Abe must write because, by doing so, he is able to play god and all the morons receive just retribution.
And because everybody lives up to his (high) expectations and if they do not, they dieeeeeeee.
Conclusively, this will make for a better world.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Six Years, One Degree, Worthwhile.

It’s Thursday 20th August 2009. I think it’s 06.00. Maybe it’s 06.30. I want to say it’s dark, but perhaps my curtains were closed, it is a late summer morning after all. Whichever it is, I’m awake for the same reason as thousands of other eighteen (or thereabout) year-olds in England. It is A-Levels results day. I’m awake in my mum’s house or, back then, home. I’ve long-decided that I’ll be logging into UCAS on results day morning, rather than waiting until 10 or 11am to go into school and receive my results. Though UCAS will not display results, it can tell me one of three things:
A)    Unconditional offer at my first choice university
B)   Unconditional offer at my second choice university
C)    Clearing

I am expecting a confirmation of option A, and that I’ll be going to Queen Mary University of London to study Law, straight As the requirement. At worst, I expect option B, to study the same course at Kent with a requirement of ABB. I log in to UCAS. It is incredibly slow, but I’ve been warned it will by those who have gone before me. One of the thousands attempting to access a system that is probably poorly equipped to deal with this once-a-year surge of users attempting to access their servers all at the same time.

I’m in. The page has loaded. The status of my university application has changed. Clearing.

Friday 17th July 2015. Almost six years on from results day. The day that changed my life. Not the only one, surely, but a significant one. That day, I (due to circumstance, not choice) took the advice that every lawyer I’d ever shadowed and interned under had given me: don’t do a law degree if you want to become a lawyer. I went to Brunel to study International Politics; there were other universities that would have accepted me to study Law but all quite lowly ranked in the tables. It was wiser to go to a better university and study a course I’d still enjoy. I’d loved my Government & Politics A-Level. A degree I didn’t want to do at a university I once, infamously, said I’d never ever consider going to (N.B. As I've grown older, I've very much embraced "never say never", after many more definitive statements I've made coming back to haunt me). How funny life can be. 

Brunel, and my International Politics degree are perhaps the best thing that ever happened to me. Except I am not the holder of an International Politics BSc. I did not complete my degree.

It’s Monday 21st February 2011. I’m in London and incredibly tired after spending a weekend in Madrid incredibly drunk. My friends and I were celebrating a friend’s brother’s eighteenth birthday. To provide context, said friend’s brother is a footballer. For Real Madrid. ‘Exhausted’ is, perhaps, more fitting a word. But this was just the break I needed. Clear my head, come to my senses and resume my International Politics degree which, at this point, I have little over a year left of. Except it doesn’t have that effect. It has the opposite effect. I am surer than ever that I do not want to complete my degree. It isn’t because I dislike it. In fact, I love it. I love politics just as much as I did at A-Level. I’ve started second year well, 2:1-well and if I pull my socks up, maybe I can have a sprint-finish in final year and finish with first class honours. It’s all going swimmingly, degree wise. But life is so much more than a degree and I am unhappy. Unhappy with where my life is going. Unhappy that, despite the unexplainable A-Level blip, I am almost certain to waltz into a career in either law or banking, such was my pre-university proactivity (credit largely to my secondary school for providing us with such opportunities), all of which I am aware of before I even begin my degree. I’m in a privileged position.

But it’s not enough. In the circa eighteen months that have passed since I received those A-Level results, so much has happened that have challenged my perception. I’ve been taken out of my comfort zone. I’ve met new people. I’ve been fired from a part-time job. I’ve been president of my university’s ACS. I’ve lost a friend. I've started to care more about happiness, genuine happiness, and less about money. And many other things. All these things have provoked thoughts and questions about happiness. But, most importantly still, I’m not studying Law as I’d always thought I would. And the grand plan being changed beyond my control makes me question what I want for my life. Whether I want at least sixty hours of my week gobbled up by aspiring to be the best lawyer. Or whether it’s the banking industry that will take my soul. I am aware whichever I choose will consume my life. Which is fine if I’m doing something I love but this is exactly what I’m questioning. Because I don’t think I’ll love these things. Perhaps Law but, even then, to the point where I’m happy for it to consume my life? I’m unsure. I doubt it. But had I gone on to study law at Queen Mary, I don’t think I’d ever have questioned it. Alas, I did not and I am.

