No-one really told me it was going to be this horrible.
In three days time, I have to go down to my school, and get my GCSE results. What I do next will be decided by small capital letters on a sheet of paper.
Is that a bit melodramatic? Everyone in my family seems to think so, and I try to tell myself the same things they do: it will be fine, a bad day for me is an A or B, so a really good day for a lot of other teens, remember how bad I felt after the chemistry exam last year? (I came home in absolute floods of tears, convinced that I’d failed. I got an A*. And I don’t even particularly like science.) I’m also predicted As and A*s, and I got a B in Spanish in one year, doing the coursework in weekly after-school sessions. I shouldn’t have that much to worry about- should I?
But the stronger part of me is convinced that something went wrong. That I made a stupid mistake- like writing in blue pen instead of black- in one of the exams that seemed to go well at the time. And then there was English Language. I got an A on the first mock with no prior knowledge, then an A* on the second, and full/ nearly full marks on every practise question in class. We’d done so much preparation in class, I didn’t revise outside it, using the time for my other subjects. And then- was it lack of sleep the night before? Eating too much for breakfast? Not enough revision?- I went into the gym, and in my eyes at least, it all fell apart. I won’t go into details. I answered every question… maybe it wasn’t as bad as it seemed…
The worst part is not knowing. I tell myself that it will be alright, that I did well, but I don’t know that for sure! Prove it, my inner critic seems to be saying. Prove that you didn’t fail. And I can’t.
But why should it be this way? I get that a lot of jobs require using your knowledge under pressure. But is it really necessary for someone’s level of success to be defined, based on whether they wrote inside the box? More ridiculous still, whether or not they wrote in black ink or black ballpoint pen?
However, complaining about the system can’t change the fact that I have to meet its requirements. If I don’t get a B in my A-level subjects, a C in English and Maths… I imagine the shame I would feel in having to re-sit English, how totally unbearable the humiliation would be.
I’m sorry to be so depressing. But if there’s anyone out there going through this same agonising wait, now you have proof- as I found when I read this article- that you are not alone.
Hard as it is, I’m going to try and remember the words from this visualisation: you are strong, intelligent and kind, and no single event defines you, especially not an exam. Whatever some exam board says, those words are true. And, inner critic? You keep asking me to prove that I did well.
Prove- and I want concrete proof, not however I felt during the exams- that I didn’t. So there.