The O.U Diaries #2 – Mixed Feelings

Hey!

I haven’t kept up with this series as much as I’d like because, funnily enough, studying has taken up ALL of my free time. I’ve just finished my first full year of Level One study with the O.U. On Sunday night, I submitted my EMA (end of module assignment) and breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Honestly?

I’ve got mixed feelings about it.

AA100 is a multi-disciplinary course, and it’s a mandatory first step in my degree. I was pretty excited about it initially, because I liked the idea of learning about topics I would otherwise know nothing about. It covered art, history, philosophy, literature, music … the whole shebang. When the course materials arrived last year, I unboxed them (with the help of the kids) and felt overwhelmed and very happy. But the reality has been, at times, really tough.

It’s been a tough year for me personally. Shortly before I started studying, we had two big life changes in our house: I got a job, and my daughter started school. Everything felt a little ‘up in the air’, but I still just about managed to keep on top of studying. Until January when I got pleurisy, which I took an insanely long time to recover from, and then bad cold after bad cold, which I would normally bounce back from but couldn’t, because my immune system was so low. Then I got the worst UTI I’ve ever had in my life. (TMI?! Seriously though, I wouldn’t wish that UTI on my worst enemy). Essentially, illness + multiple rounds of antibiotics = hard times. My grades dropped at this point, along with my mental health.

Why am I sharing all this? Because life is like this sometimes. I don’t think it would be unfair to say that 2019 has been pretty challenging so far, and not just because of all the illness. But once you’ve committed to a degree, studying still has to be done. At the end of the day, whether you’re exhausted, or depressed, or sick, or anxious, or heartbroken, or overwhelmed – essays still have to be written. You still have to sit down and hit the books. If you’ve committed to this, then you’re in it. For better or worse.

Obviously, life isn’t always like this. But the reality is it can be. When you’re an adult returning to uni after a very long time, you’ve usually got many more responsibilities and worries. (Obviously this is a bit of a blanket statement. I know young/new adults have bucketloads of stresses too). There were times when I genuinely thought I wouldn’t cope.

I did, however, cope.

The O.U are pretty understanding when it comes to life events getting in the way of academic life – I got an extension with no problem, and there are student counselling services available. However, at some point, you have to try and catch up. The feeling of work snowballing is really horrible and stressful.

And this is where the multi-disciplinary problems come in. For me, I like music, I really do. But I don’t care about the technical aspects of musical composition. I’m glad other people do, but I don’t. It was SO hard when I was sick to sit down and attempt to care about this stuff. To pour my effort and time into something that a) doesn’t feel relevant to the degree I want to do and b) doesn’t help my life outside of studying, either. I had to force myself to do it. When I got to the sections that were relevant to my eventual degree – particularly the short stories – my passion flared up again, and I got the best mark I had for the whole year. It was a relief to get to that point, because I was starting to feel concerned that I just wasn’t enjoying studying anymore.

Those are my honest thoughts. I’m not moaning, just reflecting. Multi-disciplinary courses are not as easy as I thought they would be, and I’m so ready to move onto English Language studies in October. To have a bit of focus is just what I need. Others might find they really love the variety of AA100 – but I thought I’d write down my thoughts and experiences and share them with you. It’s definitely been a mixed bag of a year. Ultimately, despite life throwing everything at me, I got through it. (If I get at least 40% on my last assignment. Agh.)

Two things I want to point out:

  1. Go to the tutorials. Seriously, attend the tutorials. There are loads of online ones, which is what I did. They’re a bit nerve wracking but they helped SO much with understanding what tutors expect from assignments.
  2. Join a Facebook group for your intake. Honestly, AA100 October 2018 on Facebook saved my bacon more than once. We shared advice, opinions, frustrations, progress – it felt like a much more open and free community than the Open University forums. Go on Facebook, search for your course code + the start time, and you’ll find it.

So there we go, my honest thoughts! I’m very relieved to have a few months off now, but I’ll be going into L101 feeling cautiously optimistic.

To my fellow AA100 Facebook people: good luck, and it was so nice to share this experience with you!

March Thoughts

Life

I’m starting to wonder if my toddler is a bit of an evil genius. This morning a row erupted over who was going to play with the tablet (Jellybean had it first). I thought he got over it quickly, but clearly not. Later Jellybean came over to give me a cuddle, and he intervened ‘NO I GIVE CUDDLE!’ and in the ruckus (during which I got elbowed in the boob an unreasonable amount of times), he quickly scrambled down and grabbed the tablet, catching my eye as he pottered away with a giant grin on his face.

I think he plotted the whole thing.

He then lost it (the plot) when I told him that he isn’t allowed to watch Peppa Pig on YouTube (because of all those ‘Peppa Pig Kills George/Evil Doctor Gives Peppa Injections’ videos that are uploaded by weirdos). ‘Come on, let’s put it on Netflix instead.’

