I Cried at my A-Level Results

On the morning of Results’ Day, I woke up feeling so ill that I couldn’t do much. I say “woke up”, it was more like “got up” because I’d hardly got any sleep the night before. It was a mixture of sheer panic and the inability to quiet my mind; I procrastinated sleeping by wailing about how scared I was to the friends that would put up with it.

My dad, Mum, a friend I call Rapunzel who’s been staying for a few days and I travelled to school by car because I live around 40 minutes away. On the way there, I had to listen to music to shut my brain off. I got into school, after being unable to function in the car, and I could barely breathe. The fear was unbelievable, especially because I was one of the first ones there.

We got into the hall and I just remember hearing this awful ringing in my ears. It was like nothing else mattered and I felt so weak that I had to hold my mum’s arm really tightly. Because we were pretty much first in line, my results were given to us quickly in an envelope (which of course I couldn’t read).

When my parents opened the results, my immediate response was “how bad is it?” For weeks now, I’d been setting myself up for failure, telling myself I’d do terribly. I was so afraid of disappointing people that I told my parents and everyone that I’d done awfully and I believed it myself. I can’t stress how much I thought I’d fucked up.

Turns out, I got amazing results – far better than I ever could have dreamed. When I found out my English result, I screamed so loudly that I felt like the whole hall went silent; Rapunzel picked me up and I was so happy – like I couldn’t believe. My friend Swan also got her results and we ran at each other, shrieking. I’m just so proud of all of my friends because they did fantastically, after having worked so hard. I hugged so many teachers, finally able to congratulate myself, with concrete evidence that my brain couldn’t disprove.

Afterwards, Rapunzel and I went to Swan’s house. There, we watched hilarious videos, relaxed and screamed a lot. The day had such an unreal quality to it, yet everything felt a little more vibrant. We met up with some friends and had lunch; it was so much more chilled than anything I’d done in school because I properly felt – and feel – free.

It’s been almost surreal, these last few days. At the weekend, I went to one of my best friend’s houses to stay and there, I felt lighter than I have in months. I’ve come to terms with a lot these past few weeks and that’s really shown in how I even react to myself. Sure, my mental health has really dipped recently but it feels as if there’s a massive weight off my shoulders. Now I’m not quite sure what to do with myself, though I’m still keeping busy as a distraction.

Whether you got the results you wanted or not, you should be proud of yourself. A-Levels were some of the hardest things we’ll ever do and we got through them: that counts for something. No matter what happens, there are always options and you will always have choices – that might not help right now but just hold onto what you can do rather than what you’ve done. You aren’t a failure.

It’s over now – you’ve done it; all that adrenaline isn’t needed for being afraid. Results Day was the final obstacle and now you can go on to live your life. God, I feel like I need a year-long sleep. Start again, if you want to, because you deserve that.

I’m proud of myself and I can really say that now. When I was going through shit in the middle of the year, my Head of Year told me that I would be and she was right. I bloody well did it, got through, survived, and no-one can take that away from me.

Love from Elm πŸ™‚

My Thoughts on the Education System | Collab with Debbie!

Along with many other people in the UK, I’m very lucky to have a good education. However, there are still a lot of problems with the education system that those who don’t experience are quick to dismiss. In a collab with Debbie – you can read her post on her blog – we’re going to write about the issues that are closest to us.

For me, the transition from GCSEs to A-Levels was particularly difficult, an opinion shared with a lot of people in my year and the year below. With the transfer from “less challenging” GCSEs to “more challenging” A-Levels, most teachers and students alike were struggling. We had no idea what was really expected of us as in many subjects, there were either very few or no past papers at all. Those who took GCSEs recently or are going to take them soon will have had a similar problem. We were told to learn independently, to “go beyond” the subject but GCSEs, or pre-GCSEs, hadn’t shown us how to do that. It felt like we were jumping in at the deep end of a swimming pool with no markings as to how deep it was. There’s this idea that figuring out your own independent learning style is all part of the process of learning but we were expected to do that, not having done that before; we were expected to learn so much content, apply it in ways we’d never done before, all whilst battling our own anxieties and personal pressures. If we couldn’t keep up; if we learned in a different way or if our concepts of success didn’t match up to the exam board’s or government’s or the vague “threat” of universities or employers, it felt like a failure.

It’s not all to do with the last 4-5 years of schooling, in that expectations of “how we should learn” go right back to the start. We’re told what books would best suit us – you can read more about that in this post by Izzy – given “advice” on careers based on predicted grades and behaviour, and examined from such a young age that the constant banner of success is waved over people’s heads and those who don’t achieve that are automatically labelled by teachers and others as not being “academic”, when academia isn’t the only way that someone can live a life which makes them happy. I’m making massive generalisations here but often, the way in which we learn is subject to these same generalisations. People are crammed into smaller boxes of 1-9 or A-G, into “smart” or “not smart”, into “likes to read so should be good at this” or “likes Maths so should go into this profession”. That’s not even touching on the idea of “one learning style fits all”, which restricts so many people.

Blaming “the school” as a whole would be counter-productive and wouldn’t solve any problems as a lot of the time, it’s a student’s willingness to learn – or lack of it – that stops people from learning. However, people are too quick to entirely blame students’ “laziness” for the difficulties that they face. How can it be an individual’s fault if they’re never given encouragement by teachers, never shown a way to learn that fits them and never shown that their aspirations don’t have to fall in line with the academic, English-Maths-Science expectations that are pushed so forcefully onto everyone so that they can “be successful?” With the new system of GCSEs and A-Levels, it’s even harder to achieve the top grades and so those who don’t work in the way the exam boards want are more likely to feel unhappy and so less likely to work as productively.

