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    So my problem is this - I'm a mature student who finished an OU maths degree while working in a completely different industry, enjoyed the pure maths aspect of it, and having sufficient savings in hand to do so, decided to take a career break to see if I pursue things further.

    I'm now a few weeks into the second semester of an full time MSc, and I am realising that the whole thing is utterly beyond me - the gap between what I learned at OU and where I need to be is just too big.

    I have been overconfident in my choice of topics (I found the edges of Algebraic Geometry interesting and tried to pursue it), and now I'm drowning in a state of near constant bewilderment and crippling anxiety (which, of course, is preventing me from studying effectively). I see few people socially, and am mostly sitting in silence, staring blankly at lecture notes, papers and exercises, taking notes which seem to make sense to me at the time but slip away later. I'm supposed to present a dissertation outline in six weeks' time and I can't even begin to imagine how I could do that.

    When I do talk to friends and family, I get a lot of 'you're dead clever, I'm sure you'll do it, I have faith in you...', which seem to just make it worse: I am convinced I'm about to disappoint them.

    I'm aware that this is my own fault, and I could have compromised a bit on topics, but it's too late now. I'm now wondering whether the right answer is to see it through with a bad - perhaps even failing - grade or give the whole thing up as a bad job and either go back to work or use the time and resources I had intended to take off to rethink what happens next in life.

    Any thoughts?
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