January 2016: On September 30th 2015 I stepped out of the education system forever, after 1 year of study at the University of York.
Since probably around the age of 11 we’re all told University is the only way to succeed, the only way we can access those jobs we all want, the 40k salary, the wife and two kids who live in the 3 bedroom new build in a London suburb. Teachers, Heads, the Man who has the fancy door sign declaring himself ‘head of post 16 studies’, they all drill it into you that University is the promised land and without it you’ll be working a shitty job doing everything you never thought you’d become.
It’s wrong that these people, the guardians of our future dreams are allowed to drill this message into kids. Just because they’ve spent their whole career in education doesn’t mean everyone else does too. They want statistics, they want 94% of their kids going into further education, if one or two stumble into Oxbridge that’s great too for their 18 foot banner attached to the front gates detailing their ‘success rate’. If your dream is to become a Lawyer, Doctor - something that you need a degree in to reach your dream then they’re true - but for the rest of us, particularly those looking towards a creative career - the fact that they’re pushing us with this message is intrinsically wrong.
Don’t get me wrong, kids have a choice - they’re by no means forced, but I think it’s right that they have someone else writing an article like this - letting them know there’s another way.
I had a choice too, I decided to come to University - it’s the best thing I’ve done, the people I’ve met are fantastic (apart from the nasty ones), but it was also the best thing I’ve done leaving when I did.
I remember sitting in a lecture theatre, being taught how to write an essay on how Eastenders has changed since it first began to air. The lecturer, Hannah, was by far the rudest person I’ve ever met (she lost her job shortly after said lecture) had never made a film, nor a TV programme, in fact she’d never come out of the educational system. I remember realising that I didn’t want to spend the next 2 days writing an essay about Eastenders, nor did I want to spend the next 2 years being taught by Rude Hannah, and I didn’t really want to spend a further £18,000 on the privilege.
Weeks earlier I’d met two people who have changed my life forever, Scott and Sid. They’d seen something in me and Scott had offered to be my Executive Producer if I wanted to make a feature film. Excitedly I’d asked my year leader, Ed, for a meeting to discuss said proposal - and whether the University would A) be of any help, B) if it was possible to study whilst making the feature.
With a grin on his face, Ed declared that “one of his friends had directed a feature film at a young age, and never made one again”. Thanks for that Ed, that line is still what gets me out of bed every morning.
Earlier that week I’d won a cash prize at a film festival, Ed found out and because I’d used one of the University's tripods when making said film, he demanded the University be sent the cash prize (which I’d already spunked on lager and a new Grimsby Town shirt) and all future cash prizes the film would win. Surely the University would want, come graduation, their kids to make enough money from their films to live off of, surely thats the aim of the game.
As you can probably tell, I don’t really like people punishing intuition, particularly rude people punishing intuition.
I’d began to think about leaving, but that was a very scary option. I didn’t know anyone who’d left University early who hadn’t gone straight into a job stacking porn mags at Tesco. I didn’t really know how I’d deal with being different to everyone I’d met at Uni, whether I'd have to move back to London with Mum & Dad, or what I’d do to earn enough money for those Wetherspoons sharing platters I like.
I’d gone out for a night in Leeds and for some reason decided starting an Inflatable Hot Tub Hire company was a good idea - quickly it got big so the financial pressure was taken away, which was probably the trigger to be mustering up the bollocks to leave.
I do still wonder what the hell I am doing with a Hot Tub Hire company, how ridiculous.
The first two months after leaving were horrible. My last film was shit, my housemates were doing my nut in with their drug addictions, I was missing my ex, my Grandad was diagnosed with cancer and making myself different from everyone else suddenly felt like a very isolating decision.
I spent a whole night in the kitchen listening to Jamie T’s song ‘Believing in things that can’t be done’ on repeat. I woke up the next morning, had an excellent day and was back to Jack.
Within a month we’d raised £70,000 for the feature film, opened 9 cities with the hot tubs and we were suddenly winning. I’d met my business partner for life George MacGill and we’ve both realised that in this world you can do anything you like - the only person stopping you from reaching your dreams is yourself, your mindset.
Kids need someone from the other side of the fence to tell them that just because their path isn’t within education, that that’s okay. It’s scary for a little while, council tax is a thing too - but it’s a lot more exciting than an essay on the difference between Ian Beale and Scrappy Doo. Be nice to people, have a dream, work hard and you’ll be just fine.
If a 19 year old kid can find £70,000 in a month then what’s your excuse for not doing what you want to do in life? Just because it’s not what everyone else is doing doesn’t mean its not possible.
Stop making excuses and go smash this world.
For those still at University, as long as you’re chasing your dream, I salute you.
Believe in things that can’t be done.