Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Becoming a Failure For a Better Future

When I was younger, I used to have the same recurring nightmare. 

As most children do, from a very young age I was unfortunately bestowed with a deathly fear of the dark, and for me, this phobia seemed to manifest itself in the most haunting manner. 

Night after night, whilst still asleep and within my dream, I'd wake up. 

I'd feel this suffocating, fluid blackness heavy against my limbs and my chest, crushing the air out of my lungs and almost stinging this sense of fear into my very skin. The dark would press heavy against my temples, and my eyes would stare wildly, seeing nothing. And every night I'd fight so desperately to escape it. 

Now as an adult, I know this was sleep paralysis, but as a little kid, you can imagine this was scary as BALLS.

For some reason, however, I knew that if I could just reach the sanctuary of that little orange glimmer beneath the crack of the living room door downstairs, where my parents talked, watched television and laughed, I would be safe. I would be free. 

And so night after night, whilst still dreaming, like wading through treacle, I'd battle against the darkness to try and reach that little faint crack of light. 

It would feel as if a bungee chord had been tied around my waist and anchored into the darkest most impenetrable depths of my bedroom, and I would be scrabbling with fingertips and knees, trying so hard to reach that little orange glow that would instantly cease the pull. 

But I never got there. Sometimes I'd barely get out of my bed and other times I'd be so tantalisingly close, my quivering fingers just inches from the glow before the chord would snap and I'd go hurtling back into the darkness, obviously none of which was real, and I'd wake up in reality with a start. 

This kind of feeling has become familiar to me once again, but unfortunately for me, in the terms of a very real, yet admittedly less dramatic, fear.


I feel like I've reached crisis level.

Classes, assignments, exams, deadlines - they are all looming thunderously above me, mingling together in this sickly churning cloud which swirls down in thin vortexes to take the form of smoky fingers placing firmly against my shoulders, dragging me back with a demonic laugh as soon as I begin to make progress in my life. 

There are times when I am in the most blissful state of semi-selective ignorance ever. 

The sun in shining, I'm walking through a city in which passionate life thrums beneath the paving slabs so aggressively that I can almost see them tremor, and I briefly glance at Scarphelia to see the hits counter climbing by tens of thousands weekly, more and more people joining in on my adventure through this crazy life, actually appreciating and enjoying what I do. 

I can't keep the smile off my face as I think of the steady progress in all my little projects, writing new songs with the band, having meetings at Gatherly HQ discussing all these ridiculously exciting new projects and ideas, with events and adventures dangling seductively in the very near future and meeting the most incredible and passionate people.

Then like a physical blow that sends me staggering, all of which I have elected to forget comes bursting through the flood gates and I struggle for breath. 2,500 word analytical film review, a 2-minute complex animation at 24fps, a 1,500 word journalism feature with a minimum of 4 interviews, a 25 minute solo presentation analysing Auteurs in European Cinema... and then next week-

I'd be a liar if I said it hadn't reduced me to tears at some points. 

And here's where I find myself.

I can't do them both.

I've never been one to thrive in an academic environment, if anything I suffer, and I suffer hard. But so far I've just about managed to throw in enough caffeine-fuelled and panic-induced gusto to just about scrape through with a fairly decent grade. 

But I can't do it anymore. 

I can either be Scarphelia, or I can be a student.

And I can tell you now this is one of the most stressful and agonising things to have to deal with. 

It's at this point my parents and all my professors throw up their paperwork in glee like the control room of Apollo 11 as it touched down on the surface of the moon, and 'Celebration' by Kool and the Gang blasts out of nowhere.

'By god, she's finally got it!'

*gleeful jumping and hugging*

'She's finally going to put that blasted hobby of hers out of her head and concentrate on her education!'

*whoop with joy as the champagne cork pops off into the distance*

'Finally, she's going to actually get rid of all those silly internet distractions and buckle down at school!'

*me in the corner pulling the needle off the vinyl record*

...I just can't do that.

*people freeze and stare in shock as a solitary party popper trail falls and lands in the hair of Sharon from accounting*

When I think of Uni, I am filled with such an abhorrent surge of hatred that it could almost make me sick. To me right now, it seems like Uni crushes any little individuality or uniqueness you have, and squashes you down into a series of tick boxes and numbers whilst a beady-eyed examiner analyses whether you're deemed worthy of a piece of paper on the basis of how well you've regurgitated the stagnant words of some ancient professor of a bygone era who wouldn't even be able to tell you what a hashtag is.