Most people work in different ways to each other. Some prefer group work and some prefer individual study; some need to revise in one session whereas others need to spread their revision out; some need support from teachers and their friends whereas others find that support within themselves or in other places. I don’t feel as if enough support or emphasis, on the whole, is given to those individual learning styles – it would be incredibly difficult to cater to everyone’s needs when in a large group of students but it’s too often assumed that everyone can work in exactly the same style. The good thing about A-Levels is that much more support is given by teachers as they have more time to do this but by the time A-Levels come around, it can be difficult for some people to know that they can get support if they haven’t had it before. In GCSEs and before that, those that received a lot of one-to-one or individualised support from teachers most often come from fee-paying schools. There are many exceptions but teachers in an average state school don’t usually have enough time to help the students that need it most.

With coursework disappearing and linear subjects being prioritised, there’s a huge importance given to exams. Yes, this system worked better for me in some ways but not in others and for a lot of people, examined subjects won’t be the best way to help them learn. SEN (Special Educational Needs) funding, which directly affects me and people I know, is being cut; resources aren’t being provided for SEN students in education but because of the constant pressure to get better grades, to improve your chances of getting into university, thoughts are being focused more on the students who attain more 9s or A*s. The problems with SEN deserve a whole other post and I’m not sure I’d even be the best person to write about them.

There are positives to the current education system, of course. More vocational courses are being offered at colleges; apprenticeships are being encouraged more widely and different learning styles are slowly being taken into account. Saying that, this is only the start and more needs to be done. Performing and visual arts subjects have been dropped from the curriculum of some schools which restricts those who are more creative from expressing themselves. People need to become more aware that not everything should be based on academic results and improvement of exam achievements doesn’t always mean improvement of people’s lives.

What do you think about the education system and how people learn? Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to check out Debbie’s post! It was amazing to collab with her and to get my (complicated and somewhat ranty) thoughts out!

Love from Elm πŸ™‚

I Have No Time

I was going to begin this post with a “It’s only (insert number here) days until my A-Levels!” and then I realised that the very thought of doing that stressed me out to the point where everything felt cold and I wanted to slip under the school desk I’m sitting at and never emerge again. That’s nothing unfamiliar from the usual and that’s the issue: I’m constantly stressed, constantly terrified and unable to find time to do anything I want. Blogging, talking to friends, relaxing, reading – all of these I’ll be talking about in this post, as well as sobbing generally over my lack of organisation.

On Tuesday, the day I was supposed to be doing my history mock because I was ill the Wednesday prior, our school gave us an assembly that totally fucked up my day and, in short, made me cry. They told us that we should be more panicked, more stressed because our A-Levels are soon, that we should start taking responsibility for our own learning even more than we already do. I’m sure they meant it as a way for us to realise the “urgency”, as they put it, of the lack of time we actually have but it did the opposite for me. It increased my panic, to the point where I could barely breathe whilst listening; I walked downstairs and sat there for a good 15 minutes unable to do anything but breathe raggedly in utter fear.

I never ended up doing that mock in those 3 hours, lying that I’d finished it – I was doing it in my own time anyway – being wildly upset when I was doing other work that ended up helping me in the long run and eventually doing it in the evening where I worked far more productively. But that cut down on my time to do other things; it piled up and I cried twice that day: once in the toilets before lunch so nobody would see and another time at home. In counselling yestarday I told Jane all this, bursting out in a rush along with my general frustration and anger. All that screaming negativity made me realise something, properly for the first time: I don’t have time to do absolutely everything.

There are some people who can balance work with a social life, whilst having good and consistent mental health, can do a few of their hobbies and still have time to relax afterwards. I’m not one of those people. At the moment, I have extremely unstable mental health, no two ways about it; I’m barely able to keep afloat with work; I haven’t read a book for fun in months; my communication with friends has worsened if that’s even possible; I’m always tense. I try to do so many things that I never end up doing any of them, leading to so much stress and I suppose you’d call it anxiety. I withdraw myself, making myself feel so guilty that I try my best to be a good friend which makes me feel guilty for not doing work. It’s quite the cycle.

I love my friends; they’re the ones that have kept me going. Talking to some of my blogging friends at weekends has made me smile and gives a bit of routine to my mind. However, I haven’t been meeting people outside school and my energy for socialising has decreased dramatically. Instead of attacking myself for that, I need to remember that I don’t have an obligation to talk to people all the time: my brain has a lot going on within it and I’m always stressed. I don’t need another stressor on top of that because friends shouldn’t be a stressing factor at all. They’re friends and understand what’s happening, or they will when I explain it to all of them.

What makes me quite sad is that I haven’t given myself time to relax. Apart from extending my skincare routine on weekends, I just haven’t put any effort into making myself feel calm. My logic is that if I don’t have time to talk, I also shouldn’t give myself time to relax either. That’s crap logic. To try and get past that, I bought a few books recently and I’m re-reading Ink and Bone which I bloody love. I’m also trying to go to bed early; my sleep patterns have been so awful for the last few months and I want to fix that. Relaxing is so important, more important than working yourself to the ground. Now, if I could only take my own advice…

*3 decades later* well oops, looks like that might take a lot more work.

You may have noticed that I haven’t been posting recently. I mean you might not have, I’m kind of an insignificant dust speck in space and AAAAHH I’ll just stop talking… Anyway, the reason is simple: I’ve had even less time for blogging. Unlike with GCSEs, I’d rather be writing than studying but I don’t have much of an option. Every time I realise how much I miss blogging I feel quite upset and guilty but that gets me into a horrible mindset. I don’t know what my posts will be like, or when I’ll post them, over the next few months. I could pick myself up or I could slither away into a hole of despair but no matter what, I’m not leaving this blog. Posts just might be a bit short or infrequent but it’s coming up to my 3 year anniversary on here and I want to do something for it.

Schoolwork hasn’t been as monstrous as I thought. I’ve caught up on some notes, written essays, completed bits of homework and almost finished my english coursework, I’d like to say tentatively? things aren’t good but I don’t want to hide utterly right now which is a positive. I’ve kept up more of a dialogue with teachers and I just want to get that work done and not keep crying out of fear and desperation again. It’s an exhausting way to live and as I said to Jane yesterday, I hate it.

