I will never forget the day I finished my final A level exam. FREEDOM. The summer that followed was one of the happiest times of my life. No worries. No revision. No pressure. But all good things come to an end, and before the summer was up it was results day. I still get just a little bit sick thinking about it. It was many years ago now but in many ways, it feels like yesterday. It's like a slow-motion rollercoaster. There is nothing you can do to alter or change those results.
So much pressure is placed on those few results. I can remember thinking that my whole life could be made or broken by them. University and thence my career both relied on them. I remember opening the envelope. Heart pounding as my eyes settled on the marks. I could see a D and an N. N? What was that? I had failed.
My stomach churned and I was overcome with a wave of hopelessness. I was alone at home with only my dogs for company. I tried to rationalise the situation but to be honest it felt hopeless. I was a failure.
I fell into a bit of a rut. I was enveloped in waves of depression. All my friends had got their grades and their university places. I had neither.
My parents were surprisingly unperturbed. They shrugged their shoulders and together we looked at options. Retakes. Gap year. Clearing.
It's a long story but I found a job to earn enough money and took off for a year to South America, where I learnt fluent Spanish. One year became two and by the time I returned, I persuaded a university to accept me on a degree in Latin American studies.
It's strange, the many twists and turns our lives take, and A level results are important but by no means vital.
My advice to you, if you haven't got the grades you hoped for, is to be positive. There is always another way. There is always an alternative. Don't cave in to the little negative devil on your shoulder. Blow the clouds of despair away and look for the sunlight beyond.
And if in doubt, remember my tale. I failed my exams and I haven't done so badly.