Today was one of those days that teenagers up and down the country, and indeed many across the world, will remember for the rest of their lives. There will be a lot of tears, a lot of laughter, and a lot of love. I sat my AS French a year early, so I had never experienced Results Day before. Unlike most of the pupils receiving results, this was my first time waiting for results. I was incredibly nervous. I am what you might call a catastrophiser. That’s another one for my personal dictionary. What I mean is I’m someone who can find a catastrophe from every eventuality. I think events through so much that sometimes my head is left spinning. I push myself to go higher, and then all I can think about is my inevitable hamartia, my inevitable fatal flaw that triggers my fatal fall. So I was just waiting, no idea what to expect, and catastrophising.
However, I feel like many people go through the emotions that I went through: the panic, the possible outcomes, the over-exaggerated never-going-to-happen outcomes, the ideal, the likely. Perhaps reading this you may empathise with what I was going through. Perhaps you may have been thinking the same things last night. Perhaps for you, your Results Day was years and years ago, and you’ve forgotten, A levels don’t matter anymore now you have a job. But for me, my work is an integral part of my world. When it concerns my work, I am a stickler for perfection. I feel I have let myself down if it’s not perfect. My work now is my key to the future.
I wanted to document how I felt on this, my very first Results Day. So here you go, I hope you enjoy my little twelve hour diary the night before Results Day, and my thoughts, having had 8.5 hours to let it settle in.
Wednesday night: Right OK, I’ve spent the whole day thinking about results day tomorrow, and have achieved nothing. I need to tire myself out as much as possible, or else I’m really not going to sleep tonight. Going to watch a film. A Christmas film, that’ll cheer me up. Elf. Perfect.
Later Wednesday night: I’ve watched Elf, finished my book, read a few chapters of another book and made myself a cup of tea. Looks like I actually have to go to sleep now. Close your eyes, breathe in, breathe out. Puts on some rain sounds, apparently that’s meant to help. Turns it off, it’s incredibly annoying. Around 45 minutes later (approximately 1:17), drifts off to sleep.
4:23 am Thursday morning: Still 2 hours, 37 minutes left until I can get my results (glad to see I might still yet have passed my Maths GCSE). Lies awake, staring at the ceiling. Should I open it with my parents, or alone? What happens if I get an A? Will I be happy? Of course I will. Should I be happy but not ecstatic, because other people will not have got an A? I will definitely not post on social media. What if I get a B? I mean, that’s still good, right? What will my parents think? What will my teacher think? Should I have even done this in the first place? Could I have worked a little harder? Might I have to get a remark? What have I got myself into? What about if it’s a C? I think I will pretend it never happened, and just retake it next year. In fact, I’ll probably curl up in my room and not come out. Or a D? I think I’ll start assessing all the ways that I’ll tell my parents. Maybe I’ll just leave a note and go and hide in the woods. Maybe they’ll have calmed down enough by the time I get back. Maybe I should not come back. I’ll never get into university. I’ll never get a job. I might as well just go and live in a hole. But maybe it’ll be an A. Or a B. A B wouldn’t be so bad.
4:52 Thursday morning: Gets out phone. Message from former classmate. Asking about God. Why do I believe? Well that’s easy to answer. Types reply. Sends. Realises its 5:28. Probably should have waited until a reasonable hour to send that. Reads it again, hopefully not offensive tone? Sends another message. Sorry for the early hour. If she didn’t wake up the first time, she definitely has now. Oh I’m so sorry. If my parents saw me on my phone now I’d be done for. I shouldn’t even have my phone in my room. What will my punishment be? Hides phone under pillow. Takes it out again to the reassuring hum of snoring from the other end of the corridor. Checks online. No there won’t be any results there yet, they said 7:00. They had better be perfectly on time, otherwise I’ll panic. Writes down school contact number just in case.
6:02 Thursday morning: Why is time ticking by so slowly? Do minutes take longer when you are conscious of them? What really is consciousness? Whatever, I should go to the toilet. Goes to the toilet, is scared by the light. Goes back into room and hides under the bedclothes. Checks webpage again, still nothing. I should rewatch La Haine tomorrow. I mean if I pass this exam, I really need to work this week. I should have worked more before the exam. Oh gosh, the oral was awful. No, don’t cry. It’s all going to be OK. Put it into perspective. This is just one letter.
