Be warned: there's no gardening in this one.
Before I start, I just want to give a shout out to London's navvies. Tonight the rain is amazingly heavy and the wind is frankly extraordinary. I saw it at Clapham blow the rain thirty-odd feet off plumb in the space of a ten foot drop. It was in the eyes, knackering my visibility. It was in the boots, numbing my feet. It was under the boots, denying me a comfortably sturdy footing. Ridiculous conditions. Then as the train went through St. Margarets I saw the Men In Orange preparing to walk the tracks. Such a brave and dangerous thing to do, but if they don't do it then one night my train might not deliver me home to Strawberry Hill in one piece. I take my hat off.
No great shocker that I'm presently nursing a hot chocolate with a decent glug of Bailey's in it.
So I've decided that I'm no longer going to try and get a head start on my fees. £27k is either ten years' saving or a bank job. If I want that slip of the paper which says I can probably try grownup science then I'm just going to have to swallow the debt. Fucking Tories! I want to do Natural Sciences, and having been unable to choose between Biology and Geology I'm looking at the possibility of taking a major/minor split with Biology being the major.
I've just finished college this year, a fact that my circle seem to be quite proud of. I get asked what I'm going to do next and it's always "so are you going to do Medicine?" Up until a year ago I would've said yes, but something has changed.
When I was sixteen I enlisted. I applied at first to join the REME, to become a mechanic or a spark. Joining up is quite an involved process, and there's all manner of screening to go through. When I completed my psychological profile I was taken to one side by a recruiter who said that being an electrician would suit me, but that being a medic might suit me more, and with a BARB score of 80 (the intelligence test, the average score is around 50) I might enjoy the mental challenges of medicine. So I ended up joining the RAMC and training as a medic. One conversation really can put your life on a different path.
I was earmarked for the 16th before my legs got busted and I was honourably discharged. I landed on my feet in civvy street and found work as a nurse in acute stroke care. I spent a good few years in stroke and loved every minute of it. When I was 20 a patient had what was from my perspective the worst possible outcome. Not just a death - I'd had my first at 17 and a good number since - but a death in which a choice I'd made had affected things. Let me be clear: the patient was not going to be walking out the front door whichever way you slice it. Still, when you're young and you find yourself in that scenario, how things are explained and handled in the first few hours can make or break you. It broke me. It messed me up, tore my mind apart so badly that I spent a week under observation, and I'm not the same person since.
That is not the problem. Far from it. It hurt, and it should hurt. It should hurt so that you don't make the same mistake twice. It should hurt so that you don't assume, you don't gamble, you question everything (most of all yourself) and you kick your own arse into doing the very best you can do; because you never want to feel that again. Then a year ago I found that I had accepted it, that after more than half a decade I'd made peace with myself. This was unnerving, because I don't want to ever become hardened to such things. I've already lost a part of myself, and I don't want to know how much more of myself I'd have to lose in order to wear so thick a shell as that.
So no Medicine.
Medicine was always a second choice. I'd never really aimed to have a career in healthcare. I was a geeky kid who liked circuits and snails, minerals and fossils. I was always interested in the natural world and how it worked. Medicine appeals to the right person for the right reason, but is also just a popular way for a scientist to get a paying job. What I really want to do is give the Universe a poke to see what it does, and I always have.
I started college two years ago at 25. A late bloomer, but what the hell. That could've been shit, but it wasn't. When you're a hyperactive genderqueer autist with a fucked up knee and a half-palsied hand you find you can have quite a spread with teachers and with authority figures in general. Maybe you'll be pitied, or ignored, or seen as a curiosity, an interesting case study or test subject, or someone to tick a load of boxes for their diversity cred. I lucked out in that my lecturers did none of that shit. The experience gave me a renewed confidence, not only in my aptitude for science but also in my ability to carve out a place for myself as a scientist.
Going out and studying the natural world no longer feels like an impractical pipe dream. It's real and attainable and if I could spend the rest of my life doing that then I would be a very happy person indeed.
Now, if I am going to give the Universe a poke then I'm gonna need a bloody long stick...