Junior Cert results day – 3 years of work and 2 weeks of mind boggling stress. I’ll be honest I was feeling pretty confident. I’d emerged from my exams feeling like I’d done all I could do, except in higher level Irish (but who really cares about THAT). I was all ready to go out that night with all my friends and celebrate my 5-7 expected A grades.
As you can tell, I had pretty high expectations for myself. I always have, and in my head I had put in enough hours and work to get there. So fast forward to standing in our school hall with my whole year, waiting for my principal to stop talking and give out our results.
There’s the envelope in my hand, my friends and I have agreed to open them together. I feel like vomiting just thinking back about it.
I hear gasps and laughs and celebrations all over the hall, amongst my friends “I got 6 A’s”, “All A’s and B’s!”, “Oh my god I got a distinction in English”.
I look up and I hold back tears as I see my friends crying with joy. “Are you happy!?” someone asks me. I nod aggressively, not trusting myself to make a sound. In reality all I want is to run away so I can cry in peace.
I eventually get out to a bathroom to call my mum, as I promised I would as soon as I got my results. When she tells me “You did really well, I know it's not what you wanted” I break down sobbing into the phone making an excuse to hang up so I can pull myself together. I have eight friends about to come to my house where I have to spend the night celebrating in the face of immense disappointment.
Honestly I’m glad I did celebrate. I had a really fun night and the whole thing took my mind off my results. Afterwards I came home, wiped off my makeup, had some tea and crawled into bed exhausted but feeling okay. Then out of nowhere I started to sob, I don’t know for how long but I could feel myself getting more and more hysterical. My mind filling with thoughts of my failure. I won’t go into details but it went on for quite a while.
You might be wondering what could possibly warrant my reaction short of failing everything.
The answer? Straight B’s. That’s right. You are most certainly thinking that I was massively overreacting. After all a B is by no definition a bad grade. But in my head I was an A student and anything less was failure. I loathed B’s with a passion throughout my school career, to me, they said “you did your best but, your best wasn’t really good enough”.
This came not from my parents or my teachers, just from me. I was used to being one of the smartest nerds in the class with minimal effort, and I realised that as I went through school I never worked that much harder to meet these sky high expectations I was setting myself.
Which brings me back to all that work I’d recalled putting in. On reflection an uncanny amount of that “studying” time was spent on my phone, watching netflix, taking prolonged lunch breaks and making sure I had the perfect study “zone” (the amount of tea and scented candles I went through was honestly out of control). I didn’t really do my best or work my hardest, so how did I expect that to translate in my results?
Alright so what did I learn from this awful exam results experience, more importantly why am I telling you about it? Well I suppose it did actually turn into one of those important learning moments that start happening more and more as I grow up. There were a few things I learned from this, the first of which was coping with disappointment.
While my first response to this experience was to hide, cry and wallow in self pity, with help from my family I learned to accept things I can’t change and use it to motivate me in the future. So next time something like this comes around I’ll remember this day and I’ll remind myself that I need to either manage my expectations or push myself to be the best I can possibly be (hopefully that last one).
I also learned not to let exam results determine my self worth. I realised I can’t let exams define how I feel about myself. In a time when we’re all becoming more and more concerned with points and entry requirements for courses I think it’s important to take a step back and realise that I am more than just percentages from tests and exams. I have great friends, supportive family, interests and ideas and while school and exams will always be important, they should never be everything.