Anyone who’s followed my blog from the beginning will know that I love a good bandwagon (see: Olympic legacy; advice to graduands). There’s one rumbling past this week, so it’s time to hop on again. Here follows an open letter to all those who are receiving exam results this week and next.
Congratulations – you’ve taken another step and opened the dreaded envelope (even the confident ones were dreading it – don’t be fooled by the fronts your friends have put up). Do yourself a favour: take the letters in and then hide that piece of paper in a safe place. Forget what’s on it unless you’re asked. Why? Because it no longer matters.
Every exam you’ve sat, each essay you’ve written are all stepping stones. They’re small perches on a lifelong route of learning and development. Many celebrities will tweet today that their exam results were abysmal (which shouldn’t come as a shock, as some will no doubt be famous for dubious reasons) or that you make your own luck and life goes on. Both things are true. Then there will be the naysayers who belittle your achievements, who insist that it was harder in their day, that your clutch of vowels and stars means less than their consonants. This is false. The world is a different place today from what it was even yesterday. Measure your achievements against your own targets rather than the bar set by your forerunners.
Here’s something which will hopefully provide a better context than the mindless offerings of television pundits and empty nesters: I’m mostly pleased with the lines of letters on my hidden pieces of paper (bear in mind that I’ve had eight to 10 years to get used to what they look like), but I’m the only one who cares. Providing you’ve passed, and demonstrated a basic grasp of vital concepts such as arithmetic, spelling, punctuation and grammar, employers will allow you to pass through their filter. As long as there is enough purchase to get you to the next stone – whether that be achieving the points required to get onto your desired course at university, or achieving the grade necessary in your subject in order to continue studying it – the future is all that matters.
I’ve never enjoyed the examination post-mortems which occur on buses and in pubs nationwide. I spent years attempting to avoid them. Why? Because by the time you put your pen down and leave the exam room, the time to affect positive change upon the situation has passed. You can deal with what’s in front of you – make the best of that. Waste no tears or sleep on that which is over. Be proud of your achievements. Hold your head high. Move on to the next goal.
The day I picked up my GCSE results, I cried because I had passed maths, and had no further need to pick up a protractor. When I had my A Level results in hand two years later, I was happy to be walking – I had no offers of university places at the time, though I wanted to go. All I could do was make what was in my envelope work for me. A reassessment of what I wanted from life took me down a path I hadn’t previously considered: it turned out to be a lot of fun and, in an indirect way, led me to where I stand today.
Behind me is a box containing a stack of papers which nobody asks about. In front of me is a blank sheet which I control.