Sixteen At Last

In August 1986, the last year of O level/CSE exams in the UK, I was one of the 16-year-olds expecting results. We were supposed to either give a self-addressed envelope to the school or go in to collect our results. I did neither. I went to Cornwall to stay with a friend. I had hated school and the final year in particular. My vision had deteriorated and I had become short-sighted over a year – but I refused to start wearing glasses at 16, so I walked around in a blur. My best friend (the one in Cornwall) had left the year before, and I suffered bullying from other girls and what I can only describe as misunderstanding from teachers. I spent every day in a constant state of worry. It had not been cool to study or do well in our year so I tried to be unimpressive and simply waited for it to be over. To confuse all that, I came from a household where studying and doing well were assumed. At one point, I sat in front of a bottle of paracetamol and a sixth-form college application form, and considered taking an overdose. In fact I took 8 pills, gave up, and went to sleep for 2 hours. I never told my parents.

I knew I hadn’t done well and – in a sense, ran away. That feeling of apathy and being unconnected to my own destiny continued throughout my disastrous A levels.

Twenty-five years on, our eldest daughter is waiting for results at the end of this month. We know she has a better idea of who she is and has more confidence in her talents than I ever did, and I hope she is looking forward to her results day as much as we are. Whatever her results, though, she is a success.
I am also waiting for results. At 41, I’m waiting to pick up (online) the grade for a diploma in Literature & Creative Writing. After many years, I finally felt brave enough to attempt education again. Right now, I’m sat on the floor, half-dressed checking again and again and again like a little kid.

I have literally just found the result as I’m writing this: A Grade 2 pass. I now have my diploma. I’m still waiting for the actual mark for my final assignment, but I know it’s at least 70% now.

Please excuse me while I act like the excited 16-year-old and 18-year-old I never got to be all those years ago!

YAY!!! WOOT!!!! and stuff like that… 🙂

Now to finish my degree so I can act like a 21-year-old! 😉

20 thoughts on “Sixteen At Last

  1. Wow, Rach, what a tough time you had in those school years. I am so glad you didn’t take any more tablets. I’m also so delighted for you that you have done so well in your diploma, well done! Hurray!

    One tiny technicality. I did my O’Levels in 1987. I thought ’87 was the last year?


    • Thanks for that, Rebecca. The second part of your reply baffles me! Something to do with different counties perhaps… I shall Google it 🙂 x


  2. Well done Rachel, I’m really pleased for you. I’ve a great admiration for anyone doing an OU degree. I did a short OU course and it was very hard work when you have the rest of your life to get on with. Sadly a lot of people don’t get on with school for a variety of reasons and it takes real determination to restart education later in life. Congratulations!


    • Thanks, Pete. I can’t help worrying that less people are going to get the second chance I got now that fees are going up massively. It’s a struggle already


  3. I’m sorry that you had such a rough time at school and it’s horrible to think that you could have taken more pills that day and never made it here. Well done for giving education a second chance and for doing so well. *waves pom poms & cheers G O R A C H E L loudly*


    • Thanks for the cheerleading, and being one of those who has encouraged me in the last year or so. I had no idea you were so good with pom poms, Kath 🙂


  4. Oh, Rachel, I just want to hug the 16 year old you – how awful – but how wonderful now that you’ve achieved so much – and all the sweeter as it’s been a long time coming.

    Very well done. Cheers and applause.


    • Thanks, Martha. I have a big belly of fizz…! and am trying to ignore the fact that the dog has rolled in something to show his total disregard for academic achievement 🙂 xxx


  5. Huge congratulations, Rachel! Well done! And well done for not taking any more pills back then. How damaging ‘education’ can be when it’s done poorly 😦 And thank goodness your daughter’s had a better, more supported shot at it.



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