It was the night before results day, and I was having a panic attack.
It was just like any other one, with the usual tell-tale signs. Starting in my palms, rushing through my body, aching, sweating, shaking. I’d been tossing and turning in bed for hours, wide-eyed, no sign of sleep. A thousand questions ran around my head, my thoughts wild. What next? The vast, unfocused future stretched out before me and I lay there, paralysed. What was I going to do?
I kept visualising all the possible outcomes….What would I tell my parents? My friends? Would my teachers be angry? Would they even be surprised? Was I a disappointment?
I was never the ‘smart kid’. I never had perfect handwriting. I got all my Bs, Ds, Ps and Qs confused.
When I took my exams, I ran out of time on half my papers, and I’d guessed all the answers for the other half. I wasn’t good under pressure, I wasn’t good at memorising, and I didn’t even care about algebra! I was freaking out. I kept visualising all the possible outcomes….What would I tell my parents? My friends? Would my teachers be angry? Would they even be surprised? Was I a disappointment? Would I get into college? Would I ever get a job?! I called for my mum, unable to deal with the questions.
That night, I truly believed that those results had the power to change and dictate my entire life, and I almost let them.
Looking back now, that was the most stressful time of my life, but it taught me how to handle pressure. That night, I truly believed that those results had the power to change and dictate my entire life - and I almost let them. But when I called for my mum, she reminded me: who I am is all the things they don’t write on that piece of paper. I am more than just a list of letters and numbers on a page. I might not have done as well as some other people, but my individual strengths lay outside a school curriculum. I was never meant to walk that path.
I know it’s scary. And I know it’s not fair. But, all those tiny little letters and numbers, all those sleepless nights and teary eyes, all those hours upon hours holed up in your room, hunched over papers and words that swam around an empty page...What if I told you they don’t have the power to stop you being who you’re going to be?
Their ‘fail’ is not your ‘fail’, because though you may not have learnt exactly what they wanted you to learn, you have learnt exactly what you needed to learn.
And to my younger self: it wasn’t all for nothing. Their ‘fail’ is not your ‘fail’, because although you may not have learnt exactly what they wanted you to learn, you have learnt exactly what you needed to learn. You learnt what you like, and what you dislike. You learnt who you are. You learnt how your brain works. How much you can take. How to get better. And most importantly, you learnt how to pick yourself up when you stumble. And that’s worth more than any letters of numbers put together.
If you’re reading this, know that - whatever happens - you are going to be okay.
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Can provide a BSL interpreter if you are deaf or hearing-impaired.
Hosts online message boards where you can share your experiences, have fun and get support from other young people in similar situations.
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Supports students to look after their mental health by providing information and advice.
They also provide details about local services offered by universities and information on how you can access support group programmes.
You can call or email for more information (this is not a helpline).