For you and I, today will be a day just like any other.
I will spend hours at work trying to convince people to believe in me; believe in what I am saying. Where as you will run, and jump, and try to see how much mud you can get under your finger nails. The answer will be lots.
For others, some 13 years older than you, today will be billed as the first, in a long line of most important days of their lives. They will receive exam results. Those exams are called GCSEs. Both your mum and I did GCSEs. Who knows if you will do GCSEs?
I didn’t do exceptionally well at GCSEs. I didn’t exactly do well at any level of school examination. I scrapped through with average results – enough to get me in to college to do A-Levels. I’ll assume A-Levels will continue to exist, as they were around at the time of your grandparents.
I think (actually I know) Nonna was a bit disappointed with my results. She hoped for better, just so that I stood a better chance later in life. I was just happy to get the five results I needed to get in to college. Granddad Chris was his usual self. Congratulatory in a way where he almost expected me to fail the lot (he wasn’t the only one), but at the same time, of an air where he expected the outcome; as that’s the sort of student I am.
It’s far too early to wonder how you might do, and as such, it would be stupid to expect anything from you – even up to exam result’s day. You meet lots of people who tell you how clever you are, but the results you get don’t necessarily reflect cleverness. If you are like your aunty Jenna, who studied and worried, and studied and worried, then you might get straight As, A*s or Golden Unicorn Horns – or whatever grade they will use then. If you are like me, and your exams are part coursework based, it won’t matter how you do in your exams – as you will have lost plenty of marks in the run up by not handing in that important coursework.
Do your homework. Or don’t, and be like me. Happy.
Ah. I shouldn’t really be telling you that now, should I? Hopefully you won’t read this letter until you are the Chief Executive of a global empire. But if you do read it earlier and you can understand the point – rather than use it as an excuse – then please understand one thing. The most important days of your life will not be ones where you are judge by a letter, or a number, or a list of names or a leaping photo in a daily newspaper.
The most important day of your life is governed, not by fact – but by emotion.
The most important day of my life came when I met your mum. For the second time.
See, that’s life. The first time I met your mum was in passing. At a party, where I’d been somewhere and she’d been somewhere – we barely said a word, and then I left. We didn’t meet again for three years. We may never have met again, but for what people often view in a negative light – my redundancy.
You see. I got average results at GCSEs. I failed one and didn’t sit another of my A-Levels. I had to leave University – partly because of my knee no longer standing up to a sports course, but mainly because I didn’t bother with the non-sporting side of the lectures. I have been made redundant twice. Given an opportunity to leave on one occasion; and asked to leave at least twice more.
Some of those I had no control over, but others – as with exams – it was all my “fault”. The way my life has turned out was all down to me. But what a great “mistake” it has all proven to be.
I may not have the job I would have once wanted, or it may have taken longer than it should have done to get to the level I am at now – but ask me if I would swap any of the experiences gained through all of those mistakes or faults, and without hesitation, I will simply point at you, at the rising bump in your mum’s belly and say no. No! No! Not a chance.
There’s too much emotion. Too much happiness in the important things I have in my life to worry whether the letters A, B or C could have contributed to me, having you.
If you don’t get the grades you want or need, you adapt your life. You work out how to reach the same heights as those that did. You may have to change your plans; shift your targets – but there’s nothing stopping you from becoming what you eventually want to be. We will sit down when you are 13 and try to plan your life with you. Work out what subjects you like at school, what kind of careers you see and like on TV – but I am 37 now. I’m still one missing piece of a jigsaw away from knowing if this is really what I want from my working life. I was a whole box of pieces away at 13.
If like me you don’t get the grades, then you have to learn how to convince. Convince people you know what you are doing. Convince bosses that you can do a job. Convince those you work with, that you know what you are talking about. I have worked with people who have A*s, degrees and PhDs, but put them in a room and ask them to be convincing, and it all falls down. You can’t hide behind a grade or a piece of paper when people don’t agree with you.
Your most important day, the first of many, is when we will bring your sister or brother home from the hospital for the very first time. I am sure there will be a point not soon after when you need reassurances that you are as important to us then, as you were before they arrived.
Let me tell you now (for you to read in the future); you very much are. You will always be my first child. I will always have shared everything with you first. I will have always been there for you first. This will include the opening of exam results. A brief, moment in our lives, when you may feel your whole life depends on what is inside that envelope. But it doesn’t. I won’t stop loving you. I won’t necessarily feel any more pride, just because of the grades you get. The world doesn’t stop spinning – we just help you choose the appropriate path for your life from there on in.
A path that will continue to change with every decision – good or bad – that you make. And that’s the key. Life is all about the decisions we make. Decide not to study and you can’t blame anyone else for your exams. Decide to become a doctor and spend the rest of your life pushing yourself to meet a standard expected of you. At 13, 16, 18 and 21 – when the exam results drop – we will help you choose the direction you want your life to take, but ultimately, we can never make that choice for you.
Only you can decide.
Letter originally posted on What Lauren Did Next