Crazy What You Could've Had
Where Did It All Go Wrong? A Spleen Venting Tirade Of Bitterness.
Where did it all go wrong? I don’t know exactly, of
course, but I have some theories, the first and most
prominent reason being that I chose the wrong units. I
have been terrible since the age of 15 of simply knowing
things that people tell me, and this panned out in the
phonetic side of things, where although there was research
to do, we were never really tested on what we knew about
the field, simply whether or not we could recognise a
voiced velar stop when we heard it. However in the
analytical side of things, where I could choose what I
wanted to do myself, and in what direction I took the
work – was even allowed to have ideas of my own on
occasion, however dangerous that may be – my marks were
The second is a more general point, that I chose the
wrong degree. I should have done something that allowed me
to think things, rather than recycle old ideas. I have
always had problems with the concept that everything has
been thought before, there are always holes in arguments,
always exceptions, and always someone saying “Yes, there
is that”. I’ve never particularly been into that world.
Perhaps that is what I’ve missed out on. Maybe the whole
point of the education system is for ill-adjusted people
to sit around ruminating about whether something that
worked for a French physicist in 1894 is globally
important, or deciding that the flaws in his method were
too great to be overlooked.
I don’t know. Evidently. More importantly, now, I don’t
care. By Christmas of the 3rd year, having waited two
years to progress to doing something ‘worthwhile’, I had
become progressively more disillusioned by the whole
Linguistics Degree. It wasn’t living up to the high
standards I demand. People were discussing things of no
importance to the course in the classes because they
were ‘interesting1’, and the lecturers themselves were so
bafflingly inconsistent that every piece of work had to be
vetted according to the person who would be marking it.
Surely there is something wrong with this? If a piece of
work stands up on merit, it should stand up equally to
everybody. Of course, audience is an important aspect of
any text (I remember my A-Level English Language course
well) but audience is a group of people, and should only
be a focussed area, not the sum total. Perhaps, then,
university was never for me, and I should have stayed at
home putting cans of peaches on shelves having
conversations with people who didn’t understand what I was
saying and having to carry a dictionary to prove what
words mean to people who have not come across them before.
(I don't mean this in a nasty way, but people seem to have
a collective phobia of understanding a complete sentence
of mine without asking for clarification at some juncture)
Is my view of the education system archaic? Do I want
the free-spirited 17th century students who sought only to
take drugs, drink coffee, copulate frequently and at the
end produce a book condemning all such things as a
departure from a virtuous path, and a precursor to an
early death? No. Well, yes. I admit that the seeking
coffee was a good part of my degree course.
There was, meanwhile, a group (ever-growing) of people,
peers and ‘superiors’ who would chastise me on my
unwillingness to ‘play the game’. I am studying for a
degree, hypothetically taking the first step on a ladder
to a level of intellectuality wherefrom I can change the
world with my theories. This first step on a ladder should
never be attained by ‘playing the game’. It is ludicrous
to suggest such a thing.
My university career was unsuccessful, then, and I am a
little upset by that. Not annoyed by any means, it was my
fault, nobody would disagree that had I ‘played the game’,
had I taken all the value out of the life I was living,
had I simply regurgitated opinions in a style appropriate
to individuals, had I been popular in French classes2 I
would have been successful. My university career was not a
failure. I know to advise my offspring to go to university
expecting to find wisdom, as all that lies beyond the
doors is knowledge.
Where do I go from here? I go not into an MA program and
on into further education, as would my dream have been,
but into a world that continues to disappoint. From people
who have read about theories and systems that don’t work
but cannot accept their failure to people who have seen
theories and systems fail and cannot accept their failure.
And now I am one of them. I have seen the university
Is it arrogance to suggest that the degree failed me and
not the other way round? To a certain extent, yes, but I
know that with sufficient ‘playing the game3’ my result
could have been very different. My marks came with such
baffling inconsistency that I could have run a book on
which classification work would fall into, with no
particular favourite at any stage. And so on I go. Into
that good night with nothing but more unmet aspirations
and shattered dreams.
Was it 3 years well-spent? Yes. I have a plethora of
friends, good friends, I have a boot-bag of memories I
will treasure forever. I (will) have a piece of paper
telling me the University of East Anglia warrant me worthy
of a degree. Not a bad achievement all told. But it could
have been so much more. That is what grates me.
Ah well. I’ll have a bagel and start looking up.
1. That is what coffee bars are for, no?
2. This is a mystery. I have no idea for why only 2 people
ever spoke to me in French lessons. Even people who spoke
to me outside them would ignore me within. It was odd.
3. I persevere with this phrase to further justify how
ludicrous it is.
WILT? China Black - Searching and U2 - One.