Education has brought me back from the wilderness

By Barry Lord

The only impossible journey, as the famous philanthropist and business man Anthony Robbins wrote, is the one you never begin.

My own seemingly impossible journey began three weeks ago when, after completing a thorough and diligent application process in April of this year, I was offered a place at Trinity College, Dublin on their part-time Masters in Higher Education program.

Obviously I was thrilled. To be offered a place at such an reputable institution of learning was the stuff of dreams, but now suddenly it was a reality.

I had believed this to be an impossible journey for me for three reasons.  The first was financial – could I afford it? – The second was the fear that after 15 years outside the higher education system, I may have lost the discipline to knuckle down, turn away from iTunes, Netflix and various other distractions and get into study again.

Thirdly and most importantly, did I have the confidence to undertake what will be a three-year learning experience?

By a stroke of luck, the financial barrier was something I was able to overcome, and even for someone whose time management leaves plenty to be desired, I have allocated time for study quite easily.

But that question of confidence still remains.  The past year and a half has helped me understand the fragility of self-confidence.

Some people are blessed with the kind of self-belief you couldn’t scorch with a welder’s torch. I envy those people.
When I returned home to Ireland after working in adult education in the UK for more than ten years, I believed I had gained enough experience to work confidently in the Irish adult education system.

I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I was prepared. At least I thought I was.  But it seems the skills I had acquired, which I believed were transferrable, have thus far failed to secure me the work I am most familiar with and countless rejections have taken their toll.

And like many people, I’ve found myself out in the cold.  You know your worth as an individual and as a worker, but when you can’t convince an employer to give you a chance, you question everything about yourself.

After a while, the search for work can seem like an audition you are continually destined to flunk.  This is nothing new for many people in Ireland.

I have plenty of friends who spent years studying medicine, science, law, all of whom reasonably expected steady employment to be a given, but circumstances in their homeland have forced them to seek opportunities in places like the UK, Canada and Australia.

Others find themselves in a career re-building process and I count myself among them.

The penny finally dropped in January when after getting nowhere the previous year, I decided to get back to education and get a degree, which alone may not be the golden ticket I desire, but at least gives me some assurance I am entering the battle for work with the right tools.

And I’m loving every minute of the experience so far. I am expanding my knowledge, breathing in the history that drips from the walls and enjoying making new friends – my classmates have come from diverse fields, nations and backgrounds.  I’ve even learned some Vietnamese.

I feel like I’ve been welcomed back from the wilderness and life has a purpose again.  There’s a lot to be said for education.

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