Getting Off The Track


A few days later, I had a meeting with the course tutor and received a roasting for producing a sub-standard essay. She was right, of course, because my essay was rubbish. She ordered me to read the set texts again and produce better work. I took it on the chin, left the room, went slowly down the stairwell surrounded by wooden panelling and onto the pathway outside. It was a breezy November morning as I walked, the imposing History building to my right and walled gardens to the left. A few students mingled around the benches. Others sat on a low wall.

Despite the swirl of red and purple leaves, everything looked grey on that late autumnal day. I thought about the awful feedback on my first essay and the monotony of the course. I couldn’t seem to think in the way that was required. It made me feel really stupid. And the hunger was beginning to stab at the pit of my stomach again. I crumpled the essay in my right fist and decided to drop out there and then. Emotionally, I plummeted. I’d unwillingly gone to Newcastle and only did so because I had nothing else to do. This was the wrong time, wrong place. From then on I was going to do what I wanted, when I wanted. A huge weight seemed to lift from my shoulders.

I didn’t know what I was going to do next, but my thoughts turned to this life-changing decision. It would affect where I’d go and who I would marry. With that in mind, I walked through a double archway and toward the Student Union building. I glanced at the placards and banners. Students rattled coins in their yellow collection buckets for the striking miners. Beyond the commotion, with ambition at its lowest, I ran down some steps, turned right and walked away.

Just over a week passed and I ventured to see that tutor one last time. She was expecting a re-draft for the most boring essay in the world competition. I explained that I hadn’t done it. She was furious and ripped into me until I stopped her and explained I was dropping out because I wasn’t ready for all this. To her credit, she was supportive and seemed genuinely to wish me well as I left her room.

I packed a bag, left in personal disgrace and arrived at my parents’ house. Here I was. Useless. My world seemed to implode and all the confidence ebbed away. I lost my sense of self-worth. Those were difficult times. I reflected on quitting my first real test in life. In my bedroom one evening, I fell to my knees and swore never to give up on anything ever again.

I signed on the dole and was left with only ten pounds a week after paying the rest of the cash to my parents for lodging. This was spent on lunches as I left the house first thing in the morning and returned in the evening. I tried to look for work, which seemed a pipe-dream without any experience. I ended up just reading in the local library. I’d got myself into a rut and needed to get a direction. I had an idea for a book, but becoming a writer wasn’t about to happen to someone like me. My life was out of control and events rushed toward me.

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