Congrats to all the students across NSW who woke up this morning to their HSC results.
Many of you, I’m sure, will be ecstatic. You’ll have your future mapped out, and one step closer to realising your dreams.
And others, I’m equally sure, will be softly crying into your pillows in bed, as you contemplate your mark. One that is lower than what you’d hoped for. One that won’t let you into your preferred course, and therefore, has stopped your dreams in their tracks. It’s even left skidmarks.
I remember the day I woke up to get my HSC results. Times were a little different in 1999. I had to call an automatic phone service and punch my student ID into a landline telephone (yes, a landline. Google them).
When the robotic voice announced my result, I was floored.
I had to call back again. Perhaps I’d entered the wrong ID.
Nope. 98.15% it was.
Even my mum and dad (who I woke abruptly at 7.05am, just five minutes after the lines had opened) wouldn’t believe me. They asked me to call back “just to check”. To this day, they blame the early hour on their lack of belief in my result. Hmmm, thanks for the vote of confidence, Ma!
But there it was. A mark that was much higher than I’d anticipated. One that opened up many more doors. As people kept telling me, “you can do anything”. And (apart from medicine), it would seem they were right.
But I had always planned on being a teacher. I’d put teaching down as my preference for University. And suddenly, here I was, feeling the pressure to be something bigger. To do something better. Ahhh, how naive.
Here I am 15 years later, realising that there is nothing better, or bigger, than following your heart. The wisest of us won’t chase money or status; we’ll chase happiness within our souls.
But I was not wise when I was 18. And so I undertook a degree that didn’t fulfil me, and embarked on a career in Advertising that never felt ‘right’.
I also felt like such a high mark pigeon-holed me. Suddenly, I was expected to be smart. To achieve. And with every single mistake I’ve made ever since, either professionally or personally, I feel like I am a fraud. “See, Jess” I think. “You aren’t really clever at all. They’re going to find you out one day. You’re such an imposter“.
All this pressure….It’s all in my head. No one ever needed to know my mark. To this day, no one has ever hired me based on the result I got in high school. Sure, it helped me get into a degree at University that thousands of others were excluded from. But I know people who got into the same degree via perseverance – not their HSC score – and these same people have gone on to do brilliant things, because they don’t let things like systemised scores define them.
I don’t regret a single thing I’ve done in my life apart from the course I chose at University because I believed it was expected of me to do something “clever” like Law, or Communications, or Engineering. Truth is, teachers are just as clever. And there are plenty of people out there getting similarly high HSC scores who go on to become teachers. But I was young, and – despite what you might think from a girl who got 98.15% – I was a fool. I let a mark define me.
So go on, kids. Go out and party like it’s 1999. We sure did. Look at your mark as a rite of passage. High school is over and you really CAN be anything you want to be. Just promise me you’ll be smart enough to look beyond a set of numbers when the time comes for you to plan your future, and embark on a new set of adventures that will fulfil, excite and reward you.
Well done, class of 2014.