6:37 Thursday morning: Screw that, it does matter. This will be my only AS. It has to be perfect. A levels do matter. They do. So what happens if it’s a C? Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. What have I done? I can hear my Mum in the shower. Dad’s coming down the hall. Hastily puts phone under pillow and pretends to have just woken up. ‘Do you want a cup of tea? Are you coming downstairs?’ Yes, yes, coming. Plods downstairs as downhearted as a lamb going to the slaughter.
6:51 Thursday morning: This wait is killing me. Checks phone -still nothing results-wise. Reads texts messages from varying members of the family. ‘Good luck, it will be OK whatever.’ My Uncle, the Oxford professor. The perfect one of the family. My Granny. My Grandparents. All people I have to tell my result to. I wish I could just be selfish and keep it all to myself. And for goodness sake, if I hear someone else tell me good luck, I think I’m going to hit the roof. There’s no use in luck now is there? I needed luck in the exam… It’s too late. And I don’t know whether everything is going to be OK. It’s not definite. Puts phone away, logs on to website for the fourth time in about half an hour.
6:59 Thursday morning: One minute still to go. Every time I think about this I’m losing seconds. I mean there’s probably only 45 seconds left still to go now. 40. I can feel my heart racing. 35. Grabs a glass and fills it with water, the sound of water is soothing now. 30. The world seems to blur, my mind racing with all the thoughts of the past hours, days, weeks, months. 20. I can almost hear a time bomb ticking in my head. Tick tock. Tick tock. 10. Why do I place so much importance on this result? 5. It’s fine. It’s going to be OK. Don’t worry anymore. Zero-hour. 7:00.
And there it is. One letter that defines my fate for this year. I can feel tears welling up. I can’t cry. It’s fine. It’s fine. The letter seems so lonely on the page with no others around it. It stands out, demanding to be seen. I can’t ignore it now. It’s right there in front of me. Wipes away a single tear from her eyes. I look up at my parents, I realise I haven’t said anything. Their hearts must still be pounding, but mine seems slower now. ‘I got a …’
But whatever I am saying is muffled by their jumpers as they hug me. They don’t care what I got. They just care that I had done it. I am proud of myself too. But not for long. I don’t like feeling proud of myself. It makes me feel selfish. I shrug them off. Nothing special really. An anticlimax. But it didn’t matter to them. Their response would have been the same whatever. I think I’d like pancakes for breakfast today.
And what I realised clearly then was what I had actually known all along. These grades don’t define you. Perhaps they define the work ethic over the past few years. Perhaps they define the fear you feel in an exam hall. Perhaps they define the motivation that will empower you to go on to do great things. But they don’t define you. People love you for who you are, not for your grades. The people telling me it was going to be alright, were right. I didn’t believe them, and there are times in the future when I expect I won’t either, but I know it deep down. Even if you got 4 Us in your A levels, there are people who will love you, support you and lift you up to new heights.
In the moment we can get caught up, and place importance on the wrong things. Don’t forget who you are for the sake of your grades. They are important, don’t get me wrong, but they are not you. Failure is not getting bad grades, but letting those grades get you down and change who you are at heart. So if you got 4 A*s or if you got 4 Us, don’t let this define who you are. They are letters. They do matter, but other things matter too. Have the self confidence to say that you are amazing because of who you are, not because of your grades. Use your grades to achieve new and better things. Carry on to practice what you have learnt. Keep studying, keep working hard. But don’t do it to prove the grades right or wrong. Do it for yourself, and your own pleasure. Change the world, but don’t change yourself.
God doesn’t judge you for the number of As on the report card. He takes each one of us just as we are. Don’t spend your nights worrying and catastrophising. Everything will be OK. With God, anything is possible. I know this is what I’ll be remembering next week on GCSE Results Day, when I log in and see 11 more results all staring back at me.
If you received A level results today, let me know how it went. Did you feel the same way as me? Had you been through the nerves before at GCSE and so were calmer? Could you sleep? Did everything turn out OK? I’m sure it did. Oh dear I’m sounding like my family now… Did you go through all this years ago? Does it all seem a breeze? Are you receiving GCSE results next week? How are you feeling? Do you still have this all to come?
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