Although it was over twenty years ago, I remember That Day very well indeed. I hadn’t slept properly for most of that week, anxious to know how the story of my college education was finally going to end after two years of studying a confused and disparate mix of A Level subjects, namely English Literature, Sociology and French.
In case you were wondering – no, I didn’t have a bloody clue what I was going to do with them! I can’t really remember much about why I wanted to study them in the first place, aside from the age-old well-meaning family pressure about adding more flavour to my education and future prospects than the vanilla essence of GCSEs.
My friend Sue (she’s the one on the right) and I collected our results together from the college. We’d originally planned to open each-other’s results, but once we had those envelopes in our hands we bottled out of that…it all felt far too momentous. Instead we silently walked past the throng of excited students, round to the back of the college where it was quiet and we could be on our own, took a deep breath, and opened them up.
I’d passed all three of my subjects. We both had, though I can’t remember off the top of my head what grades I got. Seeing as you tend to remember the great and the terrible, what that means is that they were mediocre. Enough, probably, to go to university and scrape by, if I wanted to. The only thing I really knew then was that I didn’t want to.
I remember how confused I felt as I stared down at my results; how it felt like whatever I chose to do next with my life would define me in ways I wouldn’t be able to understand… until it was far too late to do anything about it. It didn’t just feel scary, it felt unfair.
At first I was inundated with family and friends asking which universities I was going to try for. People tended to view me as academically minded because I was quiet and I loved to learn. But learning doesn’t only come from formal education, and so I made the decision to put myself out into the working world and see who would have me.
If you’re in this position, or you know someone who is, I can give this vital piece of advice: take your future into your own hands. I did this by getting a copy of the Yellow Pages (the internet was in its infancy back then…these were the OLD days, remember!) and scouring it for local businesses, making a list of the ones I liked the idea of working for. Then I wrote them all a letter, one by one.
(I’m making myself sound incredibly focused and pragmatic here, aren’t I? The truth was that I would have been much lazier about doing any of that if my lovely Dad hadn’t insisted I get a job because he wasn’t going to subsidise my existence as a non-student. Reader, I was galvanised!)
I think I remember all of this so vividly because it was where my future really began. But that really doesn’t have to be as scary as it looks or sounds. Whatever route you choose to take following your A Levels, just be sure that it’s your route and your choice. This is mainly because if you’re in control of your choices and actions, you’ll be far less likely to regret any of them. You’ll be able to talk confidently about them to others – including in job interviews!
Incidentally, after waiting anxiously for the post or the phone to ring for what felt like ages, I got some valuable offers of work experience and actual jobs from those letters I wrote. I chose to work for a local radio station, which has nothing to do with what I’m doing now but was a lot of fun regardless!
So if by any chance you’re reading this in that same confused place I was all those years ago…hang in there. Your future has just begun, and it’s brighter than you might think.