It was an August day in 1984 and I was walking to my school to collect my A level results, eagerly anticipating taking up my place at university to study English Literature or Medieval English.
Joined by my best mates who had similar dreams — one was going to uni to study acoustics, one taking a gap year and one off to train to be a nurse. Everything did hang on those results.
Two years earlier, I’d collected my O levels and I’d done really well. I’d taken seven, passed seven, got 2 As, 4Bs and a C and I’d also passed my typing examination. I flew into sixth form and I really felt I was growing up. I was on a roll.
Except I wasn’t. I’d found A levels really hard, I’d worked hard yet I’d found revising almost impossible, the weight of information overwhelmed me and I just couldn’t focus. I didn’t know how to revise and there were few tools available to teach you. I’d taken History A level and we’d done a boring course on the theory of history, not history itself. Yuck.
And I’d got a new boyfriend who was older and working and he had taken so much of my time and energy. Not his fault at all, I was growing up and exploring life. It was exciting. Far more exciting than poring over books all of the time.
The only examination I’d been relaxed about was a little known ‘S’ level in English Literature (I was the only person at school to take it). And I was relaxed because you could take the relevant books into the examination hall with you for reference and I knew these books back to front so I was very relaxed. I got a distinction in that exam. Little did I know that would save me.
That day, when I tore open my results, I could believe it. My predicted A or B grades were absent. I got a C in French, a D in English Literature and an E in History. As I read those results my university place ebbed away. Two of my best friends did much better than me, one with doing little work at all — and my other one also did very badly. My world crashed around me.
I have no memory of walking home, of telling my parents, of what I did next. I have no clue. I only know that I did something and that was to contact clearing and think about my options. I knew they were this:
- Forget it all and get a job.