Helen Purves All you need to know about Helen Purves. And, indeed, much more.


What doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger

This week, students across the country are getting their A-Level results. I dare say the vast majority of them will feel the contents of that envelope will decide their destiny: certainly, for those attending university it's likely to confirm which city they're about to spend a week-long drunken bender in.

Ten years ago I thought my A-Levels results had ruined my life. A year after receiving them (in 2001) I had dropped out of teacher training college and was an office junior in my dad's law firm. My non-convulsive epilepsy wasn't diagnosed until after I finished uni, so in 2002 I also felt I was on the brink of madness.

Ten years ago, I was a failure: an embarrassment to my parents. And staring defiantly out of the big mess that was my life were my A-Level results: two Cs and two Ds. One of those Cs was in General Studies, too, and everyone knows General Studies doesn't count.

Eventually, though, in September, I ran out of angst and made a phone call which changed my life. I gathered together more courage than I had ever (or will ever) had and brazened my way into Lincoln University. An inept switchboard operator and mischievous senior lecturer meant an extra space was made for me on my Journalism degree and the rest is history: I turned it around. It was seriously hard work and I still feel like I'm a few years behind, but ten years later I have a great job, a house and two kittens who, as I write, are joyfully gambolling around my feet.

So, your A-Levels do not decide your future. You do. Want to work in the media, but failed your A-Levels? Go do hospital radio; blog, make videos and podcasts, and get a job to fund your way through vocational study. Do not give up - never give up.

During the last ten years or so I could have given up at any number of hurdles. The time I risked expulsion to state my case to the dean after unknowingly playing obscene music on a radio show that went out to my whole city, the time I couldn't get a job after my undergraduate degree and had to go live at home, the months I spent sending over three hundred CVs and personalised covering letters out after my Masters.

But, having been as low as I was in 2002, I wasn't prepared to go there again. So in a way, getting bad A-Level results had a positive influence on my life.

If you're reading this and aren't one of the beautiful teens who got photographed by the local paper jumping in the air with glee, spend a moment reflecting on this: no one single event decides your destiny. This is not a movie - it's your life. It's complicated. Embrace it.

Get Adobe Flash player