Honestly, I’m not sure what I’ll do from here. As I’m feeling rather erratic because of work, uncontrollable feelings and confusion, I can’t very well predict my own behaviour. Bare with me because I’m trying and my trying may not be enough but if it is, things may get a tiny bit more bearable. All I know is that time is running out and I don’t have much more time before exams but in that time, I plan to be as alright as I can be.

How do you manage your time? Also, do you have any ideas about what I should do for my 3 years?

From Elm πŸ™‚

Small Goals for This Year | Back to School

On Tuesday, at 11 o’clock, I’m going back to school. I’m officially starting year 13 – the second year of A-Levels – and I couldn’t be more shit scared. Why? Because I can’t let this year be like last year.

I’ll set the scene of what might happen: me, in a boring outfit, frantically attempting to find what will probably be my new form room. When people speak to me, I’ll be either shriekingly hyper or monosyllabic. Then, I’ll sit like a zombie for 3 hours whilst the obligatory start-of-year notices, admin and people complaining about how much they don’t want to start lessons go on. If I get little sleep the night before, I’ll be dead tired as usual. There’s apparently a barbecue for years 12 and 13 after school ends that first day and if I do end up going, I’ll be actually socialising for the first time in weeks. When I go home, I sincerely doubt I’ll do much apart from freak out about how much work I haven’t done.

No. Fuck that. That was how last year started and I won’t let this year start that way: there’re too many important things going on for me to let that happen. Take, for example, university applications, positive mindsets, looking after my mental health: I can’t let myself retreat back into that pit of numbness that has been my thought process since last October. If I do then bye-bye, good grades!

Last year, I made a big list of pretty admirable goals. Unfortunately, because I’m unmotivated and a month after school started my mental health crashed, I completed none of them. I know it wasn’t my fault but I let that severely affect me. This time, I won’t make that mistake: here are some tiny goals for first few days of school. If I complete them, great; if I don’t then it’s no big deal because I still have a lot of time to try.

When I get back from school the first day or two, I’ll spend 10 minutes away from literally everything to try and calm my mind down. It’s a bit like meditation but I’ll put myself in a place where I have nothing to distract me because sometimes, when I got home from school, I’d be so unhappy and tired that I’d do no work. Hopefully, after I’ve done that, I’ll feel a bit more relaxed, enough to do something with the rest of my day.

I want to read every single night. Whether that be a tiny bit of my book or some blogs, I need to make my brain more active rather than slipping into exhaustion. Ugh, it’s going to be difficult but I love reading so it should make me happy? I bloody well hope so! I already started two nights ago so it should make me more dedicated.

Oh yeah: I need to work on improving my mindset. After a panic attack I had on Results Day because of emotions I’d experienced the day before, I’ve agreed to speak to my old Head of Year to try and sort stuff out. If I forget, I’ll look back on this post because I need to get that done quickly. I really don’t want people to have to see me terrified out of my mind in school like that again.

Before school, in the first few days, I might go and sit by myself for a bit so that I don’t jump straight into talking to people. Because I often miss out mentally preparing myself for the day I can get snappish and internally very very exhausted. I was told by some wise person or other that if you start your day off well, it’s more likely you’ll feel good in the rest of it. Yayy positivity! (Can you tell I didn’t get much sleep last night?)

Blogging. I need to get better at that but in a more relaxed way. At the weekend after school begins, I’ll write some blog posts: part of my reading will be blog posts from other people. Only then will I allow myself to go on social media because it can often serve as a huge distraction for me as well. It’s all about dividing up my time with the things I love vs. what I have to do but not so rigidly that I get stressed when I deviate. I love blogging with everything I have but I won’t let it turn into a chore: you guys have helped me so much that I know not to get stressed about it any more.

If I think that this year will go as badly as the last with many internal breakdowns and terrified evenings where I did nothing, it will be. I need to approach this with a positive thought rather than the idea of everything being doomed. I’ve always been a worst case scenario thinker but if I start to change that in a little way now, maybe that can transfer to it being the case in all parts of my life. It’ll take time but I’ll be on this blog every step of the way. I may be scared constantly but I can turn that fear around into something positive.

I forgot just how much writing my unplanned thoughts out helps. When I started this post, I had the vaguest idea of what I wanted to write down but it only formulated into small goals as I was typing. It’s funny how much connecting yourself to the best parts of your life can make you the happiest.

If you’re stressed about starting school, honestly take it one day at a time. Don’t think too far ahead into the future right now because it can make you even more panicked. Also, remember that things are going to improve. This year isn’t going to be easy because of all the things that may happen but you know what? I can manage. I will get through it and I won’t just do that: I’ll succeed and be happy.

If you’ve started school already, how’s it going? If you haven’t, how’re you feeling about starting again?

From Elm πŸ™‚

Results Day Nerves?

Chances are, if the title of this made your heart speed up and made you feel a bit ill, you’re getting AS or A-Level results tomorrow. That is if you live in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – Scotland got their Highers results beforehand, I think. If you’re not nervous for Results Day tomorrow, I applaud you; can I borrow some of that courage please?

I’m getting AS Results tomorrow. Although that’s scary, they only impact my predicted grades if I really fuck up – for me, it’s nothing compared to what my friends in the year above are getting. They’re getting results that will determine their uni placement if it’s conditional. Yes, it’s scary – more scary than I can imagine because I haven’t gone through it – but I want to try and offer some words of comfort. They might not help but in this situation, I want to try because it’ll be me going through this next year.

At the time of writing this, it’s almost 10 o’clock. We’ll be getting our results around 8-9 o’clock, depending on your school and what procedures they have. You’re probably stressed and so I’d suggest you get an early night. I know that’s rich of me to say because when you’re nervous you can’t sleep but even resting your body will help. Have a bath, shower or just do nothing for 10 minutes – no phone or social media. Nake time for yourself. That means that you can wake up tomorrow feeling a little refreshed and not so panicky. Easier said than done but it won’t do you any harm to try.

You’ve heard the phrase “You’ll be fine!” about a thousand times already and it’s probably getting on your last nerve. It’s reassuring and supportive but it won’t help you because in your mind, something could go wrong. I won’t say that to you. What I will say is that whatever happens, you will be able to move forward.

