Tag Archives: Uni

Some juggling tips (for mature age uni students)

I’m gearing up for the start of another trimester of study in 2021 – I’m studying a Bachelor of Creative Writing externally through Deakin – and every year folk ask for advice about how to juggle uni/work/life as a mature age student. So here are some thoughts I’ve previously shared privately in groups and message threads that might be useful:

All of my study has been off-campus and on top of a full-time job, plus kids and a small business on the side over the past ten plus years (I was doing a Teaching Degree part-time through CDU before deciding to switch to Creative Writing at Deakin in 2019). So here are a few things that work for me (but of course everyone is different!):

  • Ensuring all of my assignment due dates are clearly marked in my calendar. I have an integrated hardcopy calendar/diary for uni/work/life so that I can identify pressure points and plan accordingly. I stack the beginning of my weeks and leave buffer in the latter half of the week (work + uni) so that there is space for overflow if things crop up or I get behind on anything.
  • Communication with my husband, kids and support people around pressure points. ie. letting them know when larger assignments are coming up and what support I need (like uninterrupted time to read/work).
  • Being realistic about what I can achieve. In an ideal world if I was focusing exclusively on uni I’d be aiming for the highest grades possible. That’s not realistic in my context, instead I am aiming for growth, learning and joy in my time at uni, and I’m okay with assignments staying at a pass level to keep myself steady and moving forward.
  • Asking for help. This includes asking friends and family to pitch in with the kids, using Hello Fresh for meal planning so there is one less thing to organise and asking for extensions when I need them. On the topic of extensions, communicating early is critical. During my two units over Summer 2019 I had a family member rushed to hospital twice (with total combined stay of over four weeks). This would have been a big deal anyway but we also live in a regional area (2.5 hours from capital city) so added pressure of taking time off work, travel up and down etc was massive. I communicated what was happening to my tutors and they were excellent and I had really generous extensions for my final assignments in both units.
  • Doing a lot of the reading on my phone during those life moments when you’re just sitting around waiting (like the ten minutes before kids get out of school because I’ve arrived early, or half hour while a guitar lesson is on, or over lunch etc).
  • Giving myself a time limit on discussion forums. A lot of the value and joy of university study is engaging with other students but especially in the online setting there is a lot of pressure to read and respond. Often in O Week there are already 70+ messages in the discussion board before learning weeks have kicked off so the time that takes could easily spiral out of control. So rather than trying to read and reply to everything, I chunk out some regular time (based on the unit guide expectations for how much time we spend on a unit) and get through whatever I get through in that time. I obviously prioritise any of the key discussion threads first and then if time, respond to the more personal ones.
  • Start all of the assignments early BUT not too early. The structure of units is about working through the material and you sometimes see people trying to get a headstart but then fundamentally misunderstanding the content/requirements of the assignments. On the other end of the spectrum leaving the assignment until the night before it’s due is never a recipe for positive experiences. So striking that balance on working through the content and making progress on assignments as I go is an ongoing challenge but one I try to be super mindful of.
  • I’m lucky enough to be a really fast reader which certainly helps in a unit with lots of material to read (especially novels), but the other thing that probably helps is that I very rarely watch TV/Netflix/Streaming etc. We’re all different in our habits but my point being is to have a think about which things you DO spend time on outside of work/family and which could be replaced or reduced to make that reading time available. Time to rest and reflect is also critical too!
  • Just reminding myself that I am here because I want to be! It’s my choice what I prioritise and what I don’t and I’ll reap the rewards, or not, for those choices. Whatever I choose is okay.
  • And sometimes I just accept that my desk will look like this…..(instead of the fantasy desks we see on Instagram and Pinterest)


Wishing everyone embarking on studies for the first time or returning to studies for another year a fabulous year of learning, growth and connection. 



Moving #writeme30

This week’s #writeme30 photo has been supplied by the beautiful and super talented Lynden Nicholls. Lynden was our movement teacher every Wednesday during 1st year Acting at the Ballarat Academy of Performing Arts back in 2006.

