With some of the country’s 16-year-olds getting their GCSE results last week, it got me thinking about how much time has passed since I was in that boat, thinking of where to go to college, what subjects to take for A level, whether I could deal with more Grammar School days, and dealing with my first bout of heartbreak. Being 16 is a confusing time in itself – you want the attention from boys, but want to go and get drunk and hang out with your friends, yet also not mess up your chances of getting into a decent uni which seems like a lifetime away. Oh and you are desperate to drive…
One of the reasons I came to write this blog is because we recently had a girl at work in to do work experience and one of her tasks was to have a career chat with us about how we got to where we are today. It dawned on me that I was 16, 10 years ago – that may make me sound like a bit of an idiot (obviously 26 minus 10 years is 16, congrats Ellie!!) but what I mean it, it’s just something you think about in passing, without really thinking about it. I felt like my career chat took longer than expected because there are so many twists and turns and ups and downs that got me to where I am today, and it’s exhausting to think about it in that much detail – and in all honesty I am not where I thought I would be 10 years down the line.
Me and one of my best friends always laugh about where we thought we would be by aged 26 – it’s your mid-twenties… surely you should have this whole career thing nailed, have a husband and a baby on the way… you’re an adult now. But in reality, 16-year-old us didn’t have a clue about what the real world would be like.
When you’re 16 you’re getting your first real exam results, and have to make your first adult-life decision, which when you think about it, is pretty damn young. I remember at the time, we had made friends with boys that were two years older than us (I know, unheard of, what a hussy etc. etc.) but because I knew they were doing their A-levels and had already been through the 16-year-old version of exam stress, I gathered that they weren’t that much to worry about.
I always knew I would get the grades to get back into the 6th form at my school, and if worst came to worst then I could always go to college with my rebellious friends who couldn’t wait to get out of there! Also, I’ve never been one to massively worry about exams, through school, college and university because to be honest I always knew I would do the best possible… maybe there was room for improvement, but it all added to the tapestry that is my life.
In hindsight being friends with those boys who were on the cusp of getting into university was both the best and the worst thing for me. To this day I am still close to them all, but instead of sitting in revising, we used to go out, drive around aimlessly (because to any 16-year-old girl, boys who can drive are just the coolest) and sit in parks just chatting about life. It sounds lame now but at the time I was enjoying my life so much that it didn’t even dawn on me that this probably wasn’t the best idea, but that was exactly the way I wanted to live my life – without too many cares, but enough awareness to not screw things up royally. Maybe I would have got all A*s if I had revised and taken them a bit more seriously, but you know what, I’m proud of my achievements… and I did get back into 6th form if anyone was wondering!
Career chat aside, it’s strange that when you’re 16 you think you’re on the cusp of adult life, when in reality you’re still a child; I’m 26, and I still feel like I haven’t got this whole adult thing down in all honesty. There are obviously ways in which I’m different to my 16-year-old self, but in other ways I don’t think I’ve changed much at all – I’m still really close to all my friends, I see my family regularly and I still aim to be as happy as possible and not put too much pressure on myself. At the end of the day, life is what you make it, and sometimes what you don’t expect to happen can be the best part.
Unfortunately now though there are more setbacks and worries and things that could be seen to hold me back from being a happy-go-lucky kinda gal, but hey, that’s life for you. Back then I had no idea where my life was going to go, where I would go to uni, if I’d even get in to uni, if I would move city, or stay at home, keep my friends close by or fall out of contact… but that made my teenage years much more exciting, and I don’t regret any decisions I made. Even now I don’t know where my life is going to take me, I mean, I have more of an idea, but not knowing is the best part.
If I could give advice to any 16 year old out there, looking back on all of my life experiences, it would be to really make the most of every day and not listen to what everyone else has to say. As cliche as that may sound, the more I decided I didn’t care what people thought about me, the more fun I would have. I still managed to get through my A-levels and university with the same mentality that things will always work out in the end. The more pressure you put on yourself and have put on your, the less likely you are to enjoy the curve balls that life throws your way.
Although nowadays it is harder to live that way in a society that always expects the very best from us, it has always made me smile to think about how carefree I was when I was 16, and how much I value those years xxx