To which he dropped to the floor, looked at the ceiling and screamed ‘NOOOOOOO!’. As you do.

He’s also developed a clever technique. He knows that people tend to repeat what he says in order to clarify what he means (reasonable given that a) he is two and b) he sometimes makes up words, like calling ‘deer’ ‘kangawoowaas’). So a conversation with a well-meaning but unknowing person might go like this:

Him: ‘Umm … chocolate?’

Them: ‘Did you say chocolate?’

Him: (tone of pleasant surprise) ‘Oh, chocolate, okay!’

Thus making it appear as though having chocolate is the grown-ups idea and he would therefore be totally justified to have a mega tantrum if they say no. Chris and I are wise to this technique and make sure we never repeat any word he says but instead ask ‘what did you say?’ and he always looks annoyed about it.

He also spends a good amount of time working out ways to bother his sister, like noticing she is setting up a farm and quickly putting all the animals away when her back is turned. They also argue a lot over silly things. Now, for example, they are playing with a box of my old toys (mostly horses and Puppy In My Pockets). They both wanted the same cat.

‘Why,’ I said (over the screaming) ‘Do you both want that one? There are fifty other cats in there!’

It’s not even the cutest cat. There is no reasoning with them sometimes.

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How long will this beautiful farm scene last? (Not long is probably the answer)

 

Having said all this, they are both very loving. The other day I got stuck in a tunnel and The Boy suddenly went all Knight In Shining Armour on me. ‘Don’t worry Mummy! I GOTCHOO!’ he shouted, whilst pulling me through the tunnel (by my face). Afterwards, satisfied I was safe in the play tent, he patted me on my (scratched) face and said, ‘Ahhh … loveyoo Mummy.’

Jellybean occasionally writes me little notes that say ‘ I ❤ Mummy’. (Or sometimes ‘I am sorry for arguing Mummy’). Which I keep and makes up for all the paper she uses, and the arguing.

Sickness Avoidance

I wrote back in February that I was poorly and it was driving me up the wall. Well, it continued! To cut a long story short I’ve been ill in some way, shape or form from January-mid March.

Now my husband and kids are ill and I doing my best to not catch it by avoiding them/washing my hands frantically/drinking smoothies with things that internet people said will ward off sickness. Echniacea is a thing apparently? So I’m drinking it in tea form every day. Deep down I don’t think it helps, but I like to imagine it does.

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I can’t possibly get sick after drinking this, surely?

My Good Friend Tom

I’ve mentioned this on my Instagram (multiple times) but during my Harry Potter re-readathon I got into Binge Mode, which is a hilarious and super-geeky podcast where the hosts Jason and Mal go deep (deep!) into the Harry Potter universe, book-by-book. (They did Game of Thrones first and I am seriously considering getting into it just so I can listen to the old episodes of the podcast). I can highly recommend it (if you don’t mind swearing). There’s also an amazing Facebook group for it, which has helped me with my sad feelings when I got to the end of Binge Mode Harry Potter.

Books I’ve Read

Here’s a wrap up of what I read in March:

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Excellent as usual, made me cry

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Excellent as usual, made me cry more

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: My exasperation with Voldy the 2nd and the (flipping) Time-Turners only alleviated by the excellent Scorpius Malfoy

Saffy’s Angel: favourite family in kid’s literature, I love them and would happily spend a day with them

Where Am I Now?: I always wondered what happened to Mara Wilson. Now I know. Really good and thought-provoking

Little Fires Everywhere: long review on my Instagram – perfect suburban neighbourhood unravelled by arrival of artsy (and slightly neglectful one might argue) mother and a complicated, emotional custody battle. Couldn’t put it down

So there we go. Goodbye March. Enjoy your April everyone and don’t forget to bring your jackets.

Not stronger

I’m not a huge New Year’s Resolution person, but this year, in the throes of exhaustion just after Christmas, I picked a theme for 2019:

Get stronger.

At the time I was feeling very drained, and I had an image of my ideal self in my head: not super-fit, but fitter. Stronger. I wanted to push my body with exercise to make it better, more able to fight off illness, strong enough to keep going even when things get tough. I also wanted to make myself stronger mentally. I felt anxious and stressed most of the time. What could I do to make myself stronger? Other people depend on me – how can I strengthen myself to deal with that?

And then I came down with pleurisy (which if you don’t know, is inflammation of the lining around the lungs, and no, I don’t smoke and I don’t really know how I got it).

It happened quite quickly, really: one moment I felt alright, the next, I had a weird, burning pain in my chest. Every time I inhaled, it hurt, and I felt like I couldn’t breathe properly. The doctor initially diagnosed me with flu. I went to work, like an idiot, because it was my last week there and I didn’t want to let them down.

It all went downhill from there, really.

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