When I think of Scarphelia, Gatherly, my band boys, travelling, writing - everything I'm doing to enhance myself on an extra-curricular basis... Well, I don't mean to sound blunt, but in comparison it's rainbows and fucking unicorns. I feel so passionate excited to the very fibre of my bones about everything I am doing here, that I just can't possibly justify it to myself that to give this up and to return my focus to academia, could possibly be the best thing for me. 

I have created my own future for myself, because I knew I wasn't going to get it from graduate schemes and office temp jobs... and it has actually grown into something huge. With opportunities coming to me that I had only dreamed would appear many many years after Uni if I was lucky, a rapidly-growing audience of over 50,000 people per month who are interested in what I do... how can I possibly muster the effort for something I so passionately detest under the guise that it will be more beneficial for my future?

And so from now on, I'm ridding the negativity.

I'm erasing the stress, the pain, the worry and the drama, and although I'd like to make a point here that I'm not going to deliberately fail, I am no longer going to beat myself up, spending teary all-nighters in the library sobbing into text books and calling myself a failure. 

I am going to do everything I can to try and do well in my final year here, but I will NOT let it break me.

Because even if I do end up failing, I am not a failure.

And you know what, even in an hyper-pessimistic reality, if Scarphelia goes down the pan, everything goes to shit and I'm left with nothing but a lousy 'You Tried' sticker from The University of Hertfordshire, no job, no qualifications and it rains every single day, and I'm sat in the office of my sixth job interview of the day, and the dreary, sullen interviewer gives me a half-arsed frown and says '3rd class degree with an incredibly messy transcript... Well?'

Then I will bloody hell clamber onto that table in front of him, rip the arms of my stiff Marks and Spencers blazer and say,









And I mean, either he will climb to his feet and grandly proclaim me chief exec of the company, or, more likely, call security, but I figure hey. If that doesn't get anyone's blood pumping, then I'll have no other option other than to become a wandering hippie nomad walking from continent to continent making friends with the animals and writing poetry on the back of palm leaves and selling them to tourists in exchange for their greatest stories and perhaps a pina colada or seven.

Because at least I'll be happy. 

And to be honest, it's not the success, the money, the recognition or the pride I truly want out of my life

Because all in all, at the very root of my most basic want out of anything for myself, is... Well.

I just want to be god dang happy. 


(P.S I don't know why people call me dramatic.)


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  1. You've got so much going for you - Congratulations! :D School is definitely draining - I'm graduating with my degree in a few days and I'm so glad it's over haha.

  2. Perfectly put, flower. You speak for yourself in an ever consistently honest voice, but you also hit the nail on the head for so many others- myself included. Of course, by no means is my blog anything other than an online diary really, compared with the wonderfully and continually successful level of your inspiring website, and I can't sing for shit and don't have half the talents you have, but you speak so much truth in how the system works- and how it bloody well should work. Our priorities and how we view them and hugely how we measure success. It's incredibly messed up. But the main thing is you know what can make you happy... YOU happy. That's the point isn't it. By my third year of uni I realised I'd just been ticking boxes to get the high grades, and when it came to preparing my portfolio for interviews in the outside world, I suddenly realised none of the work said anything about me. It was one of 39 other identical portfolios... I hated it. Embarrassed actually. So third year I said 'screw you' to the high grades and came out with a not too bad mark but a freakin ace body of work that I was proud of.
    Do what makes you happy. Use the course for all its worth, get out of it whatever you can, to keep in your bag of tricks for your future projects- but do not let it squash the creativity and joy out of you!! Keep going dude, you're gonna be brill.


  3. Brilliant post again. I personally loved uni - so much so that I stayed on to do an MA. But that's because, even after all the assignments and stress and tears, I LOVED to learn and to think creatively about what I was studying. The passion for learning and achieving my best made me happy. It's not the same for everyone; I resent it when people expect you to go to uni at all, let alone love every second. My sister applied, but never went, and has never been happier. It's not for everyone.

    You only get one life; you don't want to spend it beating yourself up about achieving high marks for something which will probably be lost in time a few years down the line, when you have an abundance of incredible opportunities just waiting for you. You're currently (and brilliantly) writing your own future and moulding it by hand, with just your mind and some simple tools to help you.

