What now? What’s next? asked each person I came across in college this morning as we were handed the results from our first AS Level exams. Sadly there were few smiles. Mostly tears and depressed slumps with some literally walking out and away from college campus grounds, some already considering starting over, some dreaming of going to the pub and drowning it out for a while, some giving up with ‘giving up’ in Lent on day two, all sat or stood in corners in groups discussing future possibilities and groaning, the occasional person hopping up from their place in the circle to answer a phone call and join the queue of souls outside in the light rain or sit with their backs to the walls and their spare hand to their head, regretting or disappointed or weakly laughing attempting to convey a resigned and relatively cheery attitude.
Sounds pretty rubbish really doesn’t it? I was in hospital a while back in a waiting room, and today’s situation seemed scarily similar. Teenagers pacing the corridors and huddled together whilst drinking coffee with the phone on their laps. Anxious, quiet, thinking hard. These papers with graded letters on seemed like a matter of life or death.
I’ve always hated grades. I mean sure it feels good to get an A. But it feels bad to get a D, an E or to ‘fail’ and be given a U. Feels terrible. Many out in the rain had been given this. I didn’t find a single person that was happy with their grades. I mean wow. I wish that there were less comparisons in the world. Take, for example, my Classical Civilization grade. I was given a C. Not bad, pretty content with that. But a dear friend of mine also got a C, and without her I would almost certainly have gotten a D or perhaps even a U. Her encouragement, her greater attention span, her passion got her giving brilliant answers. She helped me to focus, to get the work done, to understand. She should have got an A. No question.
Grades are just letters. Sure they get you into universities. They make you look good on a CV. But it’s what’s inside. It’s your effort, your passion, your soul that makes you the brilliant person that you are. Got a grade you aren’t happy with? Stuff the examiners. You’re you. You’re unique, you’re brilliant. Keep being you. Keep giving life your all. And whatever letter you might be given, know and remember that you are amazing, and just by existing, make the world a better place. Just be yourself. Share happiness with others. Don’t let letters get to you. As Benjamin Zander taught me, “we’re all As”. We don’t all have elephant memories. But we have the capacity to have elephant hearts. Keep smiling. Keep being you. And things will fall into place.
As the time ended for us all to wallow, each group slowly standing, I saw that so many were embracing in hugs, in group hugs too, and I saw people beginning to smile again, together. We were not alone. Grouped in huddles together we looked up with a sigh, imagining what the future months and years may hold, looking out upon our personal horizons, and exclaimed ‘we’d better get to class. Who knows what will happen next…’