For the last two years I’ve felt like a failure. Everybody I knew left school and went straight on a new path, into new lives at university. I was left at home, joining a class of 16 year olds in a college where fake eyelashes at 9am is the norm and teachers don’t care about their jobs. I felt like I was starting over, like I had to re-do everything I’d gotten wrong at CH. It was a long process and I buried my head in TV shows and books and school work to pass the time. I quickly realised that I didn’t want to hang around at college any longer than I had to (fights happened a decent amount and guys were persistent), and spent a lot of time alone, thinking about how crap my life was. I was doing okay in my classes and I enjoyed the freedom I had, but I knew that I’d have to work extra hard if I wanted to get anywhere from there.
I began to understand that the odds were already stacked against me. A mixed-race girl at a state college with a collection of hideous grades already- I knew I’d need to put my all in to get anywhere. Results day came, and I achieved decent but disappointing grades. A grade B in English, a grade C in Religious Studies and a grade U in French. Fortunately I wasn’t taking French another year, and they decided to let me stay on as long as I took up another A Level. This time I chose politics (big mistake).
This year was harder than the first. My teachers for Religious Studies had no idea what they were doing. One became sick very early on in the term, and the other was left clueless. We spent the entire first term (two 1 and a half hour sessions per week) discussing which modules we were going to study and how we were going to do it. In the end, he opted for studying from the previous exam questions. By the time the Exam came, I’d had all of six lessons for half of the subject and only done about half of the material for the other half of the subject.
I’d applied for university by myself in November, writing my personal statement with very little feedback and finding my courses myself. I had a feeling that if I’d been at CH, I would have received a lot more help in that department. I’d picked Bristol as my goal and then chose four other universities from the course and their standing in league tables for various different factors (student satisfaction, percentage of students employed after graduating, number of 1sts awarded etc). By January, the first reply I received was a rejection from Bristol. I wasn’t too sad as I’d expected it, but I decided to find a new goal quickly to take my mind off it, and I chose East Anglia. They had a course I could get into if I worked hard enough and it looked to me like my perfect idea of a literature course. The university was number 1 in student satisfaction and in the top 20 universities. Why had I never heard of it before? Turns out nobody has. Every time I mention it to someone, I get a blank stare. Sure it wasn’t extremely prestigious, but it looked good to me. I arranged an open day outing with Mum and we liked what we saw while we were there. UEA became my first and only choice, I knew wouldn’t want to go anywhere else.
By May (exam season), I’d stopped going to class and was working from home, worrying about how I was going to do, and stressed by the lack of teaching I was receiving at college. I didn’t feel ready for the exams and I was scared of failure. I was scared of letting everyone down again. I was worried I’d prove some people right- that I was a bad kid, that I wouldn’t get anywhere because I didn’t work hard enough. I only worked and studied, and became anxious. What if I didn’t make it? What if I failed again? What if I was going to be stuck in retail for the rest of my life? What if I was forced to awkwardly tell people at school reunions that I never got a degree and work in a shop selling iPhones to the ridiculously rich? Petty, self absorbed and snobby as it seems, I couldn’t help panicking about these problems as I exited the exam rooms.
By the end of June, I was in Florida and my job and exams were already a far away memory. I relaxed a little and started to forget about the oncoming results day, trying to pretend it wouldn’t come. With results day would come the news of my fate- I’d either begin preparations to leave home, or I’d be sleeping on the sofa with no job, no money, no prospects, and no Jarrett. It was depressing and agonising to wait, so I shoved it out of my head until the week before. With each day, my rituals were getting worse, I was getting angry with Jarrett and becoming more and more over sensitive. Finally results day arrived and I felt sick all day. My head was pounding and my stomach was turning, but I didn’t feel at all panicked. I felt calm and ready to find out.
At half past 2, Jarrett came back from a night out. He’d brought me a sprite, twix bites and a box of doughnuts- consolation or celebration, whichever it was. I thought it was so sweet of him to think of me like that. He’s so thoughtful. At 3 am (UK 8am) I logged on to the UCAS website, convinced of and ready for rejection, and saw my congratulatory message telling me I’d done it. I’d finally passed my A Levels and got a place at University. I’d finally made my mum proud and given her something to boast about.
Seeing the message, I cried. It was like a wave of relief went over me. I had no idea what grades I had, but that didn’t matter- I’d achieved the unlikely and got what I’d hoped for. No need for clearing, no need to find another course. I’d done it. Now I’m happy. I know I can achieve things if I work hard enough.
The next day, mum picked up my grades for me. I’d received: a B in English lit, a B in Religious Studies and an E in Politics. I was pretty shocked about that, I’d expected two C grades and a U, but I was very happy with it. I can finally say I got decent results (not the best, but imagine what I could have gotten if I’d worked hard at CH!?).
So now I’m preparing for it, and I’m so excited, but sad at the same time. This means I’m leaving and I won’t see Jarrett for a while, and I’ve had such a great experience being here. I’m going to miss him, but I’m also going to love starting a new course. Hopefully things go well. I just don’t want the summer to end yet!
Edits: I doubt anyone will ever notice this now, but I’ve re-read through this and there was something I wanted to clarify (I wrote this at 3am and posted without re-checking).
The reason I felt so bad working in retail wasn’t because the job itself was bad (for a first job it was amazing), but because it’s always been expected of me to get a degree. It’s always been out of the question for me not to get one. Everybody I know has one, so of course, I want to feel like I’ve achieved something too.