Hi boys and girls it’s story time!
So some of you who’ve read earlier posts will know that I had to resit my final year of a-levels. I spent a lot of time wondering why. Was it my mental health? My teachers? A bad exam? Bad marker? Laziness? Burnout? Stupidity? Just me effortlessly screwing things up as only I can? I spent my entire resit year going over every possible reason in my head. But why I resat doesn’t matter much now. What happened happened. And in the spirit of #nowrongpath here is how I got from there to here.
The day I got my results is still crystal clear in my mind. It’s a shame really because previously when I’ve had bad experiences I’ve completely blacked out and been completely unable to remember them, but not this one. I remember every sad, stupid, ugly aspect of that painful day.
Now I’m sure this all sounds needlessly dramatic; it wasn’t the end of the world, the Earth didn’t stop spinning, the sun didn’t fall out of the sky but at the time it genuinely felt as if nothing else could have been worse than those results.
I enjoyed my final year at school but I struggled. Boarding school is designed to pack as many activities/qualifications into your days as possible so that you’ll have a lot to put on your UCAS form/CV. By this point I was burnt out, tired and (I realise now) walking head-on into chronic depression.
I had applied for Ancient History. I needed ABB and I got BCE. It was a hard day. Lots of crying; sad tears, angry tears, tired tears, guilty tears. In an instant the bright future I could have had was gone. The money my parents paid for private school was wasted, and a once promising overachiever was crying outside in the rain in her pyjamas, because I am nothing if not extremely melodramatic and bad at dealing with my feelings.
I had the horrific realisation that I would have to resit my final year. While my friends were posting fun pics of their freshers weeks, I would be looking at resit colleges. The few weeks before starting college were terrible. I finished up my summer job, got so drunk I was sick at least four times and watched the excited university announcements on Facebook turn into excited starting university posts.
I ended up going to two different colleges in Edinburgh, taking the train up on Tuesday afternoon, going to college until Friday afternoon and then getting the train home. I still remember the bitter hilarity of realising that my college accommodation had a spectacular view of my old boarding school, because yes, my life is a sitcom.
In hindsight that might have been the trigger for dyeing the expensive blonde hair I got for my high school graduation fire engine red.
I won’t summarise the entire year because this post is already too long, bits of it were undeniably boring and if I’m honest reliving that year is still quite painful. That year changed me completely, for the better I think.
When I was at college I was a lodger with a family of four. The parents both met because they were accountants, but when I met them the mother had become a stay at home mum to look after her kids, the eldest of which was autistic. That family was wonderful; their mother had an Irish accent, a genius IQ and loved those children to pieces. Their little girl used to sing me songs from Frozen in her Elsa costume, and the little boy would sit on my knee and teach me how to play racing games on the iPad.
I met some amazing people, specifically the man who taught me history and english, who let me choose the books I wrote essays on and met up with me at seven in the morning before an exam to make sure I was alright. The teacher who taught my other a-level course I referred to affectionately as Princess Bitchface, but we don’t talk about her (because she was a bitch, in case that wasn’t clear).
But weirdly, the parts about that year I remember the most were the bits in between. Like the time I dyed my hair red without reading the packaging and I looked as if someone had tried to beat me over the head for a few days, and wearing loud, bright makeup the way I wasn’t allowed to at school, and wandering around the brilliantly weird city of Edinburgh.
Boarding school was a bubble for me and resitting forced me to reexamine the world around me. The world is filled with people who have different lives, experiences, pains and problems. Failing doesn’t make you stupid or weak. Around halfway through the year I realised that my failure could break me or make me and I chose the latter. I stopped mourning what could have been and embraced what I could be and started working towards that.
I took a step back and instead of going with the flow and listening to what everyone else thought I should do I chose what I wanted, and whether I failed or succeeded that was a massive shift in me. For everyone upset or stressed about results there is more than one way to skin a cat (please ignore how vile that metaphor was).
I learned a lot that year; bad things usually don’t stay that way forever, failure isn’t unusual and if you learn from it failure it’s probably more beneficial than success in some ways. Also, when in doubt dye your hair tomato ketchup red, put on some dramatic eyeliner and pull yourself together; or whatever makes you feel like you.
We are who were are, even if we sometimes do things we regret.
When I got my first round of a-level results I couldn’t envision a future I was happy with, if you’re not happy where you are it won’t be like that forever.
The day I got my a-level results I was distraught. Now I have a degree from a Russell Group University and I got a job in a media company before I finished my final exams- if you’re going through hell, keep going.