I loved movement class – I’d easily say it was my favourite class that year – and Lynden was a fabulous teacher who really suited my learning style. And I love that through the power of facebook we’ve stayed connected and I get to see little updates from Lynden popping up in my newsfeed every now and again.

I have really bittersweet feelings about my year at BAPA,

I loved it.

I loved the classes, the community and the learnings I was having but I was also personally (and with family) going through a really difficult time, which led to me leaving at the end of first year. I continue to feel that my performance studies are an unfinished business – and yet leaving led me to some amazing opportunities and experiences in the Riverland (not to mention meeting the beautiful man who is now my husband) so I certainly don’t regret leaving, but it was difficult and I do feel like I lost a fantastic learning opportunity and community by not completing my studies.

*bittersweet *still trying to articulate what it means to me *sigh

With all of those connections and memories these are the words that spring to mind when looking at the photo Lynden sent me for this week’s post:

  • Ripples
  • Movement
  • Life
  • Moving on
  • Transparent
  • Vulnerable
  • Skin
  • Flowing
  • Earth
  • Connection
  • River
  • Home
  • Hope
  • Promise

The Photo:

pink layers photo from Lynden Nicholls                              Photo supplied by Lynden Nicholls

The Response – Moving:

These ripples behind eyes,

the sting.

The shift.


weighted skin,

waiting dreams,

The hall is too large for the small group that waits there fidgeting. Some familiar. Some new. The walls catch our words and bounce them into smallness as we greet the familiar. The new shift self-consciously on the edges of our smaller group within a group. Jessica, our facilitator arrives in a wave of sound and energy, pulling us into the comfort of a workshop circle. We play a name game. We laugh at ourselves. We twist our bodies into shapes. And then.

A new exercise. A movement moment. Find a space by yourself. Feel the music. Respond. Don’t censor. If you find yourself in close proximity to another person, allow yourself to be changed by them. Move with your whole self.

Jessica dims the lights.

Fingers, dig in. Deep into this skin I wait in. My head bowed. Breaths shallow, but ready. Ready. I’ve always been ready. The sound opens beneath my feet. Welcomes my limbs to unfold. My feet to spring into empty space. Tied to a beat I cannot hear. A fear I cannot reveal.

Bodies move beside me. Around me. In the darkness between our beating hearts. We are lost. We are found.

The lights blast on again. The music ends. Chests heave. A woman’s voice speaks. Jessica. I do not hear her. I hear only the sound of the hairs on my arms reaching towards HIM.

The group comes together again into that safe circle. Still huffing. Not unfit, but so terribly, deeply, painfully open. None of us can look at each other. We are too open. Instead we focus our energy onto the floor, in the centre of the circle and fill it with our fears. Jessica’s voice is subdued. She feels our energy and how fragile it is.

“I’ll see you all next week. You’re all beautiful. Be kind to yourself.”

We all exit out into the cold night air. The other bodies drift off. To their own spaces. Homes lit ready for them.

HE lingers.

We stand awkwardly by the bumper of my car, words tumbling easily into each other’s hands. Our bodies are awkward. Our words are perfect. We skin history. We skim the future. Weave possibilities unknowingly. Lose hours. Eventually fallen silent in the face of what we find.

HIS fingertip brushes my arm as he turns away to head home. Deliberate, but gently.

My arm stings all the way home.

I lay in bed.


Floating. Stinging. Moving.


*This particular piece is entirely fictional though it was inspired by some real life experiences. *cough* Nic Tubb…

** I will be a few weeks short of photos so if you would like to submit a photo for me to respond to, you would be very welcome to. Email it to me at: pressurelandsATmeDOTcome

** Note – #writeme30 posts are published ‘as is’ without any editing or curating as the project is about exploring my responses to the photographs supplied. Some posts may plant the seeds for future writing projects but each post itself should be considered a raw and unfinished piece.






