2013 was the best year of my life

I’m going to start with something you know: I graduated from university in 2013.
Now I’m going to tell you something you might not know: it took me 5 years to get my degree.
Finally, I’m going to tell you something you won’t know: it took that long because I nearly died in 2011.

In my third year, I got very very ill. I got so ill that I had no choice but to withdraw from university. I went home, got treatment, got better, learnt to garden. I was shaky but found my feet. Pretty straightforward. Yet I nearly didn’t go back to studying. I missed my friends, but the prospect of going back felt like marching into No Man’s Land. I could stay in Yorkshire, I could train to be a gardener proper, I could be with my family, but I’d always have the ‘what could have been’ hanging over me.

The kick came from an unexpected source. It was when I was tidying my bedroom one afternoon (a one-off, it never happened again) that I found my old school planner. Naturally, it had been defaced and ‘customised’ as is the way of teenagers, but I’d obviously been going through a minimalist phase that year. It had one phrase scrawled across the top in black capitals: ILLEGITIMUM NON CARBORUNDUM*.

I began thinking about why I was considering not going back. Who was stopping me? What was stopping me? It occurred to me that the only bastard grinding me down was myself.

I went back to Glasgow and university on the 5th of September 2011. I’d like to say I never looked back, but it was really bloody hard and I quite seriously thought about walking away more than once.

I graduated in June 2013.

You’ve seen this before, but it’s the best I have to show you the euphoria of that moment. It was like walking into bright sunlight.  
I have my degree framed and on the wall next to my bed. A few people have expressed surprise, that they don’t know where theirs is, that it’s an odd thing to have on your wall, but this is not just a degree. It is nights spent in tempests of worry, it is midnight phone calls to my best friends for moral support, it is a thousand sandwich dinners because I either had energy to work or cook. It is not letting the bastards grind me down, and it’s a piece of paper that says most of all, I’m really bloody awesomely strong. 


*Don’t let the bastards grind you down. I studied Latin at secondary school (grammar school, totally not left-wing, I’m sorry) and I was a pretentious little twit.

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