As many A-level related articles are appearing on my Facebook timeline, I can’t help but feel incredibly relieved for not being a part of it. It is not unknown that A-levels are putting a great amount of pressure on students in the UK. The results determine whether a student can enrol in his or her desired course and university. When you don’t get the right results it can feel as if the world just died at your feet. I know because I experienced something similar a year ago.
I didn’t have to do A-levels, but I had to pass three selection rounds in order to get accepted to the education of my dreams. Together with 30 others, I ended up making it to the last selection round. It didn’t go well that day even though I tried to convince myself otherwise. I was anxious all day and I couldn’t even turn my head to the side without trembling. I could not express any emotion in my voice while speaking. I could not write because all I was thinking about was writing, the assignments, the teachers that were watching me and all these other students around me.
On one night in the week after I dreamed that I was accepted. When I woke up that morning I had the worst feeling in the world. The night thereafter I dreamed that I got rejected. It still took two more days before I received the actual email with the result. That day our entire class had come back to school so that pictures could be taken for our graduation exposition. I read the email on my phone and left the classroom. At the end of the hall, I fled into a toilet where I immediately let myself sink to the ground. I couldn’t stop the tears from coming and I couldn’t stop my body from shaking. For minutes, I sat there as my emotions switched between devastation and a mode of coping. I had to get out of there; they’d have to do a picture without me.
As I walked away from the building I didn’t know what to do. Walking didn’t seem right… what was the point? I thought I should go home, but I didn’t feel as if I would be able to make it that far. My feelings led me to the only place that felt remotely right; back to my internship place and Masja (my boss at the time). I walked in with a face covered in tears. I didn’t really want to talk; I didn’t really want anything. I just felt so lost. So beaten down. So broken. The world and I didn’t feel real. I wasn’t there and I was.
I do not remember how I got home that day or what I did once I was. I would give myself 3 days. 3 days is how long I’d be allowed to grief. These days passed by more slowly than ever, but the third one was gone before I knew it.
What was I going to do with my life?
I didn’t want to do any other study. This had been my life’s plan. This is what I had known I wanted to do all along and now I was a failure. I felt ashamed and alone. All of my other friends did get into their desired schools. I found comfort in the performance of ‘Cry’ by Rachel (Lea Michele) from Glee. She sang the song after she flunked the most important audition of her life. The lyrics and the performance sum up my exact feeling.
Life went on. To give myself some sort of direction and to satisfy my parents I settled for a study in Journalism. I thought I had lost the battle; it was best to settle down and accept my ‘miserable fate’. I started Journalism in September 2014 and it turned out to be as bad as I thought it would be. Several friends then helped me see that there were other options. I could go abroad, for example.
Rather than being fixated on that one study in the Netherlands simply because it was the only one available, I opened up my mind to other possibilities. At Artez, I got the feeling that I had to mould myself into what the teachers thought I ought to be. I could see this very clear image of myself in which I was that perfect ‘masterpiece’. It didn’t matter to me as long as I could study Creative Writing. That student at that school was going to be me; I was going to start my life there.
I’m not as fixated on where I’m going now. I’m going to university and this will be a huge new phase in my life. I will, as I once hoped to be able to move away from home and start my own life and study Creative Writing. But I now know that university is university and a study is a study. It will be a part of, but it is not my life.
Young people seem to be too pressured nowadays. All around us we keep on hearing that grades are important. You need to start doing well from the beginning of secondary school and getting good grades is important. If you don’t you won’t be able to get into the university that you want and if you don’t get into your desired university you will never be able to get the job that you want, earn money and be happy. Of course, it feels as if it’s the end of the world when we fail, isn’t that what society taught us?
I now know that it isn’t the end of the world when something does not work out. As cliche as it is when one door closes another one opens. It would have been better if I didn’t have to feel the agony of that day and the months that followed, but I turned out fine and even better in the end.