When I was young, I wanted to play up front for Preston North End. But I had a paper round, so that was never going to happen.
I should have learned to play the guitar and be a rock star; money for nothing.
But I didn’t have an amp. Or a guitar.
I even tried boxing, briefly, but I was too good looking.
(This was a long time ago, obviously.)
So I thought about things I could be good at; archaeologist, journalist or teacher, in no particular order.
I loved history, was great at English and was a massive show-off, who loved nothing more than holding court amid bored classmates with wildly-exaggerated stories. In short, I had all the basic requirements to make a success of all three.
But this was in the days when ‘careers advice’ involved five minutes with somebody else’s maths teacher, who basically wanted to tick you off the list as doing ‘something’.
It didn’t matter if you were suited to it, or they thought you could do better. If you were doing ‘something’ you were off their hands and on to the next one. “Thanks for messing around in class for the past five years, loser. See how that works out for you. Bye!”
Now, please don’t detect bitterness here. This isn’t a pity party in print – I learned huge life lessons and always take responsibility for whatever path I choose.
And I’ve achieved all my professional ambitions and more, so I’m never going to complain.
But I missed out on one giant opportunity that would have probably changed the way I am today; I should have gone to university.
I was reminded of this glaring omission from my life experience this week as my daughter began looking at where she plans to study in a couple of years’ time.
Universities from all over the country set up stall at her school and handed out free pens, stickers and, err, badges to aspiring students – and their dads.
“There you go,” said a very hip young lady as she pinned one on my lapel.
I didn’t check it until a few minutes and several funny looks later. In bright white letters it read . . . ‘evil genius’.
They obviously do degrees in Advanced Perception at Staffordshire University.
Settling in to one of the multi-media (of course) presentations, I started to see what I’d missed out on by choosing the school of hard knocks.
A video from one of the establishments basically listed all the fun activities on campus; football, music, comedy, films, cheap beer, girls, girls, girls.
It didn’t actually say ‘girls, girls, girls’ but all the activities – even the football – were carried out by Clare Grogan lookalikes and all the boys in the room sat up and took notice. And the dads.
We were just about hooked until we made our way into one of the less well-attended sessions – financing your education. Clunk. Over the next half an hour, a very nice lady spelled out exactly how much going to university was going to cost. Basically, £9,000 a year in tuition fees and probably another £5,000 a year for accommodation, Pot Noodles, etc.
For a three-year degree, most students will begin their working life with around £40,000 of debt.
You could have bought my first house for that.
It will probably take them – or their families – decades to pay it all back. And whereas in the early 1980s only a select few went to ‘uni’ now it’s expected that the vast majority will sign up.
It’s educational blackmail; sign up for a £40k debt or face career oblivion further down the line.
Of course, it’s laced with three years of cheap beer, great laughs and eight hours of lectures a week.
Education, education, education, eh?
Can’t remember who thought that up, but I’ve got a badge with his name on.