39 is fine: A-Level results day memories
Today is A-levels results day. I'm sure it's bringing back memories for so many people, and yep, that's me included.
Back in 1994, my fate was upon me. Time for the grades that would see if I could go to Leeds University. I was sooo keen on going to Leeds. That was where the action was, the cool kids, my college mates were all going, too.
I'd spent the summer partying, partly on the Isle of Wight where I bleached my cropped hair (pic is pre Worzel Gummage phase) and drank cider and (horrors) smoked Marlboro Lights which made me sick, and waited to hear if, frankly, I'd winged it.
You see, I was a predicted A-grade student. I'd interviewed at Cambridge (dahling). They'd turned me down (I will forever blame the skirt I wore, not my lack of interest in Shakespeare). But Leeds was game. I wanted to do French and German together and if I got an A (French) and a B (German), they'd have me.
I knew that I'd been sidetracked. College had, during my GCSEs, been the holy grail. I wanted to go away from the all-girls school I was at, and go to the sixth form college in town, wear jeans, go to the smoking area, use the canteen. Be a 'grown up'.
But the relaxed rules also meant that this usually dedicated student (I sat my GCSEs with chicken pox in solitary confinement and still got 7 As and 2 Bs) suddenly wasn't quite so dedicated.
You see, I knew I could do exams. I knew I was good at languages. I kind of just thought I'd get the grades I needed. (A in French, B in German).
Then things changed. German was a C.
(By the way if this all sounds very Middle Class Surrey Problems as you read, it does to me as I write, too. That's my life though: not street enough for a memoir).
Anyway. Leeds was out because I'd dropped a grade.
My parents were away for the weekend, so I took the brunt of a disappointed phone call to my Dad on the chin and after hanging up, before going to the pub, I began ringing round universities to see who had a place for French.
All this time later, I get why Dad was disappointed. I am, in myself, now, looking back. It would have been so easy to just try a bit harder and get better grades. You don't see it when you're younger though. Perhaps at 80 I'll see things I don't realise at 40.
Anyway, a few universities said no, then bingo! Hull University had a place. It was all going to be ok... I hoped.
I went to the Blue Anchor pub, had too many pints of scrumpy and was sick in the flower bed.
My point here is, that I'm nearly 40. This was all 22 years ago, but I think for anyone that's ever had any exam result, A-level, GCSE, anything, they know that envelope-opening feeling.
They know the sliding doors moment of whether that grade is taking them where they want to go or not.
And whether we're 17 or 39, we all think we know where we want the next step to be. We all think we know what we need to turn the next corner.
I look back at my 17 year old self (a year younger than most in my year - child genius, has nothing on me. Probably.) and feel happy. I know that I was happy then. I was finding out who I was, I was exploring being me. And yep, my grades fell by the wayside as I did it.
I am also able to say now that I am slightly ashamed of my degree mark. A 2:2, the so-called drinkers degree. Not because I don't think it's good enough, but I know I could have done better.
Back then you didn't think so much about a career as just 'go to uni, do your favourite subject.'
Oh how I wish now I'd done media and French. Although, not sure how that'd help now what with t'internet and bright young things that know how websites work. Hashtag dinosaur.
But now. Well today has me reflecting. Back then I felt happy, confused, scared, excited.... I doubt that changes, especially based on the looks on the faces of young people in the press today.
I wonder how much a-level results truly matter. For example, mine aren't on my CV anymore. But should they be? I don't feel they'd help me get work now, at 39.
As I think back to when I was about to turn 18, I feel nostalgic and grateful it's not me. I LOVED sixth form. Lurrrved it. Loved Uni, most of the time, the liberation from home, all that jazz.
It feels like a lifetime ago now, how much it mattered to be at the cool college, to get to uni and spread my wings.
And as I prepare to turn 40, I feel grateful for my grades but glad life isn't all about them any more. Glad it's more about who I am not what's on a piece of paper. Relived that my A got me into Hull because it's given me a life and friends I want to celebrate with at this age, now.
Results day will always bring back memories, but luckily the hair bleach and fags are a thing of the past, eh?