The last few days have been a struggle. The reality of exams has kicked in and it’s hit me, like I thought it would. This year has been a little different to the last few though. I’ve lived a life of lies, pretending that I’m okay, trying to be positive. I’ve done well. Most of the time, I’ve even convinced myself that I’m okay. Clearly though, I’m not, and the tears shed in the last few days demonstrate that pretty well.
This morning, I made a decision. Ironically, that decision had me listening to Matilda again, specifically ‘When I Grow Up’. Because I’ve decided that when I grow up, I won’t be like my parents are. A friend told me this morning that the world is bigger than university and exams so it doesn’t matter if you fail.
But it matters. Of course it matters, for so many reasons. I can’t fail. It’s difficult to put into words why, and why exams have always called me so much stress. I’ve never understood why I need to work so hard and achieve so highly. I’ve never been able to voice it, or explain to it to concerned teachers.
But in reality, I’ve always understood, haven’t I? Of course I have.
But when I grow up, I won’t be like my parents. When I grow up, I won’t put pressure on my children. Of course I’ll encourage them to try, to work, to put in effort, but I won’t ever allow myself to make my children feel how my parents have made me feel. I don’t want them to feel that I am putting pressure on them. When I grow up, I want my children to know that I’ll be proud of them for trying their best, regardless of if their best is an A or an E, a grade eight music exam or scoring a goal at football, giving a speech or saying their promise as a Rainbow, going to university or working in a local shop, inventing something that changes the world or overcoming a fear. I will be proud of them no matter what, as long as they try their best. It doesn’t need to be academic, it doesn’t need to help their university application, and it doesn’t need to earn them money. Because my children won’t just be a letter or a number or a percentage. My children will be people. Just like I am.
To my parents, I may not be a person. I may be a grade, or an expectation, but I’m learning that I’m so much more than that. I am a Rainbow leader, I am a volunteer for a children’s summer camp charity, I am someone who loves to draw, I am someone who cried with happiness after getting a merit in a flute exam, I am someone who would stay up all night if my best friend needed me to, I am someone who wants to cure cancer, I am someone who wants to watch the sunrise, I am someone who wants to run a half marathon, I am someone who wants to overcome my fears, I am someone who is excited to go to turkey next year with her best friend, I am someone who wants to learn basic piano and publish a children’s book.
Yes, I want a 1st or a 2:1 in my degree. But I must not let that define me. Because I am so much more than that. I am someone who tries their best, I am someone who cares for others, I am someone who has hopes and dreams, memories and photographs. I am someone who smiles and cries, just like everyone else.
I am someone that actually felt the need to add to her bucket list ‘take an exam without stressing’. I’m not sure if I will ever be able to. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to escape the expectations that my parents have set and the pressure that they have applied. But I’m going to try. I always try my best, and this won’t be any different.
Because when I grow up, I want my children to feel valued for who they are, and how can I teach them to do that if I don’t value myself?
So yes, perhaps I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself. But I’ve always been desperate to please my parents, and this is the only way I’ve been able to. When I grow up, I want to value myself for who I am. I want people to be proud of me for who I am, and not what is written on a piece of paper. It’s going ot take work, but I hope there’s people out there who care enough to help me.
When I grow up, I will be smart enough to answer all the questions that you need to know the answers to before you’re grown up. When I grow up, I will eat sweets everyday on the way to work and I will go to bed late every night. And I will wake up when the sun comes up and I’ll watch cartoons until my eyes go square and I won’t care because I’ll be all grown up.
Because even if you’re little you can do a lot. You mustn’t let a little thing like little stop you. And my kids won’t. Because they will be people. They won’t be grades. When they grow up, they’ll be exactly who they want to be and who they can be. Their best will always be enough for me, and nothing you can say will change that.