of part-time jobs I later got halfway through a Masters degree, before actually completing one on my second attempt. I then managed to get through a PhD as well, which was what led me to move to Sweden to undertake post-doctoral research.
I thought that would be it for me, but having recently become, in the infamous words of Joseph Furphy, ‘Unemployed at last!’, I thought I’d give it another whirl.
So, this coming September I’ll be doing it all over again. Only this time I’ll be studying by distance, meaning that I’ll be able to attend lectures from the comfort of my own living room, and engage in group conversations while still in my pyjamas.
There’s one catch, however: I will, at some stage, need to travel to the city in which the university is located in order to meet my fellow students. It’ll just be for a day or two, but I have to admit I’m slightly nervous about the whole thing.
I’ll be posting more about that prospect, as well as the course I’ve enrolled in, and the reading I’ve already completed (see how mature, and aged, I have become!) shortly.
But for now I just want to remind myself of the smart-arsed, know-it-all boy I once was, and hope that the students I meet this autumn will be more forgiving, or at least a little more mature, if not in years then at the very least in spirit.
Carpe per diem, magnum cum louder, and sidere mens eadem muchacho.