If you’re doing AS Levels, the majority of them don’t count towards your A-Levels. Whether they do or don’t, you still have another year to improve. It’s going to be upsetting for you if you don’t do as well as you wanted – I understand that – but it’s not the end of the road. That’s the same if you’ ve done A-Levels. You have your first choice and your insurance choice; there’s also UCAS Clearing. There are so many options to consider – and whatever you do, you’ll do it well because you tried so hard in those exams. You know what it is to try your best and you should be so fucking proud of yourself. Never sell yourself short. You deserve so much more than that.

Whether you got an A, B, C or any other letter, you are still an amazing person with a complex, beautiful mind. You’ve still got hopes and ambitions, whatever is written on that piece of paper. LETTERS DO NOT DEFINE YOU. I will say that so many times until you believe me because your worth is not based on how many words you can write in 3 hours or how this or that character is presented.

People tell you that these exams and results make your life. That’s bullshit. What makes your life is your drive and determination to keep going, to push forward and to not give up. What makes your life is your personality that you show to people. It’s about meeting your own expectations, not the expectations of others and if you don’t, it’s about showing yourself that you will never be a failure.

It’s okay to be scared. Just remember that fear doesn’t rule you. This year has been tough for a lot of us, with new specifications, exams and subject difficulty but we did it. If we managed this, we can do bloody anything.

I’m going to bed soon so that I can prepare myself for tomorrow. If any of you need me, I’m here – I may not understand what you’re going through exactly but I’ll still always listen.

From Elm πŸ™‚

How My Exams Went, According To Me

In my school, we still do AS Levels despite most of them not counting for anything. If you don’t know, AS Levels are exams you do in your first year of A-Levels which used to count for 50% of your A-Level results – we take the rest of the exams next year and they are what (usually) count towards getting into university.

Mine started on 15 May and ended on 26 May; I had 8 in total after dropping French earlier this year. Unlike for my GCSEs, I’ll write down my reactions to them because after my exams before, I was tired and preoccupied with my emotions going haywire. Take everything I say with a pinch of salt because I’m notorious at underestimating myself and thinking I’ve failed at literally everything you could possibly fail at.

Before pretty much every exam, I looked at the hashtags on my Twitter (shameless self-promotion I’m sorry) and tweeted under some of them. That proved to be… Rather catastrophic at one point, as you’ll read later.

Psychology Paper 1

I honestly don’t think this one went too badly: it was my first one so I was shit scared but apart from a bullshit 8 marker, it wasn’t awful. For me, the main thing that made me laugh in these exams was the jokes afterwards and also the fact that they did a last year’s AQA biology-type thing and shoved a bunch of Research Methods questions in the topic of memory. It wasn’t quite B1 though because it was actually relevant. I do think that I rambled in my answers a bit but it can’t be helped; I don’t think I’ll do terribly on this one though so that’s a relief.

History Paper 1

Oh, no, nooooo! After this finished, I attempted to expunge it from my memory with limited success. Long story short, I hated it and you know what the worst part was?

Before the exam itself, I had tweeted under the hashtag with something vaguely funny or just despairing. Some people liked it – I don’t know who they were – and I was just calmly scrolling through my notifications when my brain came to a screeching halt. Somebody from my school had liked it. From my school and not just any person, no. Possibly the worst person to like it: the person I used to sit next to in history. Just have a look at this page. It took me a while to recover from my panic at the thought of him finding my blog and taking the piss out of me for years. That’ll teach me to post under topic I know not many people do.

Anyhow, I walked into the exam and thought “Oh shit, I haven’t done enough revision,” an observation which proved to be true. The extract question was an utter bastard although everyone found that difficult; the two topics I didn’t want to come up came up on the essay question. I have extra time because I’m almost completely blind and because of that, I rambled a fair bit and started panicking. That’s never a good sign when you’re attempting to write coherently. By the end of it, I was shaking and walked out of the room feeling unconfident.

Critical Thinking Paper 1

Before you ask, I had no choice but to do this subject. Originally, I was going to do Extended Project Qualification ( EPQ), a 5000 dissertation-style project and those who wanted to do that had to also do Critical Thinking. I did the barest amount of revision for it because in this type of exam, you can’t really revise; it’s skill-based.

This was the first exam I genuinely laughed in. The people included a Fitbit employee, some kind of Road Safety Forum user and I can no longer think of Wearable technologies like Smartwatches the same way again without getting angry. This exam was all about components of an argument and credibility with an essay question at the end and unlike with any other of my exams, I got so tired of it all that I dread to think of what the examiner will think of me when they read my sarcastic responses.

I’ve either mildly passed this or failed horribly. I’m not really inclined to care; universities don’t take this subject into account normally but I still did try what I assume is my best. The skills I got are still important, even if unis don’st care, kind of showing that exams shouldn’t just be about getting into university.

English Paper 1

I could have married this paper; it was the brief respite from panic I needed. All year, I’d been preparing for this and I think – maybe, possibly, potentially – it payed off? We studied Othello and 15 poems and both the questions were glorious things. On later inspection, it turns out that I did the opposite interpretation to the Othello question that literally everyone did. I panicked about that and barely told anyone, pretending I’d done what everyone else had. I convinced myself I’d failed but after deliberation, there’s nothing I can do. Yes, I might not have done as well in it but when you think that, my best advice to it would be move onto the next one. You can’t change things and I know it’s hard but I assure you, you will have done well for you no matter what grade you get.

I loved the poetry question, too. It was on my favourite poem and I may or may not have squealed when it came up – luckily I’m in a room with one invigilator and so they didn’t care, otherwise I would have got weird looks that I wouldn’t be able to see anyway. I wrote confidently although I do think I lost my way a bit because I got confused. That’s nothing out of the ordinary though and at least I knew I passed.

Psychology Paper 2

Oh, Psychology, will you marry me? Please? I don’t want to be alone… Okay fine then, you won’t? Typical.

