I have a math exam on Wednesday and I can’t help but feel reflective. I can't help it because I know it's the last math exam I will ever sit. After Wednesday, that's it. I don't know how I feel about that. I used to hate math, mainly because I was rubbish at it and if I ever did do well many of my classmates attitudes' were along the lines of 'yeah, but your mum's a math teacher' as if that automatically made me good at it too. I hated math because I could never do well enough: my achievements were always clouded by others' expectations, presumptions that I was better than I was. Yet, as I got older and ever so slightly better at math, I did begin to like it. For my first few years of high school I had the nicest teacher imaginable, a guy that believed so much in my ability that I began to believe in it too. He gave me a confidence I severely lacked, and after four years, it was in his class that I got my highest mark. Math became one my favourite subjects.
So now, knowing that after Wednesday I'm not going to study math anymore, kind of makes me sentimental. Has that ever happened to you? On Wednesday I'm going to sit in a hall and properly do math for the last time, and I have been doing a whole ‘lotta reflecting. Not your typical, “I never have to this again, yay for me, I’m soooo happy,” kind of thinking. (Though those thoughts sometimes do try to sneak into my mind.) Rather, my recent reflection has been about feeling grateful and appreciative of this life I’ve been able to live thus far. I'm grateful for all this knowledge I've gained during my years at school. I’m grateful for the ups, the downs, and the ins and outs. I’m grateful for the feeling of being loved and supported and yet also the harsh feeling of bitter loneliness that comes with exams. I’m grateful for my health, mental or physical, even when it may waver. I’m grateful to know what comfortable feels like, but also the unnerving feeling of anxiety and stress. My face may be decorated with more spots, but it’s only because I’ve expressed a life’s worth of emotion.
This exam, it’s not about what I know, it’s about what I can recall, and put into practice from everything I have already been taught… the classes I’ve been lucky to experience. It's a test of what I've remembered from the people who have taught me so well. This might sound strange, but I urge you to try it. This year I've been making a conscious effort to go into exams with hope, convincing myself that everything will work out; to feel the questions with my heart, to read them and truly understand what they are asking; to give to others, help them and keep them smiling; to work hard, because these days are precious and I'll never be this young again; to take risks, not missing my favourite band because I could have spent that time studying, to live, because these exams are important but life is far more valuable. It is for all these reasons that I am grateful this upcoming exam. For them, I am celebrating. How beautiful it is to be young, and to feel and know so much.
The other thing I can't help thinking about is just how incredible it is to be where I am right now, and I don't want to take it for granted. I remember looking up at the end of the English exam the other day, and as I was sitting at the back I could see all my friends dotted about the hall, and it made me feel so lucky, just have them all so near, knowing that they are going through the same experiences as I am. As Shannon said when we spoke about it; "the familiarity it brought was so satisfying". But that familiarity only exists for a second, in that moment, and that in turn makes it all the more wonderful. The first person I spoke to coming out of that exam was a girl I don't know very well, we're not friends, but in that instance we had common ground to stand on. In a year or two, it is entirely possible given all our different plans that these people, friends or otherwise, who I've seen every day for five years, will be all over the place, and that's quite strange to think about. Slightly unnerving in its own way. The chances of us living in the same places, say for example the tiny town we all currently inhabiting, are slim. While I'd love to be near my friends, I think we all appreciate that we all have to follow our own little yellow brick roads, and trust that they will provide us with a way to one another. That we will always find a way back.
Life can change in the blink of an eye… I can’t stop thinking about the passage of time and how quickly life seems to transport us. It feels impossible that I’ve already been through five years of high school, that after the summer I'll be in my very last year. Yet what truly makes my head spin is when I dive a little deeper in my memory and think back to what my younger self expected of the future.
When we’re young, the time that lies ahead is full of expectations, many of them grandiose, shiny and smooth. It’s only as time progresses that we must learn to navigate a road that isn’t freshly paved, but full of bumps and fog and detours. A road that is far more interesting, and far scarier than the one crafted in our heads. Had you asked me five years ago what I expected to be doing after school, I would have answered “university” without skipping a beat. That’s where I was, that's what everyone else said they were doing. I was dreaming of escape, but a hearty dose of fear was holding me back. I don't know when I lost that fear, when I first said aloud that I wasn't quite ready to go straight onto uni when I left school, and wanted to take a gap year instead. Sometimes it takes drastic measures, grand gestures, a leap of faith, to launch yourself headfirst into your reality.
Whatever you do, wherever you end up, I can bet that it will all be so much more interesting than the crisp little life you once dreamed up for yourself. It might be a little scary at times, but the best roller coasters always are. So, until you're ready, don't worry about taking a time out. Stopping and thinking and reflecting on who you are and where you are, and who you want to be, and where you want to be. Don't be afraid if you don't end up becoming or doing what you always planned. Plans change, and people change, and our lives change.