It’s 2014. It’s a few weeks until my second semester Uni exams and an end to all my assignments. I stumble upon this song through Spotify. I’m in a terrible mood. I lurk through the pages of my seemingly without end text book and bury my head in the cold and monotonous pages. After some desolate few hours I realise I can’t memorise ANY of this. I’m struggling to learn. I think, “oh my god I’m dumb, that’s it. I have no future, no job. I’m a loser. That’s all I am and that’s what I’ll always be” and with some further pondering I question, “Maybe I have ADD. I’m always procrastinating on the internet.” And then I cried. It’s so stupid but I did. It reminded me of something. There was a wave of nostalgia bombarding me.
It’s November and I’m in my final year of high school. It’s a few days until my final exams and I’ve just started studying. Look, I know studying a few days before your immensely important 12th grade finals that heavily swings your tertiary studies admission rank is a clear no-go but a minor backstory: I had anaemia few weeks prior and that made it impossible to concentrate for more than an hour.
During this period of low haemoglobin levels, unwelcome but choiceless sleep, I was heavily depressed. It was as sad as I’ve ever been. I don’t think I’ve cried as much I have during those few weeks nearing my exams.
My mind was saying, “You’ve given up already? Don’t quit. Keep going. Keep studying. Make your parents proud. But my body was saying, “You suck. Go, sleep.” My body won. It prevailed. There was nothing I could do. Being weak and helpless sucked balls particularly when there was so much to be done and it was such a vital moment in my life.
Now fast forward to a few days before my English exam. I was already on iron tablets and my health was improving, but my health was still in tarnishable conditions and there wasn’t enough time to recover and execute long hours of hardcore and plentiful study. I’ve already come to a conclusion my final results wouldn’t be optimal but I had a few days to study and me being way too optimistic and borderline narcissistic, I told myself I would dedicatedly study and ace this exam. How was I going to do that when my body mimicking my hopeful mentality was nothing but an imperceptible fantasy? Coffee. Lots of coffee. And music. Loud music. There was no way I could sleep with this. I put on the headphones my brother nicely handed me and made a playlist.
There were two songs: “Family Friend” by The Vaccines and some other Imagine Dragons songs that I’ve forgotten. I had just discovered The Vaccines song and with this playlist on perpetual repeat as I struggle to write English Exam notes, I quickly and subconsciously learned the lyrics to the most audibly monumental part of the song. It’s the part after the chorus. The bridge? is that what it’s called? I don’t know. It’s actually probably the chorus. But anyway, I found myself intensely lip syncing “You wanna get young but you’re just getting older. And you had a fun summer but it’s suddenly colder. If you want a bit of love, put your head on my shoulder. It’s cool.”
Click play and read on.
That part was the best part – it sounded almost patriotic and it made me so motivated to study. You know, those songs that when you listen to them just motivate you to do something in life? It was one of them. That part of the song had meaning, to me it said,
“Life is short. You’re not getting any younger. Do something with your life. Go out there and prove to everyone you’re not a loser who has messed it all up.”
That’s probably not what the song is about but whatever, that’s what it was to me: a tool that helped me study. And it did. It helped me study for my 12th grade English Exam. This song was good to me until today. It’s May and it’s 2014 and it brings me melancholy more than anything. It brings me back to all the tense atrocities I was going through nearing my 12th grade exams.
Okay now back to the day of my English Exam. It’s a few hours before my exam. The amount of studying I did was nowhere near the level I was hoping to accomplish. I was disappointed. I was so beat up but then I thought, “I can’t be sad any more. I need a reality check. There’s nothing I can do.” I started to think positively, give in to the fact I won’t be getting a high tertiary admission rank and just do my best. After my parents giving me a much-appreciated talk on how they’re proud of me no matter what and I can only do my best – I enter the room where my exam was being held feeling mutual. I’ve been into this room many times, it was where I had my maths and accounting classes but it felt different in an odd kinda way. I sat down, now feeling anxious and terrified to begin this exam and stared at the giant, electronic clock being projected by the projector. I focused my attention on this clock – it was one of those clocks you literally type in “clock” on Google and click on the first link to get.
I felt thrilled to complete my first year 12 exam, and although I knew it wasn’t the best I could do, I was feeling oddly alright.
My mum took me home and asked, “how was it?” and I said, “yeah it was okay” and I was okay.
I actually meant how I was feeling. In this whole bleak and seemingly nightmarish period, I managed to string up feelings of hope and I acquired the motivation needed to start and finish studying for my next exam: my biology exam. I only had a few days. Specifically, three. But I felt hopeful that I could get a B+ and over. That optimism quickly died. It finally came to mind that it was impossible to study as best as I could in three days. There was so much to memorise. The part of the song “You wanna get young but you’re just getting older. And you had a fun summer but it’s suddenly colder. If you want a bit of love, put your head on my shoulder. It’s cool” played. And I reminded myself “IT’S COOL. IT’S COOL. JUST DO IT.”
I pushed myself to study-if not study as best as I planned at least get through the whole Biology book with like 2 hours of sleep and 7 cups of coffee. I felt so dull, weak and the weak state of my body made me emotionally drained. With such minimal sleep, I was paranoid and constantly agitated. I spent a few hours I could have used to study to Google “If I don’t do my exam, could I still complete year 12?” I later realised I was overestimating the generosity of the education system.So with no sleep on the day of my Biology exam, I attempted to demonstrate a somewhat healthy mentality in order to push myself to do this exam. I hopped in the car and heard my parents give the “Just do your best” talk. I walked in the room of my biology exam feeling drained but capable of doing this exam.
Few hours past, I got in the car and during the 30 minute drive-I burst into tears. I cried. A lot. A whole lot. This was the grand finale of cries. It was super intense. It was one of them cries where every attempt of blurting out words becomes processed indecipherable. It was the Kim Kardashian of cries. My mum looked at me with sympathy and sadness to say, “I just want you to do your best. I don’t care what your results are. I’m proud of you no matter what.” But I couldn’t come to terms with it. I couldn’t do it – in my family there’s such a large emphasis on succeeding academically and I wanted to make them proud. Call this a first world problem or whatever but this was the goal I set out to achieve since 8th grade and I intended on achieving it.
Now let’s speed ahead to I think December 12th or around that time that year where everything I worked for in year 12 – all my frequent crying fits are summed up in a stupid PDF file.
I looked at my year 12 result – screaming of joy. Honestly, my university entry score wasn’t exceptionally high but it got me into what undergraduate program I wanted to do- law school. My family were proud of me.
It’s 2014 and I’ll bring you back to The Vaccine lyric “If you want a bit of love, put your head on my shoulder. It’s cool.” That’s what my mum was telling me all along- that everything was totally cool. Everything was okay. Everything is going to be okay. Life goes on. It didn’t matter what my year 12 results were – mum was going to be proud no matter what. My intensely depressive state during my year 12 exam phase was self-centred. This lead me to thinking am I selfish? Is questioning if I’m selfish, selfish? Are humans innately selfish? What if I had gotten low year 12 results? What if I don’t get the job that I want and enjoy? Whatever it is, it’s cool. And I think it’s important to remind yourself now and then it’s cool because everything IS cool.