What a Master of Science taught me and what legacy I want to leave behind (10 min read)


 

What are your thoughts about life?

I haven’t met a single person who is already sure from the beginning what they want to do with their lives. So didn’t I. Like many others, I am a typical ‘jack of all trades but a master of none’. Studying a Master of Science degree taught me, hopefully, my role in life and the legacy I want to leave behind.

Does that sound familiar to you as well?

The feeling that you’re continually working ‘in the blind’? The feeling that you’re always doing things for someone else’s benefit and that you are struggling to pay the bills with work that you don’t really (or really do not) want to do? And, in continuation of that feeling, that you would like to leave something behind for other people to learn from?

Maybe you have had a significant (perhaps negative) life experience that you want to scream out from the top of your lungs on the highest rooftop for the whole world to know. Maybe you are satisfied with what you are doing and that you only think one day at the time and aren’t bothered how you can be an example for someone else. Which is totally fine.

Like many, I do want to share. I do want to share knowledge, make a lasting impact for at least someone. But, before you can do that, you do need to have the tools to get started.

Education

I found my tool in education. Education as such, especially when you’re young, can also be an obligatory brainwashing system to enter a highly competitive world in which grades seem to matter more than the actual knowledge. On the other hand, this might be implied by society. However, it is our choice and interest in what we are learning and how to use it. Education as such is also a tool for personal development and knowing your place in this world. It is stepping up to skills that you can use later in life.

As the choice is overwhelming, it can feel there is nothing for you and that you will have to choose something random to make a final decision later in life. Or that you have pressure from family or culture to have a specific education to fulfil a particular role in society that has already been laid out for you.

For a long time, basically, since I left school, I never felt I was at the right place. I did unskilled work; working as a shop assistant, a mattress promotor and other odd jobs. I had the luck to enter an international teacher training college, and the only reason they accepted me was that I did have 12 years of schooling (way under the level that was needed, but hey, rules can be bent) and I had quite some years working experience already (between my 18th and 24th). I regretted that I didn’t put more effort into school, that I didn’t go after opportunities that were there just by coming out of the mainstream idea and re-educate myself to something else. But this chance to have a Bachelor in Education, I grabbed with both hands. It was also kind of the first time that I felt somehow some security. 4 years a roof above my head, possibilities for a stable income during studies, travelling, seeing the world and getting a degree on top of that.

After completing that school, I went to Thailand to teach English. Well, the whole English as a second language (ESL) culture, who does it and with what motivation is a whole different blog post. If you want to know more about that, just ask, and I will see if I can make a blog post about that eventually.

Via Thailand, I ended up in the USA, where I taught volunteers about international development issues. But, in retrospect, that was so amateur. It was based on a collective, subjective (working and life) experience without a real scientific/academic background. The familiar terms, frameworks, methods, authors, systems, and the role of NGOs within international development was entirely absent. And it carried the name ‘University’.

B*llshit.

Yet, at the time, I was proud of what I was doing. I liked the job, I became quite good at it, to a certain degree. But, I did miss the fundamentals, and that was a pity.

At some point, I was on a crossroad. Either I could stay in the USA, making use of that ‘network’ and grow there. That meant that all the other options wouldn’t be possible as that network was entirely on its own. The other option was to leave that network and be entirely on my own without any support. I have been within that network for some time already, didn’t have friends in my home country anymore and also no professional references I could use.

What an MSc taught me

I was encouraged to study again, to find the missing link between what I could do in practice and the theoretical background. I felt that I wanted to make a legacy, a direct impact and letting go of teaching as that’s making an indirect impact (no matter how rewarding teaching actually is!) That realisation meant for me, for the first time, that I saw education as such a tool for personal development. Education is not an asset, or a stock, no. Education is a process and a flow of information for me and me alone to reach from where I was to another level. 0 competition with others, only with myself. A school dropout going for a Master degree!

I decided to leave the USA, to go back to my parent’s house, and simply BIC-HOK (Butt In Chair – Hands On Keyboard) and go for it. In fact, I was living for quite some time in a very isolated environment. Many of the people I knew were spread all over the world who I was chatting with mostly, so I actually stopped talking altogether. Yes, some words at home, but, at some point, you’re done talking to parents.

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Wrtiting the same over and over again to memorise… 

It gave me time to reflect, to focus on myself, to see where I am in the world and what I could do for someone else. A ‘British’ master degree isn’t making multiple choice tests, it isn’t just reading through and writing a bit about it. It was hardcore understanding everything and reproducing with my own words and referenced. It was getting the essence of large academic texts and nailing the point down. It was gaining a firm understanding of concepts, with practical (country) references. Exams were 2 hours handwritten answering questions at random for that subject. Thus, if you didn’t study something and there were questions about it, no single way that you can talk your way out of it.

That is very confronting in a way too. You alone in a room for hours at the time learning in ways you never have done before. It hits your personality and your doubts. You start second-guessing. Is what I am learning now, really what I want to learn? Do I want to use it in the future? Can I see myself working with this?

Many of these questions I answered with ‘no’, and I seemed to be on a track becoming a statistic. One other student who started but saw it isn’t for them and quit. A part of me wanted to, especially in the end. But, then again, I was in such a situation that I couldn’t manage to quit. There aren’t many people who get a heritage that pays university fees and being able to work on the side for living expenses (I was driving for Uber) and the remaining course fees. There are billions of people without any access to secondary or tertiary education. I have. Morally I couldn’t quit.

