With the recent calamity from result days across the UK, I thought it’d be helpful to write my fifteen year old self a little letter. If I could go back and tell her what I know now, before she starts her final year of GCSE's. Students often have this immense pressure put on their shoulders to succeed, and get the best grades. Usually, this is not for the benefit of the student, but for the educational institution for future students, regardless of the impact to their current students mental health.
To my fifteen year old self,
Hi it’s you, but you’re twenty five now. I thought I’d impart some of my wisdom to you.
First off, forget everything your teachers told you about how important GCSE’s were. Yes, you need certain grades to go on to college, but don’t make yourself ill by stressing so much about them. You wasted so much precious time working yourself up. So much so that your boyfriend referred to you as “School Saffron” because you were like a different person, with only one goal in mind. You lost sleep in the months that followed after the exams. Couldn’t sleep in the dark, and had various nightmares. That summer was awful. It was out of your control and you let it run your life until results day. Once it’s done, there is nothing you can do about it, so try and relax.
You did work really hard in school, and spoiler alert you got some amazing grades to show for it. But what about your friendships? What about making positive memories in your last year of school? Going onto college was a huge change, good in some ways and not so good in others. Let your hair down, speak to some of your peers that you hadn’t spoken to yet. Who cares? Make more of an effort to meet with your friends, sure you live a few towns away but one day you’re going to regret all of those missed opportunities. Just be young, wild and free. Don’t be so uptight and defensive all of the time. Sometimes people do actually want to get to know you, and be friendly. Not everyone is a bully.
And for God's sake stop punishing yourself. You know what I’m talking about. Think about it; has anyone actually told you you’re a horrible person? A monster? No? Then drop it like a hot potato. I know you’ve been doing it for years. Because I’m future you remember? I know you are not educated in mental health because no one was talking about it back in 2010. All of these bad habits and unhealthy thinking will impact you in the future. Maybe even going in the opposite direction. Where is the rational voice in your head? The positive helpful voice? Way in the back? Listen for it through all of that negativity, it’s there I promise you.
Sweet fifteen year old Saffron, you are in for a wild and sometimes bumpy ride, but that is life. It’s uncontrollable, and complicated but there are so many good things in this world. Make time for them. Go out and find them. Step outside of your comfort zone.
As for success? I’m not going to spoil too much for you, but don’t just stick to one dream career. Even if you have your heart set on one, learn some new things on the side, add different skills and qualifications to your CV. You think just studying hard and getting grades is enough? Nope. Educators and employers will want so much more from you. So START NOW. And for God’s sake don’t EVER STOP READING. It’s so much harder to pick it up once you’ve had quite the hiatus. You can only do your best, remember that. If your best isn’t good enough for someone, then it’s their loss. You are a catch. You are a super hard worker. Yes, sometimes you’re not that ‘loud’ but you don’t need to be loud to be heard. Sometimes loudness is just smoke and mirrors with nothing substantial to it. Keep being you. Quiet can be good. Quiet is sitting back, taking in situations and reading people. Sussing them out. That’s not a bad trait. You’re learning what you can and can’t say and the hierarchy of situations.
Little Saffers, don’t ever give up. You’re not the giving up type. There is time to do more, and time to fix things. You get knocked down nine times? You get up ten. You show the world the fire that’s in your belly. Your passion for life and success. Surround yourself with likeminded people, you’ll bounce off each other and help one another grow in the right direction.
Oh and I know you’re not much into politics and it tends to go straight over your head, but do a little reading up on it in your spare time. It’ll be valuable to you later. Who knows, maybe that’s the thing that’ll make you loud.
That’s it for now. Maybe I’ll pop back in a while and see how you’re doing. But I know you’re going to smash it.
If it were possible to send letters and speak to your younger self, I wonder if it would do much good. If things would change, and alter your course. Hindsight is a powerful and sometimes negative tool, but it can also help us move forward.
My advice to you, if you are in your last year and preparing to move on to the next stage in your education, or even starting school, college or university: 1. Really make the most of every second. Use every resource possible, even if it’s just for fun. They are there to be used.
2. Be consistent with your hobby. Don’t have one? Try some. Hobbies are great recreational activities, doing something you enjoy is so good for your mental health. It’s a nice break away from school, work and screens. Even if you have one you always go back to, can you do more?
3. Stop stressing out. I know, it’s one of those phrases you hate to hear. I find that when I’m stressing out, it makes me really ill. Usually it’s because of poor time management and I want to blame something or someone else. Think about the root of your stress. Are you struggling with the amount of work? Deadlines too unrealistic? Or have you not taken a day off? Go and take a walk and grab some fresh air. There is always a solution to your problem.
4. Side hustle. As I said to my younger self, explore other areas during your studies. Even if it’s some volunteer work, when you’re young you absorb so much information, squeeze a little more in. I wish I had done some other qualifications alongside my studies to expand my knowledge, and show that I work hard in my down time too.
5. Been handed a big L? Allow yourself to feel those emotions, get sad or angry and vent about your feelings. Then recoup, take some deep breaths and refocus your goals. Every setback is a lesson to be learned. We can’t all have it go perfectly, and those knocks will only make you stronger.
This year has been tough for a lot of students who received their initial grades. I hope that if you were amongst them, that you got the grades you worked for and deserved and are back on the right path for you. You all made so much noise and created change for other young people. Give yourself a pat on the back, not everyone has gone through these challenges. You will come out of this so much tougher, and you have the rest of your generation right beside you.
Believe me now, you will win someday.