Creating space – leaving university

Creating space

A few years ago I was faced with the prospect of redundancy. I, with the support of my husband, decided to face the challenge head on, and accept the opportunity.

As time went by, I found the space to assess what mattered to me, what I needed and what I wanted in my future. As I added this detail it transpired that, from a family perspective, the role I had provided what we needed. From a stimulation perspective, the job which I was seconded to, offered what I needed in making me feel that I was making a contribution to society. The only bit that could be improved was in meeting my own aspirations, achieving a doctorate.

I’m not sure where this aspiration developed. I had always hoped that on completing my MBA that the doctorate would follow. In reality, better things did. But, in this analysis of my professional development this was all I could find which was missing.

A discussion with my employer saw enough flexibility and support to allow me to apply for the permanent role and the agreement that supporting my professional doctorate would have mutual benefit. And so, in September 2016 a new chapter began.

And it’s been challenging. I’ve written about the various modules I’ve attended, and how the reality of being time poor has meant I’ve not applied myself as well as I might have.

After attending my last module at the beginning of the year, things got a lot more challenging.

The whole of my life has become a massive balancing act. And I’ve been balancing the tightest of tightropes.

As university strikes delayed my feedback, and my submission of my final assignment, which coincided with the final module of my two year taught programme, so a massive work project fell on my desk.

Throw in an extraordinarily rubbish holiday where my hopes of studying in the evenings wasn’t to be.

And the failure felt from having to say to Barnardos that no amount of juggling meant I could attend a course on parenting an ADHD child.

I sat down with my husband, who didn’t want me to stop uni at any cost. I sat down with my boss, who didn’t want me to stop uni at any cost.

And I realised no-one was offering a solution. No-one was giving me a solution where I’d become time rich.

After a discussion with my boss and university, I applied for an interruption of study. In such a rush I don’t know what it really means. But in practice, it means I don’t have to decide anything until January.

But since being granted the interruption in April I have no regrets. I don’t feel anymore time rich. The more I am away, the more difficult I find understanding how returning to study can be integrated in my life.

I got round to telling the little people this week that I won’t be going back. They were so happy. Whilst I thought I had been cramming study into my day off, the reality is the stress and the weekend courses had been noted.

More importantly, a bit like my lack of confidence being on the modules, I have learned so much. The penny dropped when I heard the word ‘imposter syndrome’. Not only have I felt like it almost every day of the seventeen years I’ve been in my current employ, but I felt like it every moment I was studying on my doctorate.

No portfolio of qualification can solve this. No amount of praise and recognition will eliminate it. 

And in the time since April, I’ve continued to learn so much without university. I’ve got far more involved with research at work. And for every under-represented group we want to target, for every ‘talent pool’ we want to attract, the promotion of role models is used. Which reinforces so much of how I started my career and the women who inspired me- would it surprise you that they all had a PhD in common?Everyday SexismI’ve discovered the reward in reading the subjects which interest me, rather than those which might allow me to contribute directly to my employer.

I’ve realised I might do a better job of focusing on how to inspire others, so that in the future fewer talented people will be thwarted by imposter syndrome.

And of course, the reality is that once again I’m facing a redundancy situation. Where my boss is genuinely suggesting I won’t face a problem being employed elsewhere given recent achievements, and I’m trying to bring her words and my being into the same concept.

So, in reinforces that imposter syndrome isn’t going anywhere. I can do a good job and still not see me in the outcome. And again, in rings true – celebrate and find similarity with those with whom you can associate.

I don’t know if it will work. And it’s a kernel of an idea. 

But whilst both this idea and going back to university inspired me, with this idea I don’t have the nagging doubt of being found out casting shadow over me.

Here goes!

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