On the same day, my scales tipped and then balanced. I had come to a realisation that I wasn’t happy with, one that admitted a failure that I had been trying to outrun since April. Just as despair and depression set in I was greeted with the most amazing news of a success that righted the scales again.
I had done it. The work of four years had produced a result I had never thought possible.
I would be graduating with a Masters in Information and Library Science – with Merit.
It’s those last two words that make all the difference you see. I knew I would pass. I had the coursework grades to ensure that, but a difficult exam period had let me down and even if I did well with my dissertation I wasn’t sure if that would be enough. I am very grateful for my supervisor and the exam board because without their support I wouldn’t have been able to attempt the dissertation. That’s how bad my exam diet went. Even though the darkest moments of depression, I knew that I had not been given the chance if they had not seen something in my academics that led them to believe I was capable of succeeding. I am very glad to say that they were right.
The Postgraduate grading system works differently to Undergraduate degrees; there is no 1.1, 2.1, etc. Instead, it goes as follows: Distinction, Merit, pass.
My previous degree results are a 2.1 and 2.2 so this fits perfectly with them. As someone who was diagnosed with a debilitating condition and many many times didn’t believe that she would actually complete her dissertation, let alone pass the entire degree a Merit was a wonderful amazing surprise. Would I have liked a Distinction? Yes, but only because that’s who I am. I’ll always want the highest possible grade. I’m a Ravenclaw after all 😉
But for once I don’t feel bad or guilty for not getting it. I surpassed my wildest expectations and pushed myself from the brink of nothing to achieve this. I am proud of myself.
The other side of the scales
For that achievement to be possible I had to let some things slide. Managing ME, I’ve learned, is a huge balancing act. Most of the time I’m managing to keep things fairly balanced. My dissertation was a large project that affected too many elements of my life. It used up all my mental energy, often leaving migraines in its wake and weighed constantly on my mind. As I discussed it was a huge debt that overshadowed everything I did.
What I didn’t realise at the time was how much so. There were moments when I tried to step out from its huge ever-growing shadow to try to work on something else. Sometimes I succeeded, sometimes I failed. The worst failure was my attempt to cover my first big fan convention as a blogger.
I’m being too harsh on myself there. The convention itself, minus a medical emergency, was a huge success. I had a great time and did some wonderful networking. It was the aftermath that I failed with; I’d prepared for my dissertation to be done and dusted and instead, my deadline was pushed back. In retrospect, it was the best decision but it threw my plans out of whack. Suddenly all the time I’d planned to devote to getting the convention coverage done was once again taken up with dissertation work – and more importantly that looming stressful deadline.
It’s hard to put into words how one project can have such an effect on another. I feel a little daft sitting here writing all this and expecting people to understand. After all, I was just editing photos and videos, transcribing an interview. That’s nothing like writing a 20k word academic dissertation, right? The problem is that ME doesn’t discriminate. Energy usage is energy usage. I was doing a lot of things for the first time with covering a convention for the first time. It was a lot to take on, more than I realised, but it was things I knew I could do – with time. When that time was whisked away from me it triggered my depression and anxiety which wasn’t doing great for numerous other reasons.
As October drew ever closer and I still hadn’t posted the two interviews from the first convention I realised with sadness that I couldn’t add more work to my plate. I’d hoped to apply for a media pass for SFW 10 part 2, not just because it was good for the blog but because I loved the work. I had such a blast doing it all the first time. Every day that passed since I finished my dissertation I’ve been desperately trying to get things done and every set back has stressed me out. My anxiety has been growing worse and worse until I realised I don’t need to do it.
I’d been working to a deadline before applying for the press pass, wanting to have my house in order and appear professional. What I was forgetting was that there was nothing more unprofessional than letting my health go to hell just for a press pass.
This year has been a difficult health year and I knew from the begging that my dissertation would be my main priority. I never realised the exact toll it would take on me to get it done. In hindsight tackling my first convention with a press badge was probably not the best idea, but it was a chance I needed to take and it was something that made me stronger. I was beginning to wallow in self-doubt at that point and it gave me a much-needed confidence boost – a boost that had a beneficial effect on my dissertation.
So where does this leave me now? I’ve talked in terms of success and failure, as though everything is that black and white, but I’m well aware that it’s a massive mix of grey. While I feel I’ve let people down – and I’m sure some people may feel I have – nothing is irreversible. I’m still struggling to get things done, to work through the photos and the interviews; to clear my debt from SFW. However, by recognising my limitations and not piling more work on top of the pre-existing pile I’m taking control. I can go to the October event and enjoy it, and prepare for the one in April next year.
I don’t want this monumental achievement to feel forever tainted by the unhealthy and unfair thoughts I’ve had. I absolutely hate the thought of letting people down when they’ve given time out of their day to me. But my health has to come first, and there was just too much for me to manage physically and mentally alongside my dissertation. At least I can hold my head high and say the delay and sacrifice were worth it.
I have come out of this journey with another couple of letters thrown at the end of my name, but these ones will actually make a difference. I’m already using the skills learned in Masters in my work for Geek for the Win and intend to do much more in the future. It may not have been the career path I intended when I started my Masters way back in 2015, but graduating with a Merit is a qualification that will help me on my next journey.
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