No Man’s Land – thoughts on leaving school, music and law.

First official post of the summer holidays – how’s everyone faring? School ended about a week ago and it still hasn’t hit me yet.

We, the leavers, felt ready to say goodbye, especially those with destinations set in stone. Though a few of us, including me, are now walking through No Man’s Land.

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Ceilidh dancing…

School and university: the two neighbouring lands alien to one another. (Not warzones as such. If you wanted you could put together a simile along the lines of ‘battlefields’ and ‘obstacles in life’. But no… Ew.)

In the middle lies a plot of space and time called the Summer Holidays, wherein I have lost a sense of identity. No longer a pupil of St. Mary’s Music School; not yet a student of Kings College London. The confirmation of my acceptance into KCL: August 7th: exam results: judgement day.

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As the night came to a close…

Until then I’m floating in a limbo. Without a sense of ‘belonging’ to either music or law. It’s a peculiar sensation that gives rise to peculiar disjunct thoughts.  I’ve been trying to write about this for the past two days, adding bits on, trying to refine the post and create a flow to the prose.

AND IT IS NOT WORKING. New paragraphs don’t fit in. The body is chunky. I am bored and tired and frustrated. But as it reflects my actual mind I’ve decided to embrace the flaws and keep going regardless. 

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As much as I had been longing to leave school, there were few personal qualms which built up over the final year. Firstly, the dramatic change from specialist music education to law was looming closer day by day, tying me up in knots of dread and doubt. Some teachers weren’t much help either. Their friendliness only accentuated what I was already feeling:

With an ear like yours, I think you’ll miss music. You’ll have music withdrawal symptoms!

Hmm…

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The majority of people I spoke with, particularly the teachers, questioned my diversion in subject choice. (I see no end to it yet!) I usually give a nonchalant reply, concealing the minor conflicting details which swim around my mind every day. I can’t even read fiction at the moment without hearing sentences wail in my head. (My concentration is slowly improving though, as of today.)

How much will I miss music? Lessons are expensive, do you really want to be in further debt? Will I have time? I haven’t read a single academic book.

A law degree is not easy. You do know that, don’t you?

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I anticipate the challenges ahead of me, even with the relatively little experience I have had in education. On many occasions I admit to had forgotten the nature of a law degree. I brushed aside the concept of ‘difficulty’ and shrugged away all the negative aspects of studying law. Distracted and self-pitying of my ‘high-pressured’ life at school that I believed any other academic life would be more enjoyable than the current one.

Oh Jesus, another rehearsal the day before an exam?

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Final St. Mary’s breakfast

I can see how my carefree attitude could have been conceived. Looking back to the start of the university application process, there was one teacher, not from school, who remarked on my personal statement,

You seem to have a very idealistic vision of a legal career…

Strangely enough I had never noticed the excessive and ebullient optimism in my writing until his mentioning of it. The sudden revelation of my childishness caused me, inevitably, to feel ashamed about what I believed in. For me, his casual comment had warped into a personal attack. I felt vulnerable and thus could not form a convincing response.

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Writing ‘Thank You’ cards to all my teachers. This one was for our quartet tutor.

Then when I left our meeting, I reflected on our conversation and started to kick myself. Because a viewpoint which could have been put across had come to me too late: Doesn’t everyone pursue a profession with an ideal vision in mind?

As kiddie musicians, we dream of playing on priceless instruments; on the world’s best stages with the greatest conductors; with sporting flawless technique, charisma and energy. When I was in primary school we were often told to draw our ambitions and dreams. I even drew a picture that featured me as the new BBC Young Musician of the year. (Obviously this didn’t work out.)

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Last day of term – pizzas on the lawn.

I guess I’m now walking away from this ideal and heading for another. I can’t tell if it’s a brave or cowardly thing to do. Is putting music behind more wimpish than choosing law is ambitious? Until I find out this question is going to eat my brains for years to come.

Even more painful is seeing my musical friends continuing on the same path with performance and music academic degrees. As my opportunities and stories pixelate, they will be learning and playing all over the world. Will I really survive without music? And, can I really look after myself in London?

However hard I plan or imagine university life to be, I won’t really know until I’m there this September, as a frightened and curious fresher. Solution: Stop thinking about it, you’ll be fine.

My summer activities so far have given me more confidence too. I went to London for the NYO Inspire Day at Southbank Centre, taking part in the Nucleo ‘Neighbourhood’ Festival. Travelling on my own rekindled my enthusiasm for the city. Being with friends again reminded me of life exempt from any education institution.

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Southbank Centre in full sunshine – water, swimsuits and all.

I’ll keep smiling and playing music…

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Inspire Day musicians!

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Lovely Djeikub!

…and hopefully read some fiction in peace.

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To finish I’ll share a thought from a friend. I spoke to him about the concept of ‘No Man’s Land’ and he advised, jokingly,

I’d lie down.

But why? I asked.

Well otherwise you’ll get shot.
But also now you’ve got time to look at the sky…

Which is exactly what I’m doing now.

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St Mary’s Music School Leavers singing at Prize-giving:

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Up next: NYO at Buckingham Palace for the Coronation Festival.

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One thought on “No Man’s Land – thoughts on leaving school, music and law.

  1. “All the world’s a stage.” – A Letter to My Pre-University Self | An Ode to Life – The Diary of a Noggin

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