The journey hasn’t been easy. It’s been one filled with sacrifice. Sometimes in life, you have to do what you don’t want to do, to do what you have to do. Words I’ve lived by from the moment I made the decision to change path. I had to write. I needed to write. And the first, biggest, thing I didn’t want to do that I’d have to do was move back into my mother’s house. A part-time degree meant no student loan (for the best, really, two years of student debt already with nothing to show for it lol). I’d have to move back to where I’d been so happy to escape at 18. Of course, there were alternatives; I could get a job that paid well enough for me to move out at the expense of writing time. But, again, sacrifice. Sacrifice meant letting go of materialism. Being happy to just survive. Basing all my decisions around one goal: I want to write. So I’d spend all my free time in first year honing my writing which, in reflection, was an invaluable year of development and growing both as a writer and personally.  I learnt how little I needed to survive. These days, I’ve often said to friends that my expenditure is pretty simple, and low: pay my bills, cinema, alcohol and travelling. The latter I’ve managed to do thriftily but not to the point where I didn’t require a job: I would get a part-time, yet surprisingly well-paid, retail job in my second year. 

Throughout working, my part-time job, four days a week (sometimes more), I would wake up at 07.30 to write, leave home for work at midday and do a bit more writing when I got back at 20.00. Of my three days off, one was a Sunday which meant no writing, and the other two were typically the days when I’d have university in the evening, which meant spending my daytime writing (or doing uni work, one in the same). It was gruelling, but I loved it. I was waking up every single day knowing my life was dedicated to what I loved. I was still living at home. There were sometimes things I wanted to do with friends that I couldn’t afford to do. But those things come with time. And I constantly remind myself why I’m doing this, what every single decision I’ve made is geared towards. And that, often, people wouldn’t always understand it. Not understand why I didn’t have the time to meet up,, ‘if you’re a writer, you can work whenever you want, you’re not bound to any boss!’, ‘you can go cinema anytime’ and many variations of that were frequent.

Before my fourth, and final year, I would decide to quit my job. I’d always told myself that the moment it became too stressful and hampered my writing, was the time to walk away. It’s only purpose it was supposed to serve, ever, was paying my bills. It was never meant to become my life. It was never meant to stress me. For me personally, not meant as any disrespect to anybody who does work in retail, retail should not stress me. It wasn’t just work, family drama took its toll and I found myself back in that place I was in during my second year of my International Politics degree. I was unhappy. But it wasn’t the degree this time, I was enjoying it. But I wasn’t happy with how much time I was giving my writing. In the three years so far of my degree, I’d continued to actively pursue my writing. Prior to beginning my Creative Writing degree, much like had been the case with my first degree, I’d made headway in setting myself up for life-after-degree. An established director had taken an interest in me which led to me writing an unproduced feature film for him (which a deal fell through on in the 11th hour), I’d had my very first short film get into a number of festivals, two short plays, one of which won an award. But this wasn’t enough. I expected more of myself. I felt I should be further. And over and over again, when it seemed I might get the things I wanted but didn't, it was never because my writing wasn’t good enough, but because they just wanted to see more. It wasn’t until after I left my job, that I realised I truthfully wasn’t writing enough, or trying enough. I was trying as much as I could within the constraints of my job, but it wasn’t enough for what I desired. Because, no matter how much of a superman I believed I was and how little sleep I could survive on, there are still only 24 hours in a day. 

A greater sacrifice was needed. So the part-time job went, the security to pay my bills (and drink, go cinema and on holidays) and committed the final year to writing. Degree work. Writing the very best stageplay and dissertation (which was a feature film) I could write. To being fully freelance as a writer. To get more copywriting gigs. To getting a short film made. To trying to get a play staged. To starting a company. And many other things which all, in short, were giving my all to writing. And if I wanted the security and the niceties (however small) in life, then those would have to come as a by-product of writing. A year on, and I can’t really explain how I’ve survived but, somehow, I have.

I’ve digressed. It’s Friday 17th July 2015. And six years on I know that today is a good day. I’ve completed my degree. Not in International Politics, but a Creative Writing BA. Though today is the day I officially received my grade, I’d calculated back in May that I’d obtained a 2:1. But there they are on the screen, the words that make it real: Second Class Honours (Upper Division). Study Complete.