War, Love & other metaphors

The following piece of writing was written for a university assignment in 2009 (I think – I didn’t actually date the work so it could have been 2008). It’s a piece of writing I intend to return to and heavily rewrite at some point in the future so very open to what is and isn’t clear (I expect the piece to become a performance work which will likely clear up some of the issues around time and who’s speaking but *shrugs* – we’ll see)….

1st Person

The Creative Piece (Untitled)

Weirdly tangled dreams struggle
Against my skin, straining to
Rip their way in

Melissa sleeps. Gently, deftly he folds himself on to the bed beside her. Down, on to that broken warped monster of a bed, with the metal frame sagging and bowing to the ground beneath it, groaning beneath the weight of unspoken words. A packed suitcase crouches impatiently at his feet. Waiting, biding its time, yet ready. He speaks to her, a whisper, a sigh,
His eyes flicker in time with her strained breath, dancing around in his head, itemising each and every hollow of her sleeping face, tracing the line of her stretched limbs and the sweat soaked spaces between sleep and waking. He strokes stray licks of hair from her damp skin. He folds his hands back towards his body, begins to twist his fingers around one another, twisting and searching, scratching at the imperfections, the raised hardened spaces of skin

In another time, in another place, another Melissa, the same but tangled into the past enters another room with another bed. Her clothes are torn and ripped and beginning to seep dirty water onto the floorboards.
“Fucken bastard. How could he? Am I stupid? Stupid, stupid, stupid. Fuck Fuck Fuck.”
It becomes a litany of sorts, a conversation that will never be over. It will play in her head for the rest of eternity. Even when she ceases to notice it, it will still be there playing over and over again in a never ending loop of words just beneath her reach.

My dreams haunt me. Have I travelled deep enough?

“I’m awake.”
“I know”, he says it quietly, sighing the words into her hair.
“How long have you been sitting here with me?”
“Long enough,” the words slowly slip between them. His eyes hang on the curve of her jaw; weight hangs between them, the weight of other lives, other loves, half remembered dreams, “I’m leaving.”He breathes in, she breathes out.
“I know,” she reaches for him. They collapse into one another. Hands reaching, pressing, searching, their eyes dart away from one another’s face.

And the curving curve of wanting you. You press your hips into my belly. Knead your hands into my skin. You melt into me; Or I into you. I want to consume you. I want to wipe away the indents of the past and melt into the future as part of your skin. I’m trembling.

“Will you talk to him before you go?”
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea, what would I say? What is there that I can say?”
“Just that it’s not him, he didn’t do anything wrong. He’s so small. He’ll miss you.”
“I know”

It’s a flicker between then. An awareness of wanting. Her smile is thin, brittle. They sit on opposite sides of a table, discarded drinks and nibbles strewn across the space between their hands. She’s hiding the real curve of her lips from him. Trying to stop them both from giving in, closing the gap between what they want and what they need. She angles her body ever so slightly towards him. He’s a replacement person and he knows it. And is she trying to please him or herself? She’s trying to leave him clues. A broken pencil. A bent nail. A half chewed feather. He spreads the plastic tiles across the table, counts out the wall, readying the game. She waits. The tiles in his hands are asking for him to name her as his. So he does. And they begin creating a new story. A new tragedy to build into the layers of their lives.

So this is what we’ve become? The pawn of a man? Look at his suitcase, He doesn’t love us. Shut-up. I don’t want to hear you, little voice inside my head. You’re the angry ruined part of me and you’re wrong! YOU’RE WRONG! …He never stopped loving the girl I could have been. He gave us everything he could. And I did love him. But not once did I tell him as I should have. Without flinching from the past

The walls begin to close in around her. Blue walls with barely concealed cracks and photographs of faraway, unreachable places stacked from floor to ceiling. Each box still sits where it was dropped on the way in, every item in the room waiting for the chance to unpack itself. These things all so casually disregarded, inch their way around her now, blocking her into the fear.

That other boy is holding her hands down, pressing his heaving body into her insides. She’s a fish on a hook thrashing, doomed to fail. He’s rising and falling within her, punishing her. Ruining her. Crack. His hand lands on her face, a conquerer taking his due. The bedding heaves and shifts around them, the heaving shifting weight of time. It’s raining.

