Your comfort zone
Expect to be pushed out of it. If your idea of comfort was a bit of home-working punctuated with the odd foray out into the world - as mine was - then regularly filling a rucksack with books and a laptop, marching to the station, catching a train, sitting in a university seminar or lecture theatre surrounded by people who are mostly much younger and brighter than you are, definitely constitutes being pushed out of it. Surprisingly this turns out to be a good thing, a very good thing.
It's not just the learning, it's the place. There's a huge library. There's a cinema and a theatre. There's a pub. There's a cafe, where they serve quinoa and couscous with seeds on top, and it's cheap. There are gardens. There's a grand hall with people playing live music in it on a seemingly endless basis. There are people walking around wearing all manner of outlandish clothing: girls who dress like boys, boys who dress like girls, and girl/boy/boy/girls who you aren't certain if they are a girl or a boy and who don't want to be pressed on the matter. Being part of this will make you feel modern, and young.
One of the main differences with university second time around is it's not accompanied by social angst. New friends would be nice but not essential because you already have some. The thing is, you will make new friends whether you want to or not because suddenly you are exposed to a smorgasboard of fabulous people who all love the same thing you do - in this case, great writing - and who are bright and funny and kind. Also there are celebs. There's a person on my course who's off the telly but I'm not going to tell you who he is because this would be uncool, and it's all about being cool now. All this will restore your faith in humanity. It's worth going back to university for this alone.
Reading, writing, and drinking
Be prepared to have to think, and write stuff that makes sense. I'm not used to either. Part of the reason I've temporarily given up alcohol is in order to have a clear head so I can do this, unlike my two eldest sons who are also students and who have been thinking for some time, so they tell me, while also drinking masses, apparently, although not at the same time, they insist. On Friday Middle One texts me from his university library to ask me what I'm up to in mine. "I'm writing a critical commentary," I write. "I just mentioned Shakespeare and Chekhov in the same sentence!"
"Sounds wild," he replies.
"Sounds wild," he replies.
Universities are inspiring places. You will not so much be exposed to new ideas and challenges as have them chucked at you, this is energising. You will be encouraged by brilliant people to fulfil your intellectual potential, which is amazing. During my first hour-long tutorial I couldn't stop gushing. "This is fantastic! Thank you so much!" Until the wonderful academic I was talking to gently pointed out that I didn't have to thank him, he was only doing his job.
Something's gotta give
Last time I had homework to do Kylie Minogue was in the charts singing I should be so lucky and Maggie Thatcher was having a barney with some miners, unluckily for them. This is swotting on a grand scale, with LOTS of reading. In order to get it done you'll probably need to cut things out. This means not watching so much crap on the telly, chucking that Metro away when they hand it to you at the Tube and cancelling your subscription to Red magazine in favour of finally getting to the end of Moby Dick. On the upside it's the perfect excuse to quietly slip away from domestic tasks at Christmas, like the washing up, with the words "Sorry, I have some, you know, like, proper reading to do."
Love E x
P.S. I reckon returning to education as a mature student might be a great cure for depression. It offers a focus in a creative environment where you're surrounded by lovely people. Perhaps the government should consider funding M.A.s rather than doling out anti-depressants? Okay, so they're expensive, but not as expensive as 64.7 million prescriptions for anti-depressants, which was the number issued last year in England, the most ever.