My entry to The Times’ writing competition
I probably won’t win but it was cathartic to write about my degree. Thus I shall share it with the world:
I took philosophy because it is the weirdest subject I’ve ever come across. My dad told me I wouldn’t be very good at it because I only got a B at A-Level but I ignored his advice and went with it anyway. I missed a couple of lectures, got left behind and nearly dropped out. All I can remember thinking for a week was “oh shit, what have I done?”
What did I do? I lamely tried to change subjects. I know I am naturally built for a history degree, with it being my only A* at GCSE and A at A-Level. They weren’t accepting any students, so I was left with the option of either facing the philosophical music or giving up completely and going back on Jobseekers allowance. (Let’s just say my gap year wasn’t Thailand and travelling, more dead-end interviews and disappointment)
The dilemma wasn’t straightforward, because not only did I feel like I wasn’t good enough for my degree, I was also struggling with the social aspect of university. I’d always been shy to the extent that my nursery teacher asked my parents if I was deaf and going to university completely alone was not a pleasant or easy experience for me at all.
I decided to stick it out, and it is by far the best decision I ever made.
Studying philosophy, although hard, opened my eyes to so many things that I didn’t know existed (and I don’t mean in the metaphysical sense). As embarrassed as I am to admit, I didn’t have a clue about feminism before I studied it and now it is one of the things I am most passionate about. It is astonishing how differently and more positively I view myself now compared to a few years ago, and I am indebted to philosophy and feminism for that. Also being a massive film fan I was thrilled when I realised how deep philosophy delved into film, especially horror.
I was also forced into social situations I would normally give my right arm to avoid, and it has improved my social skills tenfold (although I’m still a long way off from being Talky McTalkerson). I have proved to myself that I can interact with another human and not make a complete twat of myself every time, and I’ve met a bunch of similar minded people that I know I’d never have bumped into where I live.
“What are you going to get with your degree in real life, though?” is a smarmy question I am often asked. Well, not only will I get a decent grade because I have an interest in the subject and therefore try harder than I would at history, I’ll also get the satisfaction of knowing I’ve studied something that I wanted to study. The Kant module that brought me to tears after endless hours of reading was all suddenly worth it when I got my highest mark in it. It also led me in the direction of writing articles for my university (an outlet for my interest in film and feminism) which in turn pushed me into starting my own blog and now I write for a couple of independent websites.
It’s not about where my degree will get me, it’s about enjoying it and making sure it challenges me enough to keep me interested – and it has certainly done that.