Yet again, that time of year has come around where we sit and wait anxiously for numbers on a piece of paper (or email, as the case is now). Today, at my university at least, was January exam results day.
My January exams were I mess. I was a mess. I didn’t know what happened, but I didn’t feel like I possibly could have worked hard enough, and time and time again I felt like I wanted to give up, and that it didn’t matter any more. Despite that, though, I wasn’t stressed. I didn’t have panic attacks, I slept at night, and I ate good food. It was a surreal experience for me, because that’s just not how I’ve ever taken exams. I’ve just never been chilled out about it. It was bizarre, so bizarre that I am struggling to explain.
My first exam went fantastically. I went into that exam feeling extremely prepared. I was very happy, and I came out feeling confident. That was new, too. No stress, at all.
The second was great, too. Not quite the same confidence, but still good.
The third, I was angry and frustrated about afterwards. I felt medioka before, but I didn’t think I’d have gotten a good grade. I didn’t think it would be good enough for me to stay on my course, anyway.
My last exam was a mess. I struggled to work for it, I struggled to remember the content, the exam was horrific, nobody seemed to have any similar answers, and I guessed 80% of the answers. After that exam, I cried when I got home.
I cried again a few weeks later, on a night out in a toilet with my best friend, drunk. I’d forgotten about that, it was otherwise an amazing but really very hazy evening.
I’ve had the odd thought since then, but I’ve tried to block the thought of exams out of my mind. I really and truly have tried to ignore it, and I’ve done very very well at distracting myself. I knew, especially after that last exam, that results day would ruin me. I would come crashing down, and burn, and all my hard work would be wasted, and I would feel like a failure.
This morning, I had a panic attack. This afternoon, while sat in a room with my two closest course friends, they pressured me to read the email that I had sworn that I would only read on my own.
That first exam, I got 78%. The second, 64%, the third 60%, and most shockingly of all, the fourth I got 49%. I passed them all. I averaged out at a very high 2:1, and I was absolutely over the moon. Of course, everyone wants a first, but when you are convinced you’ve failed and are about to be kicked off your degree (and I have had an extremely realistic mindset recently and know for sure that’s not just general worry and exaggeration), nobody is complaining about a 2:1. I can stay on my course, and go on placement, providing I keep it up this semester. I did really well, I shocked myself, and I was so so very happy.
My dad was perhaps not so enthusiastic. I played it down and laughed it off at the time, but later, when I was at home in the silence of my own room, I cried. I cried not only because he was less enthusiastic about my 2:1, but also because I was so shocked at myself. I did so amazingly better than I expected, and he wasn’t very enthusiastic. I’ve always relied on my parents to be enthusiastic about my grades and education, even when they couldn’t be about my other achievements. Now though, I’m not getting the 100% very best grades. University is a lot harder than A Levels, and my family don’t seem to get that. It’s heartbreaking, because everyone wants those closest to them to be proud of you.
But maybe, just maybe, it doesn’t matter so much. It hasn’t affected me as much as it would in the past. I didn’t worry about texting them, because I think (although I am a little afraid to admit it), I am proud of myself. I am proud of how far I’ve come emotionally with coping with stress, and I am proud that my work has paid off, even though I thought it hadn’t. I’d set realistic goals, and to think you haven’t achieved them is gross, but I did, and I am so very happy with that.
I guess I’m learning, at last, that paper and grades don’t define me as a whole. I want to work harder next semester to get a first. I want even more time working and to do that. But I want to do it for me, not for anyone else. My best friend has spent over five years teaching me to be proud of myself, telling me that she believes in me, and having confidence in me.
Maybe I’m finally learning. Maybe it’s time to take the self-confidence I’ve never had. It’s not easy, and I’m not there yet, but this is a massive step. She’s proud of me, and in terms of emotion and coping, I’m absolutely in shock.
I’ll go to bed tonight feeling a little confused, I will admit. I am upset that I haven’t pleased my parents, but I’m extremely happy with how I’m changing emotionally, and my results on paper. I’m glad I have friends around me to laugh and have lunch with after our results, and I’m glad that my best friend is always here for me. I can’t wait to see her again. Tonight, I really miss her. She’s done a lot more for me than she’s ever going to realise, and I just wish she was here so I could give her a hug, tell her thank you, and have a minor cry so that I can work out what the hell I’m really feeling.
Right now, I’m crying and hurting, but with a smile on my face. I don’t know if this is really me, or if I’m hiding behind a happiness mask. I’ve genuinely no idea, and it’s terrifying but liberating all at the same time. It’s new. I didn’t stress. I got 68%. It’s results day.
I think it’s okay to be a little confused today.