Life after A-levels | The highs and the lows

14 September 2022

*dusts off keyboard* 

First of all, I feel like I should begin with a 'hello'. It's been over a year! And a lot has happened. I finished my A levels! Getting through the year felt like a bigger achievement overall though for me and I'm sure a lot of you who also took exams will feel the same. 

In a nutshell, (as I've written a bit about my sixth form experience before) I did enjoy sixth form but like everything, it came with its highs, lows and a lot of stress. Many people told me it was the hardest thing they'd ever done, which slightly terrified me and I chose not to think about it too much during the process, but I would agree. However, it all depends on the individual and time management, organisation and revising as you go along. I worked solidly from January until I had my last exam in early June with my own revision timetable of working until 6ish in the evening. I never thought I'd be able to do that as I'd always been that person that was up until 10/11pm working in my bedroom and never giving myself a break. 

Being told (by my amazing counsellor) that I had to stop revising at 6pm and only work in 15 minute blocks was an immediate 'I'm going to fail' moment. That sounds dramatic but my mind raced with thoughts of how am I even going to get anything done to how am I going to cope with feeling like I should be revising when I'm not. Somehow, I followed the timetable and it could not have been more beneficial for me. There is a science behind it that I won't go into now but essentially my brain now had time to file away information into my long term memory from 6pm until the next day and I had time for myself in the evening to switch off and do whatever I wanted to do. An ideal situation. 

Something that I know I am is a creature of structure. I love a routine and anytime I'm not in one, my body feels it too. So the idea of finishing my A-levels and being out of that routine I had been in for nearly 6 months was scary to me. 

Fast forward to June time and my last exam. Every exam had gone well until the last (how convenient) and I did not get the weight off your shoulders feeling I felt I should have. As well as celebrating in the evening (with a fresh orange juice in a restaurant- that's wild for me), I instantly felt like a hole had been created within me. And as sad as it sounds, that hole was revision. The thing that I knew, was used to and did every day suddenly wasn't a part of my life anymore and I didn't know what to do with myself. 

For the first two weeks of my Summer, my anxiety was at an all time high. I hated it, hated being off, hated having more time and as a result, I was quite ill with the stress my mind had given my body. 

Some would call this time 'the best summer of your life'. People would say 'you must feel amazing!' which I agreed to with gritted teeth until I plucked up the courage to say 'umm it feels a bit strange', an understatement to say the least. I was frustrated with myself because I was focusing on how I should feel, rather than how I actually felt. This time is different for everyone and it's perfectly fine if you don't feel on top of the world post exams. It's more common to have a 'sooo what now?' feeling. 

To make me feel mentally and physically better, I had to come up with a new routine. One that was loose and flexible but made me feel more secure. I say 'loose' because I also felt shattered after doing my exams and who wants to be waking up at 7am when they don't have to? I worked with my counsellor and decided that because I was used to working in the mornings on study leave, I would carry on with a similar pattern of ticking things off on a do list to feel like I could have the afternoon of doing whatever I wanted. Here is where I could go on a tangent about the problems this feeling can cause but I am/was (working on it) one of those people that feels like they have to earn rest. Maybe it's a Virgo thing? I'm not sure.  Obviously, I wasn't going to be doing things like school work but even ticking off a yoga session or some chores around the house was enough to make me feel like I had achieved something. 

The more I was doing this, the more my body was feeling settled. It was around this kind of time that I also started volunteering at my local St.Elizabeth Hospice charity shop. My auntie became the manager a couple of months before I started which massively helped me feel more confident in doing something that was out of my comfort zone. It was certainly a start! I had a focus and responsibility again. I think doing something completely away from what I was used to was what I needed and with my love of charity shopping, it was a dream scenario. 

Then became the idea of getting a paid job. I type it this way because it was something I had always wanted; earning my own money and being able to buy clothes that I probably didn't need. But when it came to it, the idea of staying at home was much more appealing. However, the confidence working at the charity shop had given me allowed me to walk into a bakery in my town and enquire about a part-time job I had seen being advertised in the window. I spent nearly two months there before deciding to give back my apron. I give huge respect to anyone that works in a similar job and can handle it! Especially the 5:30am alarm!

Even though my time there wasn't long, it was one of the best things I could have done. Between struggling to put the jam in doughnuts and always forgetting how much a sourdough loaf costs, I learned everything you possibly could in a first job. I grew even more confident and loved interacting with customers. 

In between volunteering and working at the bakery, I tried to enjoy my summer as best as I could. I have a family holiday to look back on, many a beach day at our beach hut and so many visits to coastal towns near us. I managed to pack a lot in! Evidently, it came with its less exciting days too but that's normal. 

And in a roundabout way, we are kind of up to present day. I'm writing this on a day when I would be going back to school but obviously, this year I'm not. It feels strange. The thinking of answers to say to people when they ask what you're doing for the next year has already commenced but I am trying to be okay with simply saying 'I'm taking a break', 'I'm taking a gap year', or 'I'm just seeing where the year takes me'. 

It's so okay not to know and to figure it out along the way. It's important to recognise how you feel about certain changes and not let anyone else or society make you feel like you should be feeling different, happier in my case. (I'm actually now thrilled I don't need to be thinking about revision, lol!) 

Bethan xxx

Post a Comment

Latest Instagrams

© Bethan May. Design by Saroya.