Thursday 23rd November, 2017.
University of Ulster, Belfast Campus.
“So, when can you start?”
It was the sentence that I had been waiting for. In fact, quite desperately. I had been looking for work since June, after my grandmother passed away. I needed money. No where else would take me on, as they all required: EXPERIENCE. I had no experience! I was willing to work anywhere.
“Monday.” I replied.
I was employed there and then, in my (former) supervisor’s office. He smiled and said, “Great, see you at 7am.”
As I woke up that morning on the 27th, I thought I made a grave mistake. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I really didn’t think this through. The thoughts of having new starts made me really anxious, as I walked to work that morning at 6:20am, I started to get nervous as I walked through the Campus doors. So far, I only knew three people.
It was dauting. It was the dark mornings, I went to see my supervisor as I didn’t have a clue where I was going. It was only 6:35am. I wanted to make a good impression. I didn’t know anybody, I knew there were lectuers and students, back then, I wish I was more excited but I realise back then, I wasn’t used to change, and it still scared me.
It actually turned out to be alright, the first couple of weeks. I met other cleaners, the one that stood out with Jackie. After chatting, she knew my mum and her best friend, so I felt comfortable. She was really easy to talk to, and I could tell her anything, but my supervisors and Jackie had rifts with her, so they came up a lot and caught us talking instead of working. I used to obey orders, and I never went out of line. In school, I was always known as the “teacher’s pet” because I always did what I was told, and I never had a detention once in school. I always was on time to classes, and even the thoughts of being late made my heart race.
The good thing was that I started to get to know everyone on my floor. I was on the graphic design, photography, Masters in Architecture, PhD students and most importantly, all the Exectuive Deans within the University. It was leading up to Christmas so I was exctiedly counting down the days to get off and have a rest. After all, my sleep pattern was wired up ever since I left school the year before, so, I was quite glad of a rest when it was time to break off for the Christmas holidays.
Problems started arising after the Christmas holidays. My supervisors were known to be quite picky and they were often referred as “OCD freaks” by my colleagues, everyone knew them on my floor, they told me they would help me out, considering it was a massive floor to do by myself. At this point, Jackie was removed with me considering all we did was sit around and giggle and chat. I had to do the toilets, empty the bins, brush the classrooms, mop and clean the floors, vacuum the carpets. Bearing in mind, I had to do this within four hours. I was truly trying my best, but I felt with the constant remarks, I was being picked on. I was the youngest there, and still was when I left. I started to dread, I started to cry and protest that I didn’t want to go back, but at that point in my life, I didn’t know what to do.
Things started to ease within the months, yet, there would be moments when my senior supervisor would be like, “Why isn’t this done yet? Why? Why? There’s been complaints on this floor. This hasn’t been done properly.” I was getting fed up. I was glad when the summer came around, and the students started to depart, but I felt sad in a way, because I got to know some of them, especially the boys, that were awful nice to me when my supervisors would storm off in a huff. In the summer, it was required that we deep cleaned, but the best thing, we weren’t on a time scale, not until late September when the students came back.
Although it was better, it was quite boring. I had no one to talk to, and I would listen to my music every day. It wasn’t until it was the week in August I kept seeing the advertistment of “Open University” everywhere. I had tried to get into Ulster University at Coleraine for a History degree, but I realised, I didn’t want to do History. So, I went home that morning after my shift, and googled courses, and Psychology intruiged me.
Although it was better, it was quite boring. I had no one to talk to, and I would listen to my music every day. It wasn’t until it was the week in August I kept seeing the advertistment of “Open University” everywhere. I had tried to get into Ulster University at Coleraine for a History degree, but I realised, I didn’t want to do History. So, I went home that morning after my shift, and googled courses, and Psychology had intrugied me.
I decided to sign up for Psychology at the Open University. This gave me the opporunity to study at Higher Education and to work at the same time. It was all online based, no seminars to go to, it was all at a pace of yourself. My books arrived promptly early September. I was ready to meet people. I often find that I meet people online more than I would in real life back then. I would go on dating apps to talk to several people at a time, getting to know them as I would on Facebook and such. I was excited to learn that the Open University had a forum, and immediately I seen a forum thread for Psychology and the author thread is Nicole. Yes, this is the same Nicole that I’ve been speaking about regularly in my blog posts. I texted her on my phone and she responded and added me into a WhatsApp groupchat with other people. As well as that, I would join Facebook groups and be added in their group chats on WhatsApp. It seemed that everything was, indeed, falling into place.
