February 27, 2019

A year later

I’ve always been a proud man; I was always smart and had the highest expectations for myself. Oxbridge, surely. After that, a top position somewhere, business, law, finance, sure, any of these. I have two younger sisters who look up to me, two parents who work as lawyers for various government departments, who also expect a lot from me. For a long while, I met most of these expectations, passing my 11+, earning a place at the best grammar school in my area. I achieved top marks in my GCSEs and straight As at AS. Now came the time to apply to university, Cambridge, LSE, UCL, these were my top choices. I got an interview at Cambridge. It went well, but ultimately, I was rejected. This is okay I told myself, law is an extremely competitive degree, Cambridge is the best university in the world, not being accepted isn’t the end of the world. The rest of the universities I had applied to all gave me offers, I’d end up at LSE and be happy I told myself. So, I confirmed LSE as my firm choice, Nottingham as my insurance. Both LSE and UCL had given me the same offer and so I couldn’t choose both. A*AA was well within my abilities I thought, I’d be at LSE within the year.  

As results day arrived, I was confident that I had done enough to claim my place at LSE, but as I opened the envelope, English-A, Geography-A, Maths-B. I was devastated. Not only had I failed to achieve the grades required to fulfill the requirements of my offer, but I had only just managed the grades necessary to get into Nottingham. I didn’t know what to do. Retaking the year, leaving the country and starting a new life abroad, apprenticeship, all these options crossed my mind. I was depressed. I failed at the one thing I had been so sure about for as long as I can remember. I felt the enormous pressure of the expectations placed upon me both by my family and by me. I had to rebuild, maybe lower the expectations of myself, become more humble and rediscover the drive and determination that had taken me this far.  

I took the place at Nottingham with as much optimism as I could manage, but I still wasn’t completely happy with where I was.  

A year later and I love Nottingham. It has allowed me to reclaim my love for sport and music. I have met some amazing people and couldn’t be happier. I think the series of events which brought me here made me realise how arrogant I had become at school. I didn’t care for people who weren’t “smart” and looked down on most universities outside of Oxbridge. In hindsight, this was an extremely toxic way to live. I had isolated myself from normality by creating an elitist bubble around myself. If I hadn’t responded to the disappointment in a mature way I don’t know where I would be now, unemployed and depressed probably. I think the lesson I have learnt from my experiences in the last year is that expectations sometimes become a toxic burden, life is much easier when lived honestly and taken one day at a time. When we are humble and respect struggle, it becomes much easier to see things clearly and live a happier, more fulfilled life.  

Joshua 🙂