As you can tell, this paper was good. Probably. I don’t want to jinx it; I’m always scared that if I sing praises for myself, I may be horribly disappointed. On the other hand, I won’t sell myself short: this paper went well. The Research Methods questions – which had no elements of Memory in them – were so straightforward I could have cried and the only tricky part of it was the Application Questions, which never fill me with confidence at the best of times. Also, the exam hilarity on Twitter was just as great as last time. I live for it – okay no; that’s sad.

History Paper 2

My history teacher is a beautiful human being – both of them are. Before the first exam, the teacher who taught the unit for the second exam came and chatted to me. I emailed both teachers after the exams had finished to let them know how they went, not exposing my lack of confidence for fear that they’d feel like they hadn’t covered the material enough (they had; I’m just a fool).

Despite the relative pain of my first exam, the second wasn’t as bad: it was like its antithesis. The topics that I adored came up; I could answer the Source question quite simply although I spent ages on it. I think that my higher understanding and better preparation for this made it more bearable because I’m famous for my screaming rants of “I’m NOT PREPARED HELP ME!” As much as it went quite well, I’m still internally sobbing for lack of direction in the essay but I’m going to pretend that it didn’t exist and move on with my life. That’s always how I seem to deal with my problems… Oops.

English Paper 2

“Why?” I screamed, eyes wild with fury. “After the success of the first paper, I thought-” My voice broke as I took a steadying breath. “I thought that maybe it would go as well! No! O, the pity of it!”

This really didn’t go as well as I wanted it to and I think it was the main disappointment of my exams. That sounded awful but we’d had less time to prepare: it was a coparitive essay between Jane Eyre and The Great Gatsby, in addition to a piece of unseen prose. My English teacher for these units is the best thing ever; she really lit up my enthusiasm for the novels and context of them. Even so, I felt vastly underprepared, much more so than my history.

Parts of it went well, such as the essay on comparisons which I had basically planned a few days ago. I laughed in this exam, too, because I couldn’t get over my good fortune. The unseen prose itself contained such beautiful writing – it was from Sons and Lovers by DH Lawrence. The issue wasn’t the subject matter or the words and structure. It was my organisation of ideas: I screwed up. I rambled. I ranted. I was the model of what one may term “not coming up with a relevant point and spouting crap”. Am I being overdramatic? Hahaha, no way; where would you get that impression from?

Critical Thinking, Paper 2

This was the most ridiculous and hilarious paper I think I’d ever come across, mainly because I actually found it alright. The arguments themselves were brilliant in their illogical nature: one of them proposed a ban on speeding points you get on your license because crimes were “adding up” with no punishment. The large argument in the Resource Booklet said at one point that decisions should be left up to the experts because in a democracy, people expected the government to make decisions for them. Again, I laughed. Not because it was funny but because I knew I’d have to analyse it.

When we wrote our own arguments, on the subject of “there will always be crime”, I went on a ranting commentary about today’s society and how as long as there are people, there will always be crime… I don’t know. I was sensing my freedom and wanted to put my own, erm, unique spin on things. Like the first paper, I’ve passed or miserably failed; I’ll be annoyed if it was the latter because I really tried in that paper. I hope the examiner, at least, gets a laugh out of my exasperated analysis an analogy.

All in all, exams weren’t that bad. I definitely didn’t try as hard as I could and should have but there’s nothing I can do about that now. I need to remember that pretty much all year, I’ve been feeling miserable and though that’s not an excuse, it contributed to my lack of motivation to revise or do anything much”

If you have exams to go or have done them, don’t give up on yourself. Keep going and remember not to stress too much after the exam. You’ve done it and you should be proud of yourself for completing it.

Don’t scream at yourself if you think you’ve failed”. Failures are never failures as long as you can improve and make something out of them.

From Elm πŸ™‚

My Battle Plan for AS Levels

Imagine this: I’m the general of an army. (Stop laughing; I know it’s funny). My army is comprised of all of the strategies, tips, revision notes and motivation that I have. My enemy? A-Levels, that I’ll be fighting – I mean taking – in a year and a half.

Right now, I’m trying to deal with the baby version, the battle before the real one; it’s the one that’s so difficult but afterwards, an even worse foe comes along and goes “HA, you thought that was bad? Good luck!” And no, I’m not having a nervous breakdown just thinking about it. Where would you get that impression from?

Today, I had a panicky moment in terms of my work ethic and everything else. We had a double feature lecture, in which we were talked to about how to deal with revision, and how to get on top of things before our exams. Because of that, and because I realised that I haven’t been doing enough, I’ve compiled a little list of what I’m going to do. This time, I’ll stick to it.

1. Make better notes
I consider my notes to be rather bad, in that I write in full sentences and put so much detail in them that whenever I look back at it, I feel overwhelmed. This rigorous screaming of everything onto a page got me through GCSE, but because of the amount of work and the level of it, I need concise things to work from. Upon realising that all the notes I’ve made were in my usual style – writing everything and then feeling sick whenever I thought about it – I blinked, froze, and shouted: “NO, why did I do that?” Maybe my notes are alright, but they’re not alright for me.

2. Read over said notes and actually understand them
When I get home from school, I’m usually either too tired or too dispondent to read over what I wrote in lessons. That’s partly because I get exhausted when thinking of my notes, but also because I lack the drive to bother. That is bad, because if I want the information to be absorbed into my brain, I have to properly make the effort to learn it. Reading over them isn’t enough: I also have to fully understand the concepts, such as political policies of Bismarck, or why Anne Sexton used a specific technique in her poem.

3. Do productive work outside of lessons
We were asked in an assembly a few weeks ago: “Do you do proactive work or retroactive work?” The former being work that the teacher hasn’t set, and the latter just doing what’s asked of you by the teacher. I do the former, but not enough, and it irritates me. I need to really start doing extra work for french especially, and further reading for history and english, as well as everything else. It feels too much now, but if I take it a little at a time, I can manage; we’re told to do so much already, but doing more will enhance my understanding of the subjects I’m doing.