Also, now being in Malaysia, having a degree matters. The pay scale of a master degree is merely higher than for other education for the same job. It isn’t fair, but, it can work in my advantage.

This MSc did teach me:

  • Stamina, moving on, not giving up
  • Distress and hopelessness, but, also the hyper delight and pride after each exam I passed.
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Exam stressssssss!!!!
  • It taught me the much theoretical knowledge and practical systems to implement and also precisely that what my job in the USA was lacking so much. (If any of you want to volunteer, or get more knowledge, please do investigate more than reading the website alone. Ask questions, who is teaching, what experience do they have, where is that knowledge coming from, especially in the ‘alternative’ scene. Not to say that organisations I worked for are wrong, it’s just that you arrive with the right expectation).
  • Self-reflection. At some point, in distressed times, I was gunning for the system, the support, the texts, the ‘anything I could point my fingers on’ but myself. Looking back, gosh, I was the one who didn’t understand, didn’t want, found it too difficult and all. Instead of seeing and realising that, I started ‘fighting’, which caused even more delays and it did cost energy that I could have been using so much better.
  • Time management. Well, actually, maybe that is something I always will have to learn. I was happily blogging and gardening and going around while I should have been in the books. Procrastination. That I am good at! Hence, I skipped blogging in the end after realising that time was nearly up and I was hardcore studying ever since. Now it is keeping fingers crossed that I made the last 2 exams well enough to pass. Only the dissertation is left. I am on the right track already and hope to finish it this year.

Speaking about the dissertation.

That is something I actually enjoy writing. I could have produced a paper and deliver it just to be done, but, no, with that one I want to get a good grasp of the content. The dissertation/thesis is a paper of only 10.000 words, but, the topic, research and its methods, the choice of literature, the design, the content, the analysis, all is mine. Nobody told me what to do or how to do it. That whole process is coming from me, my knowledge up until now and the tools I need to learn to make it possible.

Already thanks to that dissertation and the underlying theories I actually got aware of society, and how to explain it from different angles. About the problems in society. About the daily issues, we are facing. About why we feel useless, why we have so many burn-outs, why we have so many mental problems, what makes it difficult to cope, why we feel we are exchangeable for anyone else and why this ‘normal life’ we are living isn’t normal at all!

It is too long to explain here. In this post. And I don’t think I will use my blog for it either.

The legacy I want to leave behind

The process of writing the dissertation did teach me that I don’t want to have this so-called ‘normal life’ anymore. I don’t want to work for a boss. I have had already so many years of freedom as in managing life alternatively (community living, self-employed, you name it), and I want to build more on that. Now I am in a situation that I am not alone, I have a super awesome and lovely wife and family (in law) I will have to take care of. There are bills to be paid. That is unavoidable. Thus, the question is, how will I organise myself?

The process of writing the dissertation teaches me the ‘problem-solution’ theory. Or at least, how it became relevant to me.

The ‘problem-solution’ theory is quite easy to grasp but quite challenging to implement. When you don’t have clothes, you have a problem, and the solution is buying them. When you aren’t able to create a website, you have a problem, and the solution is either to learn how to make it or to outsource it. When you want to learn it yourself then you have a problem, you don’t know how and the solution is reading information that teaches you exactly that.

Many books/blogs/websites etc. are aimed at solving a problem in a certain niche. Fiction also addresses ‘problem-solution’. Themes can be about love, society, crime, addictions, etc. and that’s plotted out. Those themes can be written in different styles/worlds/genres.

I always have been good at writing, at telling stories, at teaching, and I think I finally found my ‘problem’. The problem is the way our society is organised. Both economically and politically, it is so abnormal! Society makes us believe that there is no other alternative possible. Yes, in the USA, there are the Republicans (conservative) and the Democrats (less conservative) and there are the ‘welfare states’ in Scandinavia, which all are democratic in a way, but, they don’t address the fundamental issues that explain society to show us why it is so wrong and why we cannot sufficiently cope with it.

Of course, there always will be ‘the happy few’ who can buy their way into everything, but the vast majority of the people are simply struggling. Struggling relative to others in the same context or abstract struggling because the biggest part of a society does not have food. Or any single spare $ to buy life-saving medicine that costs only $1.

There are people without rights in many degrees, look for example to the LGBTQ+, skin colour, religion, gender, etc. Those power relations are far from clear either and what is culturally acceptable.

I do not claim I have the answer or the ultimate solution. But these significant contrasts within society I am able to address, comparing, and to write about. And that’s precisely what I want to leave behind.

My vision will become something like: ‘Imagining an alternative world that addresses and solves the big inequalities in our current society.

My mission will become something like: ‘I want to shake up, provoke thoughts, make you think about what is wrong and how to possibly solve it through engaging and page-turning books’

I believe that there are many people who feel ‘something is wrong’, I want to write exactly what is wrong in an engaging way.

That, hopefully, will be my legacy; books, stories, paragraphs, sentences and words that people can consume, can learn from, can identify themselves with, can be inspired from and that those stories will make an impact and a change. Even if it is just 1 person.

Though bills have to be paid, it’s not about the money. It is my drive, motivation and ability to at least address the biggest question in the society that is going on today. It is up to us together to find a solution to have left behind a world that is better for our children than it is for us. And, if I can make money from it, I’d be grateful!

Have you written anything yet? No. Not yet. The decision to start is made, now follow through!

(well, I did try out one thing; a try how to publish on Amazon which you can see here $.99 only 😉

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