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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I'm Shannon. Welcome to Tales from the Country, a countryside lifestyle blog for those who dream of escaping the hustle and bustle of life and about embracing all that comes from living in the British countryside.

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  1. 6.5.16
    Mimmi said:

    I can relate so much to this. I always got top grades throughout school, so when I got to university and everything suddenly became much more difficult, I didn’t always get the top grades anymore, and it was really hard to get used to. I’ve slowly learnt to be more relaxed about it though, and my parents have been incredible in managing to get me to see sense when I’ve been freaking out over grades, haha. Like you say, grades are really not everything, and they don’t define us. In the long run they really don’t matter! Well done for getting through exam season though. Hope you’re really enjoying the freedom now! xxx

    • 6.5.16
      Emma said:

      Same here too! I coasted through school and then was a bit taken aback by uni when suddenly I was firmly on the border between 2:1 and 2:2. I quizzed a lecturer once after her feedback sang the praises of my essay but the grade was still right on that 2:1/2:2 border – she simply answered that yeah it was perfectly fine, but it wasn’t the sort of thing she’d expect to see published in a journal. Just that statement weirdly put my mind at ease and around the same time I realised that I was getting more out of uni than just a grade. When graduation came around I got my 2:1 (yay) and was so relieved and happy, and while I was full of respect and admiration for my classmates who got firsts, and realised that I probably could have gotten one too if I’d worked really really hard for it, I was glad with my choice to balance the studying with some living and growing up too :) Especially these days where it’s less expected / normal / possible to study a subject and then spend the rest of your career working in that same field.
      Best of luck to you both (Mimmi and Shannon – I found this post via Mimmi saving it on Bloglovin’) – fingers crossed you get the results you want, but either way I’m sure you have plenty more to offer employers and to bring you fulfilment :)

      • 6.7.16
        Mimmi said:

        Thanks for your lovely thoughtful comment! 2:1 is still an amazing grade, and it’s so true that other experiences are important as well :) x

      • 8.15.17
        Shannon Clark said:

        Thanks Emma! Well done for getting a 2:1 (I got the same!) – I’m also glad that I managed to find a good balance in the end, it took far too long but I’m far happier now that I’ve realised grades really aren’t everything!

    • 8.15.17
      Shannon Clark said:

      Thanks Mimmi! I really struggled at uni but it did help to know I wasn’t the only one finding the transition from school to uni hard! Grades definitely do not define us, it has taken me far too long to realise that but it is true! xxx

  2. 6.6.16
    Sam said:

    I relate to this SO much. I am the girl who does amazingly too, and the pressure I put on myself to get a first was insane. I did it but it nearly crippled me and it still does if I’m honest. This is such a good reminder for me, as well as you, that grades aren’t everything and actually, being happy and healthy mean so much. I hope you do get the grades you deserve and want, but if you don’t, remember that you’re still an amazing person xxx

    Sam // What I Know Now

    • 8.15.17
      Shannon Clark said:

      Thank you for such a lovely comment! Grades definitely aren’t everything but unfortunately they are made out to be! Being happy and healthy is definitely far more important to me now though! xxx