Written by Dionne Johnson
I have been a single parent since my son was five. He is now 40 and I am still around to give a bit of support when he needs a bit of extra cash. Believe me it never ends. I think our kids think that is our purpose on Earth. Having said that I’m glad he is still around. The kind of help I get from him is more in the order of go on Mum, you can do it.
He was twelve when I went to college (for one year) and then on to university. But I was lucky because I still had my Mum and Dad around so I knew when I left him at home with them that he was in the best place he could be. College was all right because being in the further education world they were not in quite the same bracket academically as university (which is higher education). So things like my writing for essays and other written work was considered quite good. Imagine my horror when I got to university and found that my essay writing was not considered quite good anymore. I knew that university would be hard because I was forty-two but I hadn’t expected the depression that accompanied my low marks on written work. I knew that my knowledge of the subjects was not the problem because other students would come to me all the time asking me to explain things to them (like the Marxist labour theory of value, for example). I knew that stuff inside out but one student in particular really rattled me. She was younger than me and was always coming to me for help. Then she would go away and get an ‘A’ for her essay and I would be lucky to get a ‘C-’. It broke my heart but I couldn’t find out what was causing this problem with my work.
When I had first gone to university I had had a serious talk with my conscious and unconscious mind about how we would approach the tasks because at that time I felt the 18-19 year olds with their quick young minds were going to be my biggest problem. I sat on the end of my bed in my room in halls and had a good heart to heart. I told my unconscious mind that her task was to look after all the housekeeping issues. Making sure that I didn’t wear things that clashed horribly; making sure I ate sufficient and at sensible times. You know the sort of things. I went to some lengths to make sure she knew what I wanted. I told my conscious mind – thinking that it was the powerful one academically – that it had to give its full time to my studies. At that time I thought I had done well in getting my troops organized. But something had gone wrong because I couldn’t get the marks for my essays that I wanted.
I didn’t know that I had done something wrong at such a rudimentary level. It was the unconscious that I should have been talking to for my studies and my conscious mind for the housekeeping work. When I looked back on that period later I can remember thinking how excited my unconscious must have been. I had never had a conversation with her previously so she must have been feeling pretty neglected. And all of a sudden I was talking directly to her and giving her instructions of what was required from her. I could imagine her jumping up and down in excitement and clapping her hands together at the thought of being told to run things. I did not know I had unleashed a real bossy boots because she never asked me what I wanted – she always told me what I had to do.
A month or so into my course when I had had to hand in a couple of essays I started to see strange things happening. For instance, as I left a lecture intending to go to the library for some studying, I would find myself walking off in a completely different direction. I was a bit panicked the first couple of times but once I knew what was going on I decided to be relaxed about it and see where my feet took me. It was quite good fun really. My unconscious usually took me somewhere I might be able to find the information I wanted and needed in order to turn around my essays. My destination was always one associated with learning. My unconscious didn’t seem to know a lot about entertaining oneself or having fun. Mind you so far as I knew she might have been having the most fun she could have without getting locked up but she never let me in on that aspect of her life. Her job was to look after me and keep me safe while providing me with what I needed to survive in university. She always took me to doors in the humanities department where she believed I would find the information I needed. If the incumbent was at home their reply when I asked for advice on essay writing was always the same – well I can’t tell you how to do it but I can tell you when you get it right. What a waste of time. Of what good was that to me? But one day she got it exactly right. She took me to Professor Andrew Vincent’s office and when I asked him if he had advice he could give me on essay writing he almost dragged me into his office, plonked me down in an armchair and proceeded to explain using a little blackboard he had on the wall. He explained beautifully in a very short time. So then what? I asked. That’s it, he said. That’s all there is to it. Short of writing the essay for you that’s all I can do, he told me, slightly sarcastically, so I left, thanking him as I went.
Now that my unconscious had succeeded in solving my problem for me I realized I might have to curb her enthusiasm a bit because she seemed to think that my only task was to do exactly as she told me all the time. She was getting a bit too big for her boots so I had to cut back on her freedom a tad because otherwise God knows where we would have ended up.
When I applied Professor Vincent’s method I immediately started to get ‘A’s which I can tell you pleased me no end. From then on I was a straight ‘A’s student. It was great and luckily I hadn’t cut off my unconscious completely and she went on to teach me so many other things that I eventually wrote a programme for people who wanted to learn the basics about getting a university degree. It is so good that you could do it on your own without actually having to go to university but I must say that going to university and all the people of so many different nationalities that I met was the best thing in my life so far.