Room to Breathe

Room to breathe

I feel like I’ve been running at 100mph for the past few months. I’ve raced from to-do list to to-do list, I’ve forgotten what it means to relax without the guilty nag in the back of my head telling me that I should be revising and I seem to have stopped enjoying life somewhere along the line.

My life has consisted solely of revision, I’ve moved from book to book, from topic to topic, from module to module without so much as a breath in between them. I’ve ran from one exam to the other, I’ve cried, I’ve written so much that my wrist has begun to weaken and my eyes are sore from the consistent close reading. And after months of stressing, lacking sleep, poor eating and non-stop revision – I finally feel like I can breathe again. I’ve spent endless agonizing hours over the past few months going over everything that I have learned in the past year, all in a desperate attempt to be able to recall it all in the two hour exams. I’ve spent far too many evenings in floods of tears at the fact that I panicked my way through yet another exam, with the incessant voice in the back of my head telling me that I failed that one too. And I’ve yo yoed between feeling too sick to eat and eating my body weight in cakes, chocolates and downing coffee after coffee. Which is another thing that cannot go without mention, I HATE coffee and yet it seems to have become my lifeline in the run up to my final term.

But regardless of how hard it has all been, it is over now and whether I’ve passed or failed, I am just relieved that the tight feeling that has resided in my chest for so long now seems to have slipped away overnight, I seem to be able to inhale in a way that I had forgotten was possible and yesterday I smiled more times than I could count, something that hasn’t happened in far too long.

This, for me, is the hardest part of university. No, not the exams or the grades, but the pressure. The pressure to prove myself, to be the girl who always gets good grades and to prove to everyone that I am good enough to get a degree. But since I’ve finished, my mindset seems to have shifted and I’ve found myself accepting that it really doesn’t matter. If I don’t make it into my final year then I am going to be distraught but not for the right reasons. I’m not going to be sad that I can’t finish my course, I’m going to be gutted that the halo of ‘A grades’ has fallen from my head and that, in the grand scheme of things, really isn’t worth getting myself this worked up over.

If I don’t make the cut for final year, so be it. I know that I am good enough to get myself a job, with or without a degree. I have had articles published, online and in print, in magazines and in newspapers and this summer I managed to secure myself an internship based on my writing skills. So do I really need a degree to define me? In some ways yes, but in so many other ways, no. No I don’t. I don’t need the university to define me and I shouldn’t have let it work me up in the way that it has done recently.

A conversation with a friend last week reminded me that life shouldn’t be like this. At the end of the day, the grades that I get may be amazing, they may be disappointing or they may sit carefully in the middle of those extremes but regardless of what they are, they are not going to define my life or define who I am as a person. I am already so much more than an A-grade student. I am already successful in so many ways and none of those successes have come from any of the grades that I have ever got in education; they have come from hard work, networking, pushing myself to the limits and from pursuing something that I love. But more than that, those successes have come from remembering to actually enjoy life alongside the struggles. They have stemmed from being healthy in myself, from taking it slow, from learning to really live, not from learning forty quotes from five books.

So for now, here is to the future. Regardless of what it may bring with it. On Tuesday I will become a commuting, working woman. Today, I am a 21 year old who is running my own business, owns my own pony and car and is going on two more holidays this year. And are any of those things down to how many A grades I got in my GCSEs or in my A-Levels? Or even to how well I did in my first year of university? A big resounding no is the answer to that so, while I’m still praying for a 2:1 for now I’m settling into the fact that what will be will be and that no matter what, I will get to where I want to be because I’m already showing that anything is possible…

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