Dropped Out and Survived

I left school at 17 and it felt like coming out of a bubble. School had painted a picture of a world that was impenetrable without good grades. With some slight surprise it turned out that getting lots of exams at a pass grade didn’t mean you couldn’t get a job.

In fact, had I known the ease with which I could get a job, I wonder if I’d have bothered at all with resits. It was embarrassingly simple. I was working part-time in a shop not too far from my parents and having dropped out of college I asked the owner if I could go full-time. He agreed and within a few days I was living the working week.

I can remember distinctly the sensation of having stepped out of a bubble. The world of education I’d lived in and the pressure for exam results – disappointing as they were however – was gone. I was earning each week and thoroughly enjoying my salary. All of a sudden I was a teenager with cash and the thoughts of school and  exams grew distant.

I felt mentally crippled by the doubt I had in my ability to retain stuff in my head

As a student I had been weighed down by my own expectations. I’d lost sight of who I was or wanted to be. I’d been so involved in the churn that was school I’d not taken the time to work out what was right for me. There had been some suggestions: the school’s computer told me that becoming a librarian would be a suitable choice. A noble career, but I was slightly dishearten as I didn’t feel librarian had as much grandeur as I’d like (I should add that I did go on and work in bookshops for a number of years).

What I recall most is the pressure and anxiety that I put myself through to ‘work hard’ and revise. I felt mentally crippled by the doubt I had in my ability to retain stuff in my head. How did I know I knew? Where did it go for me to find it again? Would I find it again? Would it even be correct once I did found it?

We are so often limited by our own definitions of who we are.

The truth is I spent more time studying about how to study than actually studying. I lost hours trying to do it ‘right’. As hard as I tried, I wasn’t applying the methods on how to revise successfully. So my faith in the methods faulted, I struggled with the material and continued to do battle with all the questions in my head.

That’s how I came away from school with mainly C’s, D’s and E’s; there was also a U in the mix too. We are so often limited by our own definitions of who we are. And for a while those results defined me.

We all have times when we feel that one moment or a set of circumstances makes us or defines us, and we add that label to the others we have. What we can strive to achieve is to recognise that these labels are temporary. We don’t have to refer to them or let them limit our decisions. Did school fail me? Possibly. More importantly I know that had I let those results define me, I would have failed myself.


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