So, I graduated on Thursday. Graduated with a Masters in Writing from NUIG. I didn’t think it was a big deal until I was sitting in the hall, wearing the silly hat and gown with my family grinning like Cheshire cats, little hands waving furiously at me from across the room. Then I began to feel proud. Proud of what I had achieved, not only in the previous year’s study, but in life.
I think it’s the Irish in me that makes me modest to the point of being rude. When people commented on how great I was to have gone back to college while still raring five children, I’d bat their praise away with a ‘tsk’ and a roll of the eyes. Sure jaysus weren’t there people out there working every hour god sends and I was only reading books and housekeeping, and sure wasn’t himself run ragged too. I was having none of it. Perhaps it was the fact that I enjoyed every second of the course. Every module, every lecture, every book … it was like going down the rabbit hole to wonderland.
Looking back now I can see the hard work that was involved. The manic dash home after a lecture on Friday to be on time to collect from school. Having to read and review a book a week – and that was only for one module. Staying up into the wee hours of the morning to finish assignments. Squeezing writing and study in between cooking, ballet and football training. I greyed a bit more in the last year, and gained a few more wrinkles, but it was all so very worth it.
And when my name was called out and I climbed on to the stage to collect my certificate, I felt a bit stunned that I had done it. I played it safe for so many years. I stayed in the safe job and never dared to listen to the quiet beat of ambition that lay in the pit of my stomach. The safe job turned out not to be so safe in the end – on so many levels, but mainly because it made me afraid. It made me afraid to dream, afraid to hope, afraid to take a chance. So much of our lives are spent worrying about what might happen and it’s not easy to turn our backs on this worry.
This Masters has given me a confidence that is hard put into words. Even though I have my days and weeks of struggling to write, I never once believe that I won’t get this book finished. Over the past year I have shared my work with my peers and the genuine positive feedback and constructive guidance I received, has given me an unwavering belief that what I am writing is good.
We all need to be braver. We all need to take a chance. Life is so bloody short and it would be such a shame to look back in our old age and feel sadness and regret at all the things we didn’t do. To live our lives in the confines of fear shuts us off from the possibility of great beauty and fulfillment.
I am proud of all that I have done, the little things and the big things. You should all be proud of yourselves too. It’s not easy being here with life throwing all sorts of curve balls at us. And sometimes we just have to do what needs to be done to survive. But if you have a chance to listen to your heart, take it. Take a chance and if it doesn’t work, get up and take another chance.
“One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it’s worth watching”