4. Actually talk to teachers
Since I started secondary school, I’ve had a few issues with asking for help: I think that I’m wasting their time, that if I tried harder I’d understand it, or that they’d think I was stupid. It’s resulted in a lot of tears on my end, and frustration on my teachers’ end, and it’s only recently that I’ve felt comfortable enough to voluntarily approach my teacher. All of them are lovely people and understand how hard A-Levels are, so if I talk to them more, I’ll feel more at ease and better about the work, rather than drowning in a sea of crappy worries. They’re not terrifying, though some I prefer to others, but still: they can help and I should remember that.

5. Don’t over-work
As soon as I wrote this down, I burst out laughing because I’m the queen of over-stressing and never giving myself time to relax. I’m still working on that, rather unsuccessfully, but here are some things that may make me more calm:
1. Seeing friends at weekends
2. Going out for walks
3. Increasing my independence – going on trains, cooking, walking around by myself – all of which are more difficult because I’m blind and never did those things in the past
4. Take BREAKS from revision and working
That will help me, because life isn’t all about constant schoolwork.

Hopefully, these will get me through AS Levels, and A-Levels too. If I can keep to these, I won’t be crying constantly from stress like at GCSE, and I’ll be more motivated. By doing all of this, I can feel more organised, get more motivated and do more work.

It’s simple, or it should be. From now onwards, I’ll be better about taking the initiative in studying.

I can do this. I hope that getting a handle on school will help me to cope with my terrible feelings right now, and the inadequacy I almost always feel. If I can prove to myself I’m good enough in this, I can prove to myself that I’m good enough in anything.

From Elm πŸ™‚

Films and My Pride – My French Woes, Part 2

So. Imagine you’re kind of blind. how many fingers am I holding up? (No, I’m joking, I’m just trying to be humorous and failing miserably)

Not totally blind, though if that’s easier, you can. You’ve got no sight in your right eye at all, and you can see light out of your left. A few shapes, and some contrasting colours. Enough to be considered some, but not enough to be considered useful. And usually, it doesn’t bother you; it’s just a thing that is, like having a leg or not having a leg.

Now, imagine you’ve started your French AS Level. All good so far. You love the language, because it’s beautiful. Except it’s not so beautiful when you don’t have a functioning dictionary because they don’t produce them in Braille, and you don’t know how good the dictionary apps are.

Imagine that, for your French AS Level, you’re studying a film for the first year. Oh, you’re studying family and other bits of culture too, but your second exam is about film and the cinema. Okay, you think, before all your lessons start. I’ll figure out a way to do this. Somehow.

I wish I could imagine it. Often, I don’t care about this. Sight or the lack of it doesn’t impede my other lessons – not seriously – and I’m not pretending that I cry about it. It’s just what I’ve had all my life, but now, I’m feeling ill.

I don’t know what to do. I finished my essay on “What makes an unforgettable film?” two hours ago, and I hated it. Writing it was a chore, something I’d delayed and delayed for four days. Sentences wouldn’t come to me, and I had to look up so many words; my brain fogged over and I couldn’t concentrate. I had no excuse: my other homework went on the backburner because I was so stressed about the French, which turned out rubbish anyway. I haven’t done the history for tomorrow, and I wish I could blame it all on the French.

The worst part about this is the film, by far. We’re starting it after the October half term, and until then, we’re getting vocab. Vocab that NEVER goes in, even when I try reading it and saying it aloud after the lesson. Today in class, we – THEY – watched a short film. I had a blank look on my face, not registering the girl saying sorry to me for not describing it. It was fine, I thought. It was explained after. My head hurt from trying to listen to the fast French, and from just trying and trying and TRYING.

But a whole entire FILM? They (ugh I’m acting like they’re separate from me but they aren’t) can watch it, with subtitles. Understand it: what they’re saying, what’s happening. I HAVE no subtitles. I’ll have to get the script, pretty much memorise the gist of it, then get someone to describe it – whilst trying to keep up with what they’re saying. Oh shit yeah, and I’ll have to translate the script. Unless, that is, I can find another solution.

I wish they’d let us study the book this year, rather than the film. However, I should have KNOWN what I was getting into; I’m honestly feeling like this it my fault because I didn’t look at the course enough, I’m neglecting all my homework, my work attitude is terrible at the moment and I’m lazy.

After only three weeks of school, I’m surprised at how badly I’m coping. I don’t want to do twice the work everyone else has to do. Can’t I just be bitter by myself and cry for twenty years? No, because I have to pick myself up. I have to fight through the fog and not howl about how fucking unfair life can be.

Thinking about French genuinely makes me want to sob. I thought it would be so much more than it is, so much… Easier to deal with. I knew it would be difficult, because the jump from GCSE to A-Level is massive, but not this. Not me scrabbling to try and keep up, though the addition of another girl into our class makes it a little better. 5 of us, now.

Other blind people have done language AS levels. If I fail at this, I feel like I’m a bad blind person – like if others could do it, why can’t I? Never mind that I over-stress myself a lot; I’d feel so ashamed if I abandoned it. But my thoughts are in a jumble and I can’t get them out properly.

I went to the unit today (place where the teaching assistants who help the visually impaired kids work). They could see on my face something was wrong, and the woman who prepares my french work came and talked to me. My eyes felt too dry, too wide, as I explained to her that I didn’t know if I could do this. The teachers sometimes don’t send me the right work, and sometimes they move so fast and it’s all stacking up. My heart feels heavy and panicky.

I know that I won’t realistically drop French. I’ll stick with it, even if it breaks me. The thought of dropping it makes me feel sick, because of some warped sense of pride? I have to prove to myself that I can do 4 As-Levels. I’ve been encouraged to do 3, but I just DON’t want to; if I only do 3, I won’t have the chance to drop one at the end of year 12. It’s partly the shame of telling the teacher I don’t want to do it any more, because though I know I haven’t, it makes it like I’ve failed before I even started.

I think I should talk to the teachers about this. I need to ask HOW I’ll do this film, dealing with their pitying tone. I hate asking for help, because it makes me cry and I don’t want to shed tears over this. Then again, if I haven’t broken down by the beginning of half term, I’ll be surprised.

