Just two months left and my BA in English and History will be finished. It seems amazing to think that it will be three years this August that I signed up for this degree. It seems to have gone so quickly. But it has served its purpose and both engaged my brain and distracted me from Parkinson’s disease (PD). It has also got me out into the world amongst people who are young and vibrant and ambitious. My career may be long gone but I had my moments and it is lovely now to be working alongside others just setting out on their careers. Already, three of our class have been accepted on teacher training courses (PGCE) starting September with others waiting to hear if they have been accepted. Also four of us have pre-registered for an Open University MA in History that starts in October. For some it has been a long academic journey starting with a 2 year Access course followed by the 3 year BA. Some have young children and part time jobs to compete with their study time. The pressure on them has been enormous. Student loans have to be repaid whether you finish the course or not. I am full of admiration for their individual achievements. It is hard enough studying for a degree without children and employment to contend with too. I do not think I can begin to fully appreciate how tough it has been for some of my classmates. But I envy them now in that it would have been lovely to use my BA, assuming I graduate, for something more than a diversion from PD.
I have just finished my 10,000 word History dissertation a month ahead of the final hand-in date. Whilst this may appear to be very studious of me, and commendable, it is also essential. I have periods when I am unable to study at all and frequent episodes when I cannot use a laptop. I have, therefore, had to stay well ahead of all the submission timescales to outwit my illness. I started this degree in September 2011 and nearly three years on, my PD has progressed another three years, as PD relentlessly does. Everything physically is that much harder than it was at the start, but while my body has inevitably deteriorated my brain has come alive. Well relatively speaking! Last night I even managed to answer more questions than my wife, who is an English teacher and a dyslexia expert, while we were watching the TV quiz show University Challenge. I am also now far more successful at general knowledge crosswords. It sometimes makes me ponder what I might have achieved had I gone to university in my late teens instead of my late fifties. But then I did OK in my career so maybe I would have achieved less, who knows! Also maybe I was not ready back then. Maybe I needed my career, and maybe even the experience of a critical illness, to stimulate me to tackle this degree.
In the two months I have remaining at college, I have two History assignments to research and write and a worryingly long (3 hours) English exam to successfully navigate. This will be the longest exam I have had to sit and my pills will have to be managed very carefully if I am to avoid the debilitating effects of wearing off. What, and when, I eat will be as critical as the timing of my medication. It will be the final hurdle and it is going to require very careful planning to get me safely over it.
My son’s training for the London Marathon continues and he has now run 20 miles on two occasions after work. Thankfully the weather has been kinder of late; much less wet and windy and also not so cold. Just 3 weeks to go now and he will be on the starting line in London with 37,000 other entrants hoping, ironically, for a cool sunless day. I just wish I could be there to watch him start and finish the marathon.
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