I work at one of the UK's largest colleges and also in one of the most beautiful parts of Britain. This is the view not far from my road to work, about 5 minutes before arriving before I get there. It's a mixed blessing. By some strange, warped win on the lottery of life I have been given the great privilege of living amongst beautiful scenery, in a popular seaside resort blessed with mild winter weather. I have also landed up in one of the worst parts of the UK to be Trans and for those who wish to transition. North Wales is not blessed with a modern thinking, up to date Gender Identity Clinic and has hitherto been very reluctant to provide any help or assistance to anyone with GID. Those of you who follow this blog will know the story. From having plucked up the courage to go to my GP in my mid 40's and do something about lifelong pain and depression I now find myself in my mid 50's with the tantalizing possibility that I might get on someone's waiting list for surgery this year!
I work with students, many of whom were also dealt a losing hand. They are young people who barely graduated High School or dropped out of High School. Qualifications don't feature very highly in their portfolios if at all. For many of them, this is their last chance to try and cobble together some useful skills and get themselves a certificate in something to save them from: flipping burgers, stacking shelves, stacking trash or worse. Some of them have disabilities like dyslexia or ADHD others got bullied, or developed addictions, had mental health problems or just plain hated school.
College is an exciting environment, even Community College. There's lots happening socially if you're young but the atmosphere is somewhat laid back. Gone is High School discipline and detentions. Here if you don't make the grade you get shown the door or you just fail. Many of my students just drift along letting it all wash over them...until it gets to this time of year. Failure on the horizon and half a dozen overdue assignments mean that bitter regrets set in about not doing anything sooner. It's got to that point when they think it's nearly too late, too late to pull it back from the brink without some help, maybe too late anyway?
This is where I come in. I'm not a Fairy Godmother, I can't work miracles, but I do my best. Fortunately, bitter regrets usually pull out the best in those I help; making up for lost time, doing without breaks, desperate to make the grade, they respond to being helped and we pull things off at the last minute. It's a team effort. A regretful student with two words on the page and an assignment deadline of 12 noon is not unusual, but we tend to make it. Regrets and the fear of what will happen if no action is taken, concentrate the mind like nothing else :) They will scrape a pass, it's too late for perfection and things being how they should be but they will join the ranks of 'those who made it'.....just!
Are there any parallels with my own position? 46 was awful late to leave things when I'd felt like this big time since being a young child. Why did I let so much time go by? Wouldn't it have been better to do something earlier? There were many times when I tried to summon up the courage to go and talk to someone and get help, but I didn't? Was that crazy or what?
In reality, I've refused to constantly look back, regret and do 'What If's. Life is full of missed opportunities and there are many reasons for why we fall short of seizing them. For my students it's generally a mix of wanting to seem the same as everyone else and being afraid of the response if they ask for help. It's also the pressure from difficult relationships with families and others they love that comes in the way. I suppose that it was much the same for me, indeed I know it was.
So there we are. But at least I can give a smile at last because things do look as though they may now work out and at the risk of repeating myself: I will scrape a pass. It's too late for perfection and things being how the should be but I will join the ranks of those who made it....just!