A close friend asked me whether I was happy that I’d got a 2:1 (as opposed to first class honours). At the start of my final year I was aware that, though possible, it would take a completely perfect academic year to attain that but said I’d give it my all regardless. As my degree came to an end, I began to realise – though I’d not have expected to get any less than a 2:1 – that any grade I finished with would be a grade to be proud of. Every year of my degree has brought personal challenges that have come close to breaking me. That have made me contemplate leaving the degree. Not because I wasn’t enjoying it (I absolutely loved my degree) but because life became near untenable. The difficulties I faced during my degree were never because I found the work difficult but, more so, the knock on effect of the curve balls life threw. Getting this degree is a badge of honour, a mark of my resolve in coming out victorious every time I questioned whether I could go on. Every time family drama was unbearable. Every time the emotional rollercoaster overwhelmed me to the point where I stared at a screen unable to write, such was the weight of the emotions.

Though she’d have rather it been in Law, or International Politics, my mother so badly wanted the pride of being able to say that her first, and only, son was a graduate. A mother who has always wanted the best for me and done the best for me, even if her action and behaviour hasn't appeared to correlate. Who always stressed the importance of acting in accordance to my own pursuit of happiness, despite often not understanding the path which said pursuit took me on.

My father, when he found out I had decided to leave my International Politics degree, didn’t understand why I had left so close to completion and felt like he was facing his own demons – as well as those of my ancestors – in their inability to see something to the end. For him, too, his first son is a graduate and he can put that demon to sleep.

My uncle, my biggest role model and the only person on planet Earth who has a 100% success rate of me taking their advice. Whom, when I expressed my desire to change my path in life as well as my concerns in falling behind the pack, reminded me that life is a marathon, not a sprint and I’m in a race against nobody but myself.

My friends. Friends that have become family. Who have supported me all along the way, even if they didn’t understand the decision I’d taken. Friends who had, and still have, a humility-inducing unwavering belief in me. A belief and support that insists you disregard failure as an option. Upon finding out the news, one friend said I’m the definition of a dreamchaser, recounting the moment I made the life-changing decision. And in this same breath, he shares a bible verse that couldn’t be anymore apt:

“The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.” – Ecclesiastes 7:8

My faith. In a higher being, in a higher purpose, in believing that this passion wasn’t placed within my heart for anything less than a triumphant ending. And the strength to pursue relentlessly, and the courage to trust when depleted.

But, like most things in my life, my greatest drive was the only one I ever need (bar God, of course): the desire within to succeed for myself. Because, though I knew I didn’t need the degree and that it’s unlikely to put me in any better stead to attain a career as a writer, deep down I knew I so badly wanted to be able to say I have a degree. And though the actual academic side seldom ever was a struggle, I have so many scars to show for the battles I’ve endured to get to this side.

I feel like I’m rambling now without saying much. I know I have so much more to say, so much more to share about this journey. And I know I want to share it, but can’t. I’ve always been someone who, somehow, just “gets on with things”. I could be having the absolute worst time in the world – as I have done at many times in the last four years of this journey – and nobody would have a clue unless I said something. For someone with a talent for writing (I think I feel slightly more at peace with saying that now I have a degree that confirms it lol), I struggle fiercely with discussing my life and articulating my emotions, especially those that require me to be vulnerable and open up. Hopefully, some time soon, I’ll find the strength within to articulate those and fill in the gaps of this journey.

It may have taken six years, but I have a degree and couldn’t be any happier.

I read those two words again. And again. And again.

Study Complete.

Let the next chapter begin.

Going to do things a little different with this post. If you've been following my blog over the years, you'll know that I usually end my posts with what I'm listening to, or watching. Instead, today, a plug of my work. If you'd like to see what's next in my journey then this is for you.

In my final academic year - outside of my studies - I've remained proactive in my writing.

My latest piece of work is a short film called Closure, which is about two foster sisters, the eldest of which attempts to convince the other two to visit their dying foster father, who is also their former sexual abuser. The short film will be screening at Genesis Cinema on August 1st, and tickets for it can be purchased here. Would love to see you there!

For now, here's the trailer:


  1. Wow. That was touching, you are a great writer Abe! Keep it up!

    1. Sorry I'm only just replying this Ore; so glad to hear you found it touching, thank you so much!