Prepare for some real talk here. (alternative intro: This time it’s personal).
I was smart.
Not overly smart, not notably, not award-winningly but smart.
Above average in most subjects (apart from Maths- we don’t talk about Maths). I was pretty mediocre at most things, during my teenage years I was desperate for a talent, a hobby that defined me. I wanted to be ‘Ella, the one who’s good at____’. I wanted to be known for being good at something. As my gymnastics/Irish-dancing/ swimming childhood was very much behind me I was left -in my mind- talentless.
My brothers could do sports, and were both talented at rugby, I could get grades. Don’t think I’m boasting because when I say I could get grades I mean I could work crazy hard to get just above average grades, they didn’t come easy. I craved the validation of an A so I worked at things till I got it (or didn’t in the case of Maths, but we don’t talk about Maths). I came out of school with grades I was happy with but above all grades I’d worked really hard for.
Before I met Jesus I thought if I worked hard, got a letter on my essay that was as early in the alphabet as possible, I’d be content. I tried to quiet the craving for attention and praise with those little letters. When I met Jesus he gave me all the validation I needed, He