This post is inspired by my friend's wonderful twins who got good results in their GCSEs today. Massive congratulations and hope you go onto lots of successes but more vitally, lots of happinesses and big ones at that!
I don't remember all that much about going for my O-Level results. I did well in all my subjects. Would have preferred to be good at sports or popular with other pupils. But the one thing I could do well was pass exams.
I had to go for a one-to-one talk with Mr Day, my form tutor. He said I had "an outside chance" of getting into Oxbridge. He told me this would require hard work and might mean that I would lose friends.
I remember feeling odd that a teacher was talking to me as if I was suddenly an adult with choices to make. I knew instantly that I would go for Cambridge and not Oxford. I think this was based on a picture I had seen in the Book of Knowledge years before. It looked pretty.
I do remember two words that Mr Day used about me that day. I did not know the meaning of either of them so he had to explain.
One was taciturn. Bet my parents, brothers, close friends and husband could argue with that one. However, unless I am fuelled by intimacy or drink, I think it still applies. I never quite have the confidence to deliver the witty remark forming in my head or to stand my ground in an argument unless my passions are roused which is usually if I see someone being put down.
The other was diffident. He asked me why I thought I always came top or second in class. I actually said (and I am sorry to any former classmates reading this) that I thought it was because everybody else in the school with a couple of exceptions were thick.
I think My Day knew me very well. I still find it very hard to "own" my achievements and feel very disconnected from my CV which even I objectively can see if fairly impressive. It's the same with parenting. My children are healthy, happy and bright. They are polite and loved by all that meet then. Do I see me in any of this? No, I just beat myself for all the ways that I am not adequate, perfect, yummy or whatever.
What would I say to that 16 year old in 1985? I would definitely tell her to go to Cambridge (if only to meet Luisa and Richard - blatant creep). I would tell her that her results, good or bad, would not define her or necessarily lead to riches and prestige. I would tell her that in really important ways, she was unlikely to change much at all.
I might also mention that she had already forgotten would reappear in her life at the age of 41 and generate a weird new fangled thing called a blog post.
Here's to all those who did well today and all those who will learn that bad results ain't the end of the world.