Words are ever present in our lives. From the first successful ‘mama’ that rewarded us with ‘oohs‘ and ‘aaws’, even applause, they follow us wherever we go. And words have power. They earn us smiles and hugs, create expectations or reap tears.
Then there are those words that shake our very foundation. They bring us insight, turn our worlds upside down and sometimes touch our very soul. At times they have such an impact on our lives that we are changed forever. They can come from parents, spouses, siblings or friends. We cross paths with them in the books we read. Sometimes they are from a teacher or mentor. And at other times, as it was in my case, from an almost complete stranger.
Allow me to introduce myself. Due to my tongue twister of a Dutch last name most people just stick with Silvy. After living in the lovely hot Caribbean, I now enjoy the lovely green countryside in the Midlands (UK). A new adventure, just like this, my first post on the UoL blog. I found myself doing a lot of hard thinking, about what to say or whether I even had anything to say. Like you, perhaps, I am what they call a mature student. I am on my final 4 modules of the BA English, so I am hopeful this will be the last leg of my lengthy journey to the degree.
A very long time ago when I first contemplated ‘going to University’ it was not such a straightforward decision to make. No-one in my family, at least no female, had ever done so. Learning was encouraged, absolutely, but a degree? And then there were my ‘friends’ at the time. ‘Why would you want to do that’, they asked? ‘Doesn’t it cost a lot of money’, others questioned? Some just plainly declared it was a waste of money. ‘It takes a lot of time, you won’t be able to have a social life’. Or ‘it is not for people like you’, my favourite!
Personally I was dealing with a number of other questions. Will I be able to do this? Will I be able to manage time? What about finances? I lived in Southern Europe at that point and I had just passed my university entry exams with flying colours. But still I was full of self-doubt. I was about to put myself out there in so many ways and my environment at the time wasn’t exactly supportive. So many words kept swirling around in my mind. Words like ‘failure’, ‘not good enough’, ‘rejection’, even the infamous ‘not for you’. It was hard to see clearly.
Then there they were one evening. Out of the blue. In a casual conversation with an almost complete stranger. We had only met a week or so earlier. I have to be completely honest here and admit that I have since forgotten his name. Something I deeply regret. We were discussing educational goals and something in my voice must have expressed my doubts because the two words that came out of his mouth next were ‘Why not?’. Those words would forever change my life. ‘You are intelligent and hardworking, right? Why not?’.
This medium cannot, perhaps, do justice to the enormous power that came with those words. It was a ‘why not’ that left no doubt as to whether I could do it. It wasn’t so much a question as it was a statement. A declaration of competence, thrown at me in such a definite and casual manner that I could actually hear the sound of my doubts being shattered. Those words moved me just like the ‘Yes, we can’ slogan once moved a whole nation. My own reaction was the most revealing. Here was a question for which I did not have an answer. I just stood there as it worked its way through my system like an antivirus on a search and destroy mission, clearing away all the harmful files I had downloaded into my mental and emotional hard drive. There was no reason why not. I had lost.
‘Why not’, like an old fashioned gentleman, has opened many doors for me. In learning and in life. The simple fact that I could not present a convincing argument as to ‘why not’ did it, then and now. Excuses, yes, obstacles, plenty, but nothing truly unsurmountable. ‘Why not’ has seen me through many of life’s ups and downs. More importantly, it has helped me push through those moments of feeling overwhelmed while trying to balance the demands of a degree study and family responsibilities. Like a faithful friend ‘why not?’ will be there when I sit my last exams and graduate. And I expect will continue to be there when I go in search for funding for my postgrad (why not?) study.
As a student of English I am learning to be a critical thinker, to question the status quo. ‘Why not?’ are two words that help me to constantly question the world including my own assumptions. They force me to dig deeper and thanks to them I have discovered many hidden treasures.
Two words can completely change your life.
Silvy is studying the BA English in the United Kingdom.