Who are your heroes? Who do you admire this week? Probably not Charles Saatchi. Maybe Laure Prouvost for her creativity. Maybe Margaret Loughrey for being unassuming. Maybe Tom Daley for being honest.
I’ll tell you who I admire this week:
This is my husband reading his FINAL result for his OU degree. A happy outcome to 3 years of blood, sweat and beers. WOOOOO HOOOOO! GO CHRIS!!!
Ok, I had better go check if I am allowed to write any of this … he doesn’t like a fuss… and he’s a bit embarrassed, you see, about finishing his degree in his thirties. And he’s a bit embarrassed that it’s not from some particular university, that all the engineers that care about such things, have their degrees from. So he’ll probably say, no.
But then I’ll say:
Imagine you’re invited to a dinner party and your friend says “You really must meet [such and such]. They have a first in Engineering from Queens! And they got it straight after school!” Would you be excited to meet them? Do you think they might be someone you would love to sit beside? Someone you might then want to stay in touch with? Go for a pint with? Someone about whom you might think ‘my wife would just LOVE you’ ? Someone that might be a good role-model for your kids when they’re older? You would need more information, at least.
But what if your friend wanted you to meet someone who had just finished a degree after a lifetime of hating studying. What if he told you how this friend wore all of his teachers out from he set his first polished foot into Prep School. He was not a boy whose spirit or intellect really thrived in the Northern Irish education system. There was mischief to get into, buttons to be pressed, non-curricular problems to be solved. Shoes to be muddied, of course. He was found, this boy, to have not one single answer filled in in his Qualie practice paper, but a beautiful, intricate unicorn drawn on the back. So he was tutored to pay attention and provide the answers they were looking for and secure his place in a grammar school where he felt always and forever stupid. Of course his spirit was not crushed entirely… he used his technology skills to run an enterprise or 2 on the side… and there was the BB Gun Incident… and the 2 front teeth lost on someone else’s knuckles. There were plenty of stories, and I’ve heard them all, but sometimes the answers those exam papers were looking for were missing. And there was tutoring and stress and A-Levels he hated and square pegs in round holes and Tech and Uni and bad timing and this and that and the other thing until, eventually, a degree started, but not finished, and a man whose entire educational experience had been …. crap. But this man, this dinner guest, he had an enterprise or 2 on the side. He worked this job and that job. He travelled around the world. He grew his hair and pierced his lip. He married a curly little lady. He searched and searched for an opening in the right job for him and he worked his way up to the engineering job he had always wanted to do. And finally, this interesting dinner guest decided at THIRTY to finish that degree and so he started, on the exact same month that his first daughter was born, to chip away assignment after assignment, module after module, to get that piece of paper that said he was as smart as we always knew he was. This wasn’t just university, this was after work and every Saturday and most of his Annual Leave. This was Ballyclare Library, this was coffee shops, this was the kitchen table when the house was finally quiet. This was 7pm and 1am and sometimes 6am. This was through the days of TWO newborns. This was walking the floors then opening his books. This was tap tap tapping on the laptop with a Baba sling around his neck. This was instead of going to bed, or taking a break or playing Gran Turismo. This was being found asleep on the playmat, again.
Well, I ask you, would you need any more information about this one? Would you want to sit beside this guy? I know I would.
It seems that sometimes our heroes are embarrassed of the very things that make them our heroes. We hide the stuff that’s of worth that was struggled for and worked for and didn’t come first time, wrapped up in a bow. Don’t hide your story, I tell him. It’s interesting. It’s funny. It’s relatable. It might help someone. Value your story, I tell him. I do.
And, also? I haven’t met anyone who was particularly impressed that someone they met got a First at Queens, straight after school.