Results Day

Dear Reader/s: Please remind me this time next year that I wrote this last year, so I don’t have to write it again…

A Level results day, 2002: My best friend from school and I had our photos taken for the local paper. She was thrilled with her grades. Meanwhile, I mooched and did my best pretend-smile. I’d done well too, but not as well as I knew I could’ve, due to a countrywide admin fiasco (which eventually led to Estelle Morris’s commendably gracious resignation as Education Secretary), and, more pertinently, due to me doing next to naff-all for most of sixth-form. And I was pretty upset. Later, Dad and I had a huge row in which he said I was being a complete pain in various more hurtful turns of phrase I don’t want to repeat. To be fair, I was – I’d done the equivalent of pissing on my chips and complaining they tasted off. Every year now for the last few years, I’ve thought: “I’ll write something for one of the ed supplements about A Levels/degree results” followed by: “No, there’s no way you can say ‘I went on a mad self-destruct mission…and got a B in English’ without sounding hateful,” and so I haven’t. And now, here we are.

The said mad self-destruct mission happened for broadly two reasons: Firstly, although I didn’t quite yet have a name and a piece of paper explaining why, I’d already subconsciously worked out that it didn’t matter how well I did in exams, I was going to struggle in most jobs. Because it’s not exam passes that count in life, as much as having the broadest possible range of skills to offer, and the ability to apply them comfortably and well to most situations. To use the teacher-phrase “being a good all-rounder” – i.e exactly what I’m not. It also helps if you’re good at admin, i.e you don’t write a great job application then forget to note down the day and time when invited to interview, so that you have to ring up your prospective employer and ask: “Hey Mr Shrewd Regional Hack, you know that job interview you rang and invited me for. Was it tomorrow or Friday?” (True story from my gap year – another proud family moment…).  Secondly, as some of you will know there was a particular acquaintanceship at the time which was very affecting and damaging. What I wanted from it exactly I still don’t entirely know to this day, but it was more than I was getting or was ever going to get. To cut a long, boring story short, I alternated between concocting ways of getting in with them and giving up on life when it didn’t really work. For a long time. Which was a bad idea.

Looking back I wish I’d knuckled down and done as well as I could have (Definitely 4 A’s at A Level, possibly a First at degree) – not for my employability’s sake (see para 2) but for my personal pride’s. Because, quite simply, I like doing things, and doing them well. I like being busy and immersing myself in something I really enjoy, not just jumping hoops for the sake of it. One of the biggest lies my generation were told is: “Work hard at school and you’ll be rewarded.” The sad fact is, you won’t – not unless you have skills others are willing to pay for. Which brings me to the best advice I can offer any 18-year-old in the shitehouse of a job market today: Aim high out of respect for yourself and love for what you do, not as a definitive means to an end. If you do what you enjoy regardless of where it leads, it’s more likely to lead somewhere positive than if you end up sitting around thinking “What the frig did I do that for?” 

Oh and also, nobody – no friend, lover or crush – is worth messing your life up for. Nobody. Tell yourself that enough times now and hopefully you won’t still be repeating it at 29…

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