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There is so much more to life than a grade on a piece of paper

I've been there, the year of my GCSE's was not a time I want to remember. The stress those sillly little grades caused me impacted me for many years to come. My A levels quite literally nearly killed me off and were part of the catalyst towards my 5 years of revolving door inpatient struggles. I get it, they really do feel like the be all and end all. I remember other people telling me that it didn't matter at the time but I thought they were old and just didn't understand. I was adament they were everything and without these qualifications my life would be over and wasn't worth living. In my eyes I believed I needed straight As at GCSE, then 4 A levels which would lead straight to a Russel group university and then a full time graduate job. I wholeheartedly believed without this I was a failure, my success was defined by my academic ability. When it all went wrong in my teenage years I believed my life was over- I didn't have the qualificartions I needed at the right time to make a success of myself. The tears, the stress and pressure I put on myself impacted my whole being not just my mental health.

I found it so annoying when people would tell me not to stress about my grades- I had worked so hard and I wanted this to pay off. However, while grades are important up to a certain point and can make certain aspects of life easier and maybe necessary for certain career paths, not getting these at 16 or 18 really isn't the end of the world. There are so many paths out there which will get you to where you want to get to. If you get this in the culturally expected way at 16 and 18 then fab - you should be super proud of yourself however you should also be proud if for you your sucess at these ages looks different. We all have different backgrounds and history and if surviving is your success that is also a massive acheivement. There are always other ways to achieve your academic success but if you make yourself so unwell it could get to the point you can't change that.

For the past 5 Septembers (yes 5!!) I have started an Access to HE course for Healthcare and dropped out before October half term. Looking back on it, this really was quite ridiculous, I was just not ready for this kind of course and in fact it isn't something I am actually that passionate about. It was what I believed I should do to in order to lead to what I deemed a 'good', 'successful' career. Each year before the end of September I had quit, leaving my confidence in tatters and my mental health worse than the year before. I viewed myself as stupid and incapable, every assignment I handed in- any grade less than perfect cut me deep within, leaving me emotionally raw and in no position to show my best academic performance.

It's bizarre how society subconciously sends us this message of what success looks like. The negative impact on young people and the stress of exams are leading to so many mental health problems which are just so unnecessary (look at my other blog on my page about why I left education to see some of my opinions on what is so wrong with the system itself!). We are talking about a tusnami of mental health issues hitting schools and how CAMHS are inundated to the point they cannot offer safe or effective treatment. Anyway that is a conversation for another day! But back to results day and the fear of what tomorrow may bring- a grade on a piece of paper does not represent your worth and isn't the only way for you to have a successful future.

Working for a few years has really helped me find what I am actually interested in and where I want to take my career. I personally think it's quite ridiculous to expect people at the age of 16/18 to make decisions about the rest of their lives when they haven't even really experienced life yet. Even if you get the grades you need you may still decide to go on a journey of self-discovery before you make the decision of which career to pursue. Getting a job, volunteering, finding my true interests and hobbies have led me down a completely different path to the path 16 year old Hannah had planned. 16 year old Hannah had her eyes set on four A levels, a paramedic science or paediatric nursing degree, being an event first aider and being qualified by 21. Whereas in reality 23 year old Hannah is a level 3 qualified TLA, has worked and volunteered with over 8 different charities and is about to start a Foundation in Musical Theatre. I mean it's a different path to any I could ever have imagined- it's so different from what I expected to be doing but I do believe it's happened for a reason. So if tomorrow the results you get aren't what you wanted- take time, you are allowed to be upset, annoyed and even angry. Let that process take as long as it needs but try to remember that those grades do not represent your worth, your ability or how successful you can be. There are so many different possibilities, online courses, college, apprenticeships, internships and so many other jobs which haven't even been created yet which always blows my mind!

18 may feel like the age when you need to have everything together and that if you don't do it now it's too late but it truly is never too late. Recently a 64 year old qualififed as a paramedic- it's never too late to do anything which means its never too early to try something different. There is so much life to explore and so many different paths to go down. Although I am sure uni is amazing (I have no personal experience so can't comment) remember it's not the only potential path to success. Also uni never goes away- if later on you decide it is for you, universities will still be there. Academic qualifications will always be a possible if you want them to be- so let this be a chance to try something new, find yourself or maybe even discover a path (like I have) which you never realised was an option or even crossed your mind.

Be kind to yourself, set yourself boundaries, maybe think about staying clear of social media and media interactions over the next fews weeks when results will probably feature quite highly, allow time to feel emotions but take this as an opportunity to try something new and begin a path where you don't necessarily know the outcome!!

It's kind of exciting <3

Stay safe

Hannah xx


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