Kirsty McGregor, student

AS I held the letter in my hand, and an intense sense of dread within my core, I began to read the words on the page. There it was, written in bold black typeface: 'It is our decision that you must withdraw from your course'.

I found myself facing the prospect of repeating yet another year of university. I had just struggled through what was a particularly trying first semester of my course and had somehow done well enough to pass my American Literature class with a high 2nd. I wasn't long into my second semester when I started to become despondent. My lack of engagement was then compounded by a series of personal set-backs that impacted my mental health.

Poor grades gave way to a poor average and culminated in a Fail for the year. The board of examiners wasted no time in deciding that I should withdraw from my course, and rightly so. Despite having strong grounds for an appeal, I succumbed to my biggest fear; failure.

When the decision came to withdraw from my course, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I had been drifting for years and it was time to stop. I had lost sight of why I went to university in the first instance. I knew that it was not for the piece of paper that legitimised my right of way in the world, or even for the prospect of showcasing my intellect in perfect circles, at equally perfect dinner parties. Nor was it a means to land my dream job. So why then?

The day that my university letter arrived telling me that I had been accepted onto my literature course was one of the happiest days of my life. The first few months of classes I felt a buoyancy of someone half my age. As the years went on, learning for learning's sake gave way to a feeling of necessity, that no matter what, I needed to finish my degree. I was miserable, I felt like a failure for even entertaining the idea of quitting. Thus, began my circular existence, a repeated pattern of trying and failing, and I was frozen by indecision and shame.

By taking the decision to leave, or to repeat again, out of my hands, the university had granted me the clarity that I so desperately needed and couldn't find for fear of failing.

While leaving higher education was not a failure of epic proportions, at the time, I would have been hard pressed to find another turn of phrase to describe it. The road toward such a realisation was, however, almost as lengthy, but the journey was not in vain. Fast forward one year and times have indeed changed. Normal service has resumed, I am reading for pleasure, and using what I have learned in my own writing, to tell my own story.

Failure was not to be my undoing but rather my detour, albeit along an extremely scenic route.