    I think you're very brave to stand up and say all this and I just know that hundreds of others reading this will finally breathe a sigh of relief as they realise it IS possible to just get through the final few months of uni just to get to the other side. You've probably solved a lot of people's heartache and self-deprication (which is another reason why you're so gosh-darn brilliant).

    I know I keep saying this but your ability to say what you want and speak your mind in a way which is so captivating, inspiring and motivating is a talent which I am very envious of (in a good way, not in a green-eyed-monster way). I only wish I had your confidence and charisma. It is a joy to see you harnessing it!

    Do what makes you happy, because there's only one person who is ALWAYS there in your life, and that's yourself. There is nothing more awful than regret, resentment and a missed opportunity. Society is so hell-bent on buying commodities, holidays and success that it misses the point in life. Happiness is one of the most valuable yet rare experiences on this planet.

    Go and grab it with both hands, don't look back and enjoy every single glittering moment!

    Jo xx

    She Wears Burgundy

  4. Amazing post. I absolutely adore what I'm studying at university, but so often the focus is put on the technicalities rather than the actual work! With all the required modules that aren't actually interesting and memorising obscure dates that I'll have forgotten a week later, it's really easy to get frustrated and disillusioned with the whole system!

  5. I am a first year at university, so many people say university is life changing, it's a learning experience, how much fun it is. Before this post I thought I was strange, I wondered why I was the only person who didn't feel happy at uni, I cannot begin to express the extent of my sighs of relief as I read this. Ultimately, it is down to what you are happy doing. To some people that may seem irrational, to base your future career on what may only be temporary happiness or sadness, however I completely stand by your point of doing what you have passion for!

    My situation is a bit different to yours. I have a passion to teach, so I'm stuck in the university rat-race. I love my course, but having only 8 hours of lectures a week the whole thing seems tedious, like I am waiting around for the next lecture or the next assignment because there is so little else to do. Then when the time comes to hand an assignment in, you remember all the things which you could be doing that make you happy, all the people you could be spending time with. It's tough finding a balance at university & I definitely feel it should be something universities highlight to students from the beginning - the importance between both being happy, yet having enough time to focus on studies and enjoy them should be stressed. I have two more years of my BA Philosophy and then my PGCE to complete, like you, I know what makes me happy, and eventually that will be the gratitude I receive from teaching secondary school students, it'll be tough, but reading your beautifully raw post made me realise, I'm not in this alone!

  6. You are a brave soul and I am so glad that you have chosen to pursue what makes your heart beat! No matter what, you can erase any possibility of regret by reminding yourself that you did this out of love and passion and all that is good and worth fighting for in yourself. Keep on making, lovely, and you will keep on inspiring us all to do the same.

  7. I think people have a particular few of what is means to do well and achieve things, & often that is associated with getting good grades at school or Uni. But when you find the thing you are good at, the career path you want to take & opportunities are there of course you have to take it!

    I totally understand exactly what you are saying & Uni work can feel all consuming and like the most stressful and important work in the world. It isn't. Which is why you have the perfect plan! I've cried over my dissertation too many times!

  8. Absolutely fab post! This embodies my entire feeling about Uni. I'm a third year, a month from finishing and I just don't have the energy or will to carry on with it anymore. I've hated it for 3 years and despite working so hard still can't break the 2.2/2.1 barrier. It sucks. Life excites me and building a future for myself! Not Uni work that brings me to tears! I find myself wishing I'd never gone! I wish you the best of luck for the future!! It's so refreshing to see someone believing in passion and determination, over a grade some stuffy examiner decides you are worth! Good luck!


  9. I had a similar experience at University. I changed course, then took a year out from new course, then considered quitting in my penultimate year. I got there eventually but as someone who has been there and done that I would echo what you've written here in this fab post. Life's much more than a degree result. I got a First and worked as a receptionist for three years afterwards. Nobody cared about my result and nobody will turn you away for a job you're suited to because of your degree result (which I'm sure will be fine anyway). That said, stick in because it will all be over soon and once you'll get a sense of achievement from it, even more so because of the struggle to get there. That's how I feel about mine anyway. Good luck!!
    p.s I'm a long time reader and first time commenter, coming out of the shadows!!

  10. I wish I had you determination a few years ago, I stuck out uni when I hated it with every fibre of my being. I was miserable and it made me a horrible person top know. Now I do things I love, I am happy, I just wish I had the balls to do it a few years ago! good luck lovely xx

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