If it gets too bad, I’ll drop it, but I really don’t want to. I just don’t know if I can cope. I know I should put my mental health first, but I want to succeed because I do love French. Detrimental? Yeah, but what else can I do?

I feel like I’m drowning, like there’s something blocking my mind from getting a good work ethic. I’m ashamed, stupidly, though there’s nothing to be ashamed of. If I just worked harder, made more of an effort to do work outside class, I might feel like I can get to the end of the year. When I say I feel upset, I don’t just mean sad; I mean that I feel as if my work is going to swallow me alive.

It’ll get better. I feel trapped, like I’m on this bleak road to nowhere, but it’ll get better. I have to hold onto that because I’m so stressed that I could scream.

Remembering that other people have it worse gets me through it. There are other blind people who don’t get the resources at all, or couldn’t do the A-Levels they want. Compared, I have it easy and i admire those people so much. That’s why it’ll have to be okay, so that I can stop whinging. Ugh, why am I going into self-loathing mode again?

How are you guys? I’m sorry for ranting again.

Love from Elm πŸ™‚

How I’m Going to Manage This

At the risk of sounding bitter, I have started studying for hell – err shit, I meant A-Levels. Oh Elm, cutting right to the point WOW!

For those of you who don’t know, A-Levels are exams that people in the UK take when they’re 18. They sit them after two years of study, in 3 or 4 subjects of their choice, and they’re rather… Difficult. It’s more of a focused study, and you’re encouraged to look outside what you learn in the classroom.

Because of our beautiful, faultless education system (why would you think I was being sarcastic?), they are now even more difficult. They’ve fucked up the GCSEs: when I did them they were ‘easier’, and then they made the A-Levels for my year harder. That means that the jump from GCSE to A-Level is like trying to jump from the bottom of a cliff to the top. A tall cliff.

Honestly, I could rant about how angry I am for days, but it’s better that I don’t. Deal with a bad situation, all of that; anyway, compared to other countries around the world, our education is amazing. I’m LUCKY to be able to go to school.

Still, for the next two years, I have to work. I have to work even more than I did at GCSEs, and you know how much I worked then (nearly into the ground). To prevent too many breakdowns, I’ve compiled a list of what I want to do to help myself… Cope.

Actually do homework the day it’s due
I said this at GCSE, and failed so miserably that I may as well have not said it at all. Doing homework on the set date will free me up for other things, make me less stressed (isn’t that what all of this is about?) and I can manage my workload. YAY.

Give myself an hour a day to look over what I learnt
If I do that, it’ll make 6-7 hours a week, depending on how I’m feeling. If I start now, I can get en board with everything (I’m such a nerd) and I won’t panic so much when I take my AS exams. I’ll panic, but it won’t be as bad. In that one hour per day, I’ll read my class notes, think about anything I got stuck on and do any extra work.

On that note, do extra work outside the lesson
It will ‘advance your learning!’ apparently. Yeah, that’s true, but I hate thinking about it like that because it loses it’s appeal. I love learning, but I’m not very good at unconstrained learning even though I prefer it. Me being me, I’mrubbish at common sense and thinking outside the imaginary box. I’ll read french newspapers, books, listen to french music; research key terms for psychology; read some of the classics for English and research context about the books I’m studying, and also go and totally nerd out on Stuart Britain and unified Germany. Thrilling, right?!

Make work seem exciting
Okay, as I was writing that last paragraph, I lost the will to do anything for a second. It’s so much work and I just… UGH. To stop myself from sobbing, I’ll make it something I want to learn about. Get passionate to the point of strangeness, so that I don’t trawl through endless intthnet pages whilst slowly slipping into a fog of boredom.

I’m sorry, but I’m not giving up this blog. Even if I have to cut down on reading blogs, I’ll still post and talk to new people. I will STILL keep up with blogging friends and talk to you guys; I’m not becoming a recluse and shutting myself off. There are a lot of people who, because of A-Levels, have had to stop blogging and I can’t be one of them: it might be stupid, and if my studies take a tumble I’ll take a break. Blogging’s the one thing that keeps me sane and happy sometimes, and if I took that away from myself, I don’t know how I’d cope. I’ve got roots here and I’m planning to stick by them, whilst crying at the awful pun I just made.

Actually do something to relax
This is a huge one. If I go on a walk, it’ll calm me down. I think I’ll take up exercising – rock climbing again maybe – because it will give me a break from learning and will clear my mind. Meditation doesn’t especially work for me, but there are otherways to relax, and if I don’t I’ll be in the same situation as GCSE. That is to say, I’ll work so hard that I have many crying episodes.

Do some type of volunteering or get a part-time job
Yes, I’ve already got enough going on. But Unis like that sort as thing, I can show the school I’m capable of doing things, but most of all it’s for me. I want to do something good, to help people, and also earn money if I can. I want to take control of my finances and LEARN how to be sensible, whilst doing something that will benefit other people like volunteering for charity.

It may seem as if I’m piling so, so much onto my brain, but I think this will work for me. As well as all of it, I’ll hang out with my friends, go to parties, meet internet friends if I can, laugh, and fix all the shit that I feel guilty about. I won’t let A-Levels drag me down.

People have told me that if I start working now, it’ll pay off. I’m taking their advice, mixing it with yours, and I’m just trying to live my life and be happy. I don’t want to hurt anyone by doing so.

What are you going to do to manage your life at the moment? If you’re doing GCSEs, A-Levels or ANY other exam, try not to stress too much. Do things a little at a time, and you’ll be fine.

From Elm πŸ™‚

I Made a Friend on My First Day in Year 12

You know that moment where it hits you how old you REALLY are? I had that today, because I’m going into year 12. A-Levels. Work. It’s TERRIFYING.

I was a bit of a wreck last night, but I was managing. One of my best friends is starting blind college today, so I was talking to him yesterday – it distracted me from feeling nervous, which was great. I also wanted to show him that he COULD actually survive there.