“I’m sorry. I’m not him. I can’t undo what the past has done to you. I loved you then. It’s choices you know. Choices. We wreck each other – for what? To prove that we’re real? To prove we’re all ALIVE?”
“Don’t,” she forces the words through dry lips.
“I would have smashed his face in if I’d known.” Inside of his skin is the burning searing memory of betrayed. He knew I loved her. He knew. She was so beautiful. All fire and midnight. And life. She was real. In a room full of fake tans and tissue paper breasts. She smiled at me. And I thought the rest of my life was waiting for me.
“I didn’t blame you. Never. Not then and not now. But sometimes when you look at me, I’m 15 again with his eyes looking at me. Holding me down. Making me broken.” She’s reaching for his hand as the words tumble out, her fingers slipping and sliding amongst the sheets, searching for a sign. A crack in the armour of his leaving through which she can find herself again.

I had his dirty hands on me for weeks.

She stands beneath the water, soaping and rinsing in a seemingly unbroken pattern. Steam soaks the air above and beyond her outside edges. Her skin vibrates and hums in its frail attempts to keep her inside thoughts locked in. She exits now, moves slowly from room to room. Brushing past all the signs of reality, the stained coffee coasters, the left out milk, the shoes kicked off carelessly in the hall, all the signs of a life that once was. Before.

Before he was there, over me, pushing his way into my dreams, shattering me from the inside out and nothing then could feel the same again. They were brothers. Brothers with their own broken past, they loved and hated each other in equal measure. We were seventeen. I was seventeen. My beautiful life was just about to begin. I couldn’t look at either of them in the real world after that. The one who loved me. The one I’d thought I loved. Stupid girl. I was 23 when He found me. The father of my child had slit his wrists. Confessed everything in a letter. So he wanted forgiveness. Bastard. And you were there, standing right in front of me, asking me to let you heal me. I tried.

“I can’t I’m sorry,” he says the words, “I thought I was strong enough,” with each pause he comes closer, “Thought I could save us. I love you. I always have. But there is someone waiting for me. Who doesn’t claw my heart out every day. Who doesn’t look at me and see my brother.” He leaves the room now. Picking up the suitcase as he extends his body into the space beside the bed, his left hand wraps itself around the handle, a new life curled now within his deft fingers.
She curls into a ball. A broken, empty, bereft stained thing without the words to bridge, to heal the gap between lived and believed. A little blonde haired boy runs into the space she’s attempting to empty, he throws his awkward body against her back. His jeans are faded, worn into living by other children’s legs.
“Mummy why are you crying?”
“I’m just a little sad.” The lie falls so easily from her teeth.
“Don’t be sad mummy, I love you the best of everyone,” her hand covers her mouth, muffling sound.
“How much do you love me?”
“Four infinity!! when I’m a growed up I’ll marry someone just like you, coz you are the beautifullest i have ever known in my life.” She tries to answer, she sucks great deep breathes of air into her hands, her shoulders heave into stillness and she finds the words then.
“I love you little one” And the sobs burst now from her eyes and chest, her hair, her whole being, spilling out everywhere. She takes the bedding in her hands and flings it across the room, out and away from her body. In the aftermath of action, in the overfilled room, yet vacant now without his weight, she notices the gift he’s left. The small black box, with the peeling edges sits quietly by the bed mocking her with its innocence. Her hands reach out carefully, lifting the precious memory into her arms. She turns the box in her hands, taking in what it means to her. As it hits the wall, as the little black plastic box bursts, tiles spill across the ruined floor, clicking loudly against one another as they fall. The little boy watches with wide eyes, child’s eyes. She digs her nails into opposite hands, forcing the sharp edge against the precious skin. She sucks in breathe after breathe after breathe with her tiny child running his fingers through her hair.

Where did you quicken?
Your butterfly wings within my skin.
You give my layers light
You are my echo
More than that
You are my arrow
My living breathing arrow
My child
With eyes
And sighs
Tiny veins
Beating heart
The depth of love
In us