I admit, I used to be a slacker. My A level years were the worst of it. I had a bad attitude and a messed up set of priorities as a teenager could have – I still cringe when I think about it. The last thing on my mind was my education and I wasted all my time obsessing over meaningless appearances and daydreaming about pointless scenarios. And like most high school students, I had an internet addiction.
I allowed missing an update on Facebook or being left out of an online chat session between friends consume me. And when I wasn’t obsessing over the online world, I was deeply and unhealthily involving myself in the drama of my friends’ lives. We would talk on the phone for hours, over our teenage preoccupations that seemed so life and death at the time, and I genuinely thought it was a testament to our strong, healthy and undying friendship.
All of this took a serious toll on my relationship with my family. My parents could see that I was destroying myself and wasting my potential and yet, they didn’t know how to stop it. It led to a lot of loud confrontations and declarations of disappointment. And my stubborn teenage head painted them as the bad guys.
Needless to say, all of this also affected my grades. Looking back, I don’t think I did any honest studying during my A levels. It required the kind of dedication my mind with its vapid interests, didn’t have the focus for. Unsurprisingly, it led to me eventually failing my A level exams.
I can’t say I was all that shocked, but I was hit with the hard realization of how badly I had messed up. I had somehow convinced myself that I would somehow sail by, even if it would be by a hair. But how could I? I hadn’t even tried.
After that initial failure, I fell into a depression so deep that it was kind of hard to find myself out of it. I stopped talking to all of my friends, and I have to say, none of them were all that resilient about keeping in touch with me anyway.
I’d lost any sense of self worth I’d had and wasn’t sure what to do with myself anymore. I took the exams again, but by then I had fully convinced myself that there was no way I could do well, and that the material was beyond my comprehension. There was a deep set belief in me by then that A levels were beyond me. And so I failed once again. I think I was almost waiting for it – I had a defeatist attitude that had already convinced me that I couldn’t do it, and that this was the end of the line. But the point is, that things did eventually change. That defeatist attitude melted away and I realized that I was a fighter.
It should come as no surprise that during this time, I got into an abusive relationship that was centered around my lack of self esteem and relied on me not thinking too much of myself. It took me a long time to get out of that one, much longer than it should have. I now know that a relationship is not what you need to get you through a time like this.
But in a moment of guileless honesty, not passing my A levels was probably the only thing that could have jarred me into getting my act together. It was the wake-up call that I needed – the eye opener that showed me what losing it all could mean. And to be frank, if anyone deserved to fail, I did.
I was the worst example of a student and without that incident in my life, I shudder to think of where I would be now. That one setback led me to re-evaluate my life and get a much needed attitude overhaul.
As it happened, I eventually did make my way into university. But not as the person I used to be, not even close. By the time the first year of university ended, I had a GPA high enough to get myself a place on the Dean’s list.
I now understood the value of my education. I knew how harmful falling into an internet rabbit hole and unhealthy friendships could be.
Failing final exams can seem like the end of the world. And you might not even know what to do next. Looking back, there are moments when I wish I could go back in time and talk myself out of all the bad decisions I made back then.
The way things have turned out have made me believe that everything happens for a reason. Everyone has low points in their life, but it’s up to you to decide how to push through them. It’s either sink or swim, and I chose to swim through it all. It was the push I needed to lead me to better life decisions and I wouldn’t change that for anything.