It was four years ago, in the summer of 2009. I had recently gone on holiday with my family and best friend to our grandparent's then holiday home in Spain, and having spent a wonderful week by the pool reading and relaxing, it was time for the ominous return to England to find out my AS Level results.
I waved goodbye to my friend at the airport, and we drove home in the car. I was, understandably, nervous. Though the holiday had in general been rather good, the last few days had been clouded by the realisation that my results were not, in all probability, very good. I tried not to let it dampen my spirits, and the Spanish sun generally banished those feelings. But in the oppressive atmosphere of the airport, much like any airport, those feelings descended like a fat man on a set of very sensitive scales.
The drive was tortuous. My sister, delightful though she may seem to be, probed, questioned and teased me on the way home about what my possible results, sending me further into my paranoia. I should mention my sister, as well as being a hellspawn, is younger than me, and my parents have gone on record saying that if they had her first then they would not have had a second child. Still, she broke her toe recently, which in the grand scheme of things I consider to be a form of karma.
We made a quick stop home first to deposit our luggage at the house, and then whipped straight out of the house to my school. It was only the afternoon, but the school having been open in the morning meant that everyone had come to get their results early and leave. The school was pretty much empty. Having said that, I was fortunate to be by myself in this instance, except for my mother who accompanied me.
At first we could not even find a teacher to give me the envelope containing my results, but eventually we found my English teacher who gave me my envelope. Naturally, my mother opened it. Out slid the first sheet of paper. Her eyes scanned across the results.
'Oh,' said Mum. This did not bode well. 'Tom, I'm going to be honest, that's crap.'
Words I did not want to hear, much less from my own mother.
I take the sheet and sure enough, I hadn't done very well. Mainly due to the arrogance of having done exceedingly well at my GCSEs, I thought I would breeze through my AS Levels with nary a finger out my arse. Instead, I had crapped out the results I deserved. It was very, very disheartening.
The next year, retaking some of the modules as well as completing the rest, I managed to pull my grades up to a much more respectable overall grade, and went to University for three, happy years. I will be graduating officially this October, though my result has come through and I gained my degree with a strong 2:1. I work hard, pushing myself to the bone to get something I can be proud of, and even then still strive to be that much better. I try to be a better person every single day.
But still I am haunted by the image of my mother, looking at my results, looking me dead in the eye and telling me I was shit.
Thank goodness it wasn't the end of the world. They're only A Levels.
This post dedicated to my best friend, Verity Johnson, who has received official confirmation of her place at University and will soon leave me behind forever. The bitch.