Looking at where I am now, it’s hard to believe that I once had dreams to become a therapist. I hate 90% of the general public and I have a whole batch of my own issues that would single handedly make any therapist sorted financially for life. Over the years I’ve dipped in and out of that dream, but in 2018 I finally made the decision to let it go. It was a difficult one, and while part of me was gutted, part of me was also relieved. Relieved that I didn’t have to feel disappointed that I wasn’t getting anywhere, and relieved that I had discovered writing was what I wanted to do. I’m still fascinated by psychology, but it’s not what I want to do anymore. While my circumstances and priorities have certainly changed since I graduated, I feel as though the eventual breakup with psychology became inevitable as soon as I started university in 2010.
I’ve spoken before about my university experience, and a few difficult things I learned after graduation. In some of my posts, I’ve mentioned a few tidbits about why I had a crappy time at uni and why I didn’t really enjoy it, but I haven’t really gone into the meaty side of things. Mainly because it’s been too much to just slip in here and there for a bit of context, and also because believe it or not, I’ve genuinely never really had a chance to really gather my thoughts on the whole thing. So, I wanted to look at the whole thing properly and get my thoughts out on the matter. At the time of writing this intro, I’m halfway through writing the bulk of the post and I’ve made the decision to split it into two, because it’s too damn long. I have a lot of thoughts, and I won’t torture you by shoving ALL of them down your throat at once. So, you’ll be able to click through and read part two at the end of this post.
Where it Began
My interest in psychology initially started (believe it or not) after watching Frasier. I loved the idea of being a psychiatrist and working with people to solve their problems. However, upon further research I realised to become a psychiatrist, you have to have a medical degree. I gave up on my dream of becoming a vet years previously because I wasn’t good enough at maths and science, and my emetophobia meant there was no way in hell I’d be going to medical school. However, it didn’t kill my interest in psychology itself, so when it was time to choose A-levels, I picked psychology without hesitation.
Psychology soon became my favourite A-level subject, and I especially loved the mental health side of it all. While at this point, I wasn’t particularly sure of the career direction I wanted to take, but I knew I wanted to go into mental health. When it came to applying for university, I knew I wanted to study psychology, but nowhere really stood out to me, until I saw a course for Psychology and Counselling at the University of Northampton. After having a fair bit of counselling over the last year or two, I’d seen how much it helped me and I thought maybe this was something I could end up in. So, I made Northampton my main choice and hoped for the best.
I came out of A-level psychology with a B, which meant I had got into my course at Northampton. Later that year Liam and I moved into our first flat together, and a week later we started our courses. And that’s where things kicked off.
The University Years
My first year at university wasn’t particularly the best start. I struggled to make friends, partially because I’m shy, but partially because I didn’t live in halls – everyone had already made friends by the time lectures started and I was just the weird loner in all the seminars. In addition, my campus was up to an hour’s journey from our flat – a 15 minute walk to what was Liam’s campus, plus however long it took for the bloody bus to turn up. Sometimes it would even turn up but it would already be full. Great organisation right there. It made it very difficult to get up the motivation to actually go in most days.
The studying side of it was a little better. First year was focused around the basics of psychology, and the three main areas – biological, cognitive and social. We also learned about psychology in practice and the different career options it could lead to, and I also had an additional element for counselling too. It was the first year this particular course was being run, so we were technically guinea pigs. We were told however, that in our third year, we would be given a placement where we would work with real clients in a real counselling environment which would contribute towards our final grade. Meanwhile, first year was all around the different counselling approaches and the basic skills needed in practice.
The lectures and the independent learning were great – however I had nothing but contempt for group work and statistics. If you’ve read an earlier Need to Live post of mine, you’ll know my exact feelings on group work, but for me, statistics were the absolute bain of my life. Being someone who was never any good at maths, stats was something I struggled with immensely. It just brought back so many memories of crying over homework and frustratedly staring at open textbook pages.
One of my better memories of my first year was in my voluntary placement. One of my modules involved 100 hours of volunteering which went towards our final grade. I spent a wonderful 6 months working at a day centre run by Mind, and I loved it. I met some of the loveliest, most inspirational people, and at the time I thought this was a career I could see myself doing. After a couple of months of debating whether or not to quit university, I decided to keep going with the hope of doing a masters or further training after I graduated.
I would have loved to keep up with the volunteering. However, my new timetable in second year meant it was impossible to stay where I was. The centre I worked at was only open 3 days a week between 9 and 3, and on all 3 of these days, I had classes. I was gutted. In hindsight, I could have perhaps gone with something else, but because money started getting a bit tight, I had made the executive decision to get a part time job. While it meant I finally started to get a little money saved, it meant I had no free time what so ever. In between stressing myself out and feeling pretty low, I somehow managed to keep going.
Meanwhile, the teaching in our second year went to utter shit. Due to staff absence across several modules, we sat through several incredibly useless lectures that felt like a complete waste of time. Our counselling module was hit the worst though. The lecturer in charge of the course was absent for pretty much the whole of the year, and we had crappy substitutes and the most inconsistent teaching the entire time. How we all passed that module is still a mystery to me, but we managed.
Once third year started, my outlook changed. I finally had two best friends which made life a hell of a lot easier. While most students say first year is the busiest social wise, for me it was my third – I went out more during my third year that I did in the first two years combined. Despite finally getting a social life, I decided to make this final year count and really make an effort with my studies. Not that I hadn’t been doing before, but through my first and second year I skived off a hell of a lot of lectures purely because I couldn’t be bothered to make the journey in. This time, I was going to make the effort.
I got it into my head that I was going to buckle down and put everything into my studies, in particular my dissertation, which I wrote on emetophobia and I loved. In a way, I hoped I was making a bargain with the universe. If I made the effort with my studies and worked my butt off, maybe I could get myself a first and make these crappy three years worthwhile. A first would write off every ounce of crap and every night I spent crying and wishing I’d never gone. When it came to exams, I even made the effort there too. I made a revision timetable and stuck to it meticulously, prioritising the subjects I struggled with the most and not just spending time revising the stuff I was actually interested in. And it paid off too, for cognitive psychology (my worst subject), I got a B in the exam, which was amazing when you consider I had to resit it back in first year!
While things started to pick back up with the counselling module in the third year, there was one massive change made. Remember that placement? Well, it was decided that because of the massive cock up that was the teaching in second year, they wouldn’t let us go on one. Apparently, we weren’t ready. Which was fair enough, we probably weren’t. Instead, our final assessment was a recorded role play which we did in pairs, and then had to write an essay on it. At the time, this was all fine. The worst aspect was watching back a recording of yourself. However, I’ll get to the consequences of this little change of plan a bit later on.
Read on for part two of this post!