The Long Game

Playing the Long Game to Education

Primary and Secondary Education

At my core, there is a desire to be outdoors, to move, to walk, to run, to climb.  Being confined to a desk has always been torturous to my physical and psychological well- being.   I’ve always been like that; there was never a time as a child or an adult when I was happy to sit behind a desk.  Play was where my young self-was happiest; games in the playground with others, run, catch, hide or create; there were no limits to the joy this type of activity produced within me.  There was no high-level outputs from this time, to say I was average or even below average would be kind.  However, in play and in physical activities I was happy.  School was often a torment; subjects such as Math and English did nothing but constrain me an hour at a time, going from one monotonous subject to another.  Occasionally there were glorious days; these days came in the form of school sports day, swimming competitions, end of term trips.  Even miserable weather conditions, could not impact upon my joy at the possibility of being outdoors all day.  By the end of my primary and secondary education, I had achieved more than I thought I would but nowhere near what was required to enter further education, so off to work I went.

Early Employment

I derived pleasure from the pursuit of employment and had no issues finding jobs, albeit I did not set my sights very high. I worked for the first couple of years in the hotel and catering industry and then on to retail, where I met a wide range of people who were to some extent, just like me.  In 1994 I was employed by a charity as a social tutor for Deaf-Blind young adults and children.  Once in this role, I found myself thinking more along the lines of training and development, gaining skills and qualification which were needed to support the young adults and children I would be supporting.  This incremental learning suited me, I was “learning by doing” in a practical and purposeful environment.  I noticed that learning and purpose was an incredible stimulant for me and I soon became interested in learning above the baseline.   By 1995 there were significant political and governmental changes to the care sector.  Scandals and malpractice had forced the government’s hand to ensure all staff were suitably qualified!  Although I have engaged fully in all the in-house training, I did not have this thing called “A Degree” and without it, there would be no progression.   I resisted for a while but in the end, there was no option.

Further Education

Not having the courage or the finances to apply directly to the university, I applied via a two-year part-time “Access to Learning” in Science and Technology course at North Glasgow College.  The first semester was tough, I felt the shackles of four metal legs and a wooden topped table constrain me once more, my legs twitched and kicked out under the desk as I was once again under the restraints.  At the end of the two years I was presented with the Student of the Year Award for Science and Technology and progressed to university in the September 1999, the first-year tertiary education was no longer free in Scotland.   I still resisted being pinned down beneath a desk, but by then I had understood “the long game” of education.  At the end of only three years, I attained a university degree (First in Family) and graduated in the summer of 2002.  I finished university on Friday and started full-time employment within a large financial organisation on Monday.  I did not even have my results through but was given a job with a conditional pass.

By 2003 I was back at university, this time evening classes to achieve a master’s in risk and Financial Services (First in Family).  By this point in my life, the shackles of a desk were well and truly established and my legs had stopped kicking under the desk.  My spirit was lost, cast out, disenchanted and had gone silent.  My spirit remained silent for some time until I had almost forgotten who I was at my core!

Finding the Balance

For no significant reason in October 2010 I decided to climb up Ben Nevis.   There was no effort from me, no stopping, once I had crossed the road at the Ben Nevis Youth Hostel, I did not stop until I had reached the top.  With 100 percent visibility on a clear October morning, I sat at the top and was immobilized by the view.  I didn’t want to come down and I didn’t want to go back behind a desk.  I needed a plan!

Ben Neivs
Ben Nevis

The Plan – Balance and Risk

I did not have the option to stop working and just climb for the rest of my life although that is what I wanted to do.  I simply needed to bring work, life balance back into line. Bringing balance back into my adult life was not a quick fix, but over the past eight years, this balance has allowed me to do more, achieve more and allow myself a time out every now and again.

Balance by its very nature moves, it’s not static, therefore do not be alarmed when your own balance tips in different directions.  External events will occur which will tip you into negativity, or new challenges which you may not have planned for, but the fact is, if you stay aware of your own ability to balance life’s challenges then your capabilities, tenacity, and resilience will endure, you will survive and thrive.

The purpose of this blog and sharing my own educational history with you is to express that there are different paths which will lead you to take up the challenges of a ProfDoc.

At the start of 2018, I have successfully completed two of the four years of the Professional Doctorate course.  It is important to disclose that 2017 was one of my most challenging years.  There is a lot to be said for holding your nerve during turbulent times, the ProfDoc was a very pleasant distraction for me during this time and I am still on track to complete my studies by 2020.

Retaining the Balance

By the end of 2017, I had climbed 142 Munro’s, which supports my need to have both balance and risk in everything I do.  This balance supports my psychological and physical well-being and in times of delivering against demanding and challenging deadlines, this balance supports this holistic resilience within me.