This morning, I woke up at 8 and immediately felt a little sick. I wandered round the house, eating something that could vaguely be called breakfast, and washing my face to make myself feel more human. It’s what I do – I can’t help it! At least I wasn’t manically rubbing my hands together as I’m wont to do when nervous.

Ohh, and I put makeup on. I put the foundation on myself, which made me smile, and then I had help with the mascara because otherwise I’d look like a fucking dolphin. It took me a while, but I eventually felt happy enough to not be so nervous: putting on makeup wasn’t to impress people, but rather to show them and myself that I had changed.

I had shoved a random folder in my school bag (which I then didn’t need) the night before, so all I had to do was put my computer in there (which it turns out I ALSO didn’t need). By this time, it was nearly 10 o’clock: I live a way away from my school, so I have to get a taxi in; I decided to go in very early because I wanted to feel like I had my shit together.

Whilst in the taxi, I genuinely TALKED to the lady who was with me and my taxi driver. If you know me, you know that this NEVER happens; I’m an antisocial moth at the best of times, and usually just listen to my music. Today, though, I spoke to her about everything: about her kids, grandkids, her mother who recently passed away and just generally life. She wasn’t the usual person I had, and it was nice to just chat to her. It meant that when I got into school, I felt more calm and in a social mood, which really helped in the day ahead.

Because I wasn’t sure when my friends were arriving, I went to the sixth form common room. That involved accidentally crashing into a door, not being sure where I was going exactly, and then finding a teacher who shook my hand for about a minute whilst congratulating me on my GCSE results. She was lovely, and helped me to find a seat so that I wouldn’t be standing around like a loner. I sat there for about ten minutes before my friend Pine arrived, and I shrieked hello at her and hugged her so hard that I couldn’t breathe.

As the rest of my friends arrived – Wren, Red and Odd, we all started asking (shouting at) each other to find out where our form rooms were. For the first time in 5 years, Pine and I weren’t in the same form which made me more upset than I let on.

Guess what? Only one person I knew was in my form. He’s part of my friendship group, and we’ll call him Harley because I literally can’t be bothered to think of a tree name. I don’t know him well, but I do think he’s awesome. My other friends were scattered in various forms, so I walked to the room I was supposed to be in with Harley (coincidentally my old music classroom).

The title of this post relates to the friend I made. I won’t give her a name yet, because I want to see how important she might be to me and if she’s going to be permanent. She lives next door to Harley, and recently came to this country from another. Pretty much straight off, we started talking – not in depth about much, but I made an effort to show hershe was welcome. We saw each other a few times throughout the day and I asked her how she was doing – she was doing VERY well – and I felt happy, and more confident, because I’d gone out of my comfort zone and spoken to someone.

The day itself was pretty borring. For about three hours – with a break for lunch – we did admin stuff. I sat next to Harley, talking and making several jokes. Though I didn’t interact with many people in my form, I felt a certain thrill at the possibility of new people.

Another thing that happened was that I spoke to someone, again. The guy who sat next to us was someone I’d never heard of before – not because he was new, but just because he was repeating year 12. I knew he was there, but not what his name was; I couldn’t speak to the other people around them either because I didn’t know them, or I was too nervous because they had their own friends. When I found out this guy’s name, I got up the courage to just say hi, and we spoke for a little while. Before I knew his name, we had a slightly weird conversation about cereal and our favourite types (I don’t know either), which he most likely doesn’t remember. Oh well! It still counts as an accomplishment, because I think I really showed someone who I was.

At lunch, I hung out with what was left of my friendship group. So Odd, Wren, Red, Harley, and various other people. It was loud, insane and crowded, and a friend that Wren and I made on induction day came and sat with us too. The girl we’d met in the morning wasn’t there, but she’d found some people to hang out with which was great. After lunch, we did some more admin stuff which was dull as fuck, and then everyone just went home.

Except, well, me. A few of my friends stayed for a little while and we wandered round the school, talking loudly and being our usual selves. After they left, I went and sat by the place where my taxi comes and picks me up. There, I had the experience that made my day.

As well as year 12, years 7 and 13 also came in today. While I was waiting, year 7s round past shouting, being year 7s and talking about their spelling tests which caused me to burst out laughing (I’m sorry! They were adorable!) One of the year 7s came and sat down near me, and once I got off the phone to my dad, I turned to him, just to check he was alright I suppose:

“Hey, are you waiting for a taxi?”
Him: “No – just for my mum to come and pick me up.
Me: “Ahh, awesome!”
Him: “Not to be offensive or anything, but are you blind?”

I was happy he asked, and told him so, then said it wasn’t offensive in the slightest. It turns out that he has a sister who’s going into year 11, who had mentioned a blind girl in the year above her. I said that yes, that was me, and that he shouldn’t worry about offending me because I don’t get offended.

Something I’m proud of myself for doing is then telling him that if he needed any help, he could come and find me. If he saw me around, I said that he could ask me anything – that I knew what it was like to be in year 7 and to be too scared to ask any teacher for help. I wish somebody had done that for me when I was his age, not that I would have accepted it but there you go. What made me smile was that he seemed so thankful, so shocked that anyone would offer him help – especially a Sixth Former, and not in a patronising way as well.

I spoke to him like he was mature, not like he was some stupid kid. In turn, he talked to me in the same way, and even though we’re 5 years apart, it didn’t matter. I said bye to him, smiled in his direction, and went home feeling really helpful and happy – like I was someone kind, reaching out to a random stranger, and not someone who would just turn their back.

This is what I want to do. I want to make new friends, and help people who need it. I love my friendship group, but here’s the thing: I want to be my true self in sixth form. Someone who speaks up, isn’t afraid to talk to the once ‘popular’ kids, and who can confidently walk into a room.

I’m so scared that I won’t be able to blog much. Neglecting you guys, or Elm, is something that would probably destroy me; this is the one thing that keeps me grounded. If I don’t post as frequently, it’s because I have to work, not because I’ve forgotten you. I could never do that.

I’ll tell myself, over and over again, that I can do this. I’ll tell myself that until I don’t just think it – I believe it.

From Elm πŸ™‚