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Sharon Bill Music Tutor & Author

True Grit


The Open University Graduation ceremony was the starting point on my thoughts for a local village magazine.

This week we attended our daughter’s graduation ceremony. It was a really emotional experience, but not for the reasons that you’d usually expect. Of course I was proud to see my own daughter gain recognition for her achievement, but on this occasion it was so much more than that. Like me, she chose to study with the Open University and as I saw people of all ages accept their award it reminded me of how I studied for my degree whilst looking after three small toddlers and, after many early mornings and late, late nights gained a first class honours degree. The President urged everybody to join in celebrating this final recognition of their efforts - and this really is an understatement. Many of those attending had been studying for up to six or seven years whilst holding down a full time job and caring for a family. The atmosphere of celebration was electric as family and friends shouted and cheered to see their loved ones finally achieve what they had been working towards, no doubt through many tears - finally to achieve success. Traditional Universities recognise that to study with the OU demonstrates self discipline and motivation. A Cambridge Professor was quoted as saying that an OU student was the epitome of a true academic for those very reasons.

I’m reminded of a business lecture I heard where a business psychologist researched the secrets of success. A comprehensive survey of typical examples of success was taken. Business success, academic, Music and Sporting success stories were used. The backgrounds of each individual noted, along with their comments and advice was included into the research. Was it a privileged background, or money, or free time, or even natural talent that was ascribed as being the vital ingredient of success? Across a vast number of cases it was discovered that the social backgrounds and financial status of these people varied widely. Some were classed as clever, others of no particular academic note still proved that they had succeeded in their chosen field. In the end the only common denominator that joined all of these people could only be described at ‘Grit.’ - the determination to keep going and to see the job through, no matter what the obstacles were that stood in their way. The path of each individual varied widely and none found a short, straight line to their ultimate achievement, but no matter how many twists and turns they just kept going!

The graduation ceremony was so emotional because everybody there understood the grit and determination that had been needed to finally make it to the end - and, oh my didn’t we celebrate! Not all of us have the best start in life and not many of us have the best equipment to hand. I know that free time and money is never plentiful but that doesn’t mean that we can’t aim to achieve. For me it means that I often have to do my piano practise in my pyjamas at about midnight, because family life is always busy. It might mean that you get that essay done at 5 am before you go to work, or it might mean that you only make your daily walk just before bed. Sometimes it might mean that things don’t get done at all - but tomorrow is a new day, don’t give up but try again! We may not receive a cap and gown for all of our efforts - sometimes just getting the dishes washed and put away feels like a major achievement. The important thing is that there is always something new to aim for. The most touching part of the graduation ceremony was when an elderly gentleman escorted his wife onto the stage to accept her honours degree award. It’s never too late to start to learn something, you just need ‘true grit!’