Friday, 18 February 2011

Giving something up isn't always a failure

It's a month since I gave up my MSc. It was a strange night. My brain felt like it had been squashed flat inside my skull and I had no idea how I was going to carry on with any part of my life. I was supposed to be revising for an exam. During a break I sat down next to my husband and complained that I didn't know any of the material for the exam. Like any supportive partner he rubbished what I was saying and told me that I could do this or anything else I put my mind to.

Still completely committed to the MSc, which is my stance on the majority of my life, I told him how bored I was with some aspects of the course. I said that I was worried about my future: "if I don't even find the course interesting how can I possibly find working in this field interesting?"

I am lucky. Incredibly lucky. I absolutely adore my job. Sometimes on a Friday night I sigh as I leave the office wondering where the week has gone and, despite enjoying my family for two days, I look forward to the following week. The people I work with are great. NHS politics is a challenge for me to get my head round, to muse over but it doesn't get me down. (As the serenity prayer goes: "...accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.")

So I concluded to my husband that I didn't know how I could give up working in an area I was so passionate about, that I was enjoying so much and that was allowing me progression and stretching me for something that would pay more money but I was beginning to think might bore me. Though I recognised we all need more money and we all need to push ourselves beyond our comfort zone. I was about to stand up and get back to my revision when my husband asked something I had not been expecting: "Would you like to give up your MSc?"

Now I am no quitter and I thought I was just having a bit of a moan. Sometimes a person just needs a moan to get perspective on a situation. I don't spend my whole life moaning but on occasion it can be very cathartic! The two of us had been planning for me to do this MSc, or a similar one, for a couple of years so it did not feel right to even consider stopping.

My first thought was about all the time and money I had already sunk into it. My husband's favourite quote came in handy as a counter argument, "No matter how far down the wrong road you've gone, turn back."

So what about all my plans? I had already answered my own question because I was beginning to question whether life really would be as rosy in the new career I had been planning.

But I have been wanting to complete an MSc since before I completed my PG Diploma. But that means you have three quarters of an MSc in a subject you love - so why not complete the other 25 percent instead?

And what will people think of me if I can't even complete a part time course? Well if they don't support you in your decision it's their problem. It's a part time course alongside a full time job and you'll get back the two evenings a week you've been running off to central London before you could even eat dinner.

So where will I go from here if I drop the course? When one door shuts another one opens somewhere you never even expected.

It's going to be so embarrassing to admit I failed. But if you decide not to continue you have taken control of the situation and you won't have failed. To change your mind is not to fail.

After thirty minutes of being convinced my husband was playing devil's advocate and that any minute now he was going to suggest I get back to my revision I realised he actually meant what he said. He had listened to my moaning, seen my point of view and recognised what I needed in a matter of seconds. So I turned the whole thing on its head and considered what it would be like to give up my MSc.

It felt good. All the reasons were the right reasons and the more I thought about it the less I could find a reason to continue. Since our son was born I have complained about work and coursework keeping me away from him but usually the strain was worth it. The MSc strain wasn't. And it would also free up time to spend with other people who matter to me - such as said husband!

That was a month ago, 18th January. I haven't had a single regret. Not even one. I feel a lot happier and no one has made me feel bad about my decision. Am I a failure? No. I made the wrong decision when I decided to partake in the course in the first place. Will I complete an MSc? Time will tell!




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