Still, I was geting up at 5:30am and not getting home till 11:30am latest, and despite being a student, I wasn’t really a student. The Open University was classified as part time study, despite I was doing two modules, having assignments and tutors. I couldn’t go out during Freshers or go out late, bcause I was so exhausted, and I was almost a year into the workplace, so a routine had been formed. I was still running a house as well, especiallywhen my mum went into hospital for an opertaion, I had to make sure the house was well kept up. I was enjoying talking to the new students Monday to Friday, and I actually felt lonely when there was no one on my floor. Thankfully though, I was starting to get friendly with the Executive Deans, I was telling them my ambitions and goals to go to Ulster University, eventually planning to go to Queens to do my Masters. I was really starting to enjoy the course, so I knew I had picked the right one to do. I was always interetsed in mental health, having experienced them myself with my anxiety and depression.
Alas, work was still up and down some days. I didn’t really have a best friend until December 2018 and I had started the year before. So, I was basically by myself. Unfortunately, I believed the school cliques would end as soon as I would leave school, but they didn’t. Despite being friendly with everyone, and the secuirty guards, they had their own little group. I believe my age was a facotr, considering I have no kids, no boyfriend and no real “life” My friends would discuss the weekends drinking binges and hangs out, while my colleagues would ask me what wallpaper would suit their living room, and discussing their own lives when they were my age, I wasn’t even thought of at that point. Still, it was nice to have their wisdom and advice, but I really wanted to make new friends my age.
During that time, I noticed a few of the people that was doing the course also wanted to go to University full time. I googled and seen cases that people could transfer. I had started my UCAS application (for the third time) and I contacted Ulster how would it work. I would have to study at first year again, which was totally fine, so I applied and awaited anxiously. I put my head down at Open Uni, studied and read my textbooks, wrote notes and completed my assignments.
2nd March 2019
I received a conditional offer from Ulster Univeristy. I was overjoyed. I had lost hope after the admissions made a comment on my A Levels. I had received DDC, which I think it pretty good considering I had nine written exams in my upper sixth year. I had to get 60% overall in my first year in Open Univeristy. Thankfully the Open Uni was British Psychological Society accredited, so it was a legit course.
I didn’t tell many people, mainly because I wanted it to be a surprise when I got in. I realise that people’s negative vibes can really affect you and your performance. I finished my course at the end of May, and I was quite grateful that I had no exams, but it was essay based with a practical report. It was finally summer, and I knew my shifts at Ulster University were limited. It was only really this summer I started to feel settled and more confident than ever, but I knew that I would be in there for life, and quite frankly, I wanted to see more and do more than clean. I am definitely a career girl, not a house wife. I love learning and advancing my learning, I get so bored after the same cleaning and routine. It wasn’t my passion.
15th August 2019
At this point, I had made more stable co worker friendships, I viewed them as friends than I would have back in 2017. I made another friendship, a woman called May. She was wonderful and still is. They were the only people I had told of my plans to going to Univeristy, as I knew if I told the others, the news would be reported back to my supervisors. I wanted to be 100% positive that I was leaving, I had dreamt of handing in my resignation and to tell them I was leaving. Admittedly, I did have a screaming match with them back in October after they accused me of not doing something right, when I knew rightly I had did it, and I had protested and protested, but I was truthfully fed up. I just snapped.
It was approxmiately 1:20pm I received the news I got into Ulster University. I couldn’t believe it. My dream had came true. All my life, my teachers would tell me I wouldn’t go far, they perusaded my mother to believe that University wasn’t for me. But it was my dream, and I wanted to go for it. And I did it.
I was over the moon. I immediately went in the next day and handed in my notice. It felt the most wonderful thing in the world, and my supervisors were happy for me. They congratulated me and my last day of work would be 13th September. So, I was content on being on the stairs, brushing them. I would finally be free.
Friday 13th September 2019
Who said that day was unlucky? It was the luckiest day in the world. I received cards and gifts which included important University essentials. I truly thought the last four weeks would drag, but to be frank, they didn’t. And as I left, and as my supervisors wished me good luck, encouraged me to go to the Belfast campus library. I felt weird, anxious and nervous, I’m not going to lie. I believe “leaving work depression” is real. It is. I was there almost two years, I had made the most wonderful friendships both with my colleagues and students, including the Exectuive Deans. Even though I had bad days, I also had good days. I laughed, I cried. But most importnalty, I dicovered what meant the most while I worked there.
I have a life in front of me, a bright, positive life. And I can’t wait to take people that are in my life into that bright future. I have so many plans and ambitious plans ahead, I cannot wait to achieve every single one of them. Perhaps I dreaded my first ever shift as a cleaner, but it turned out to be the best job I’ve had so far. It made me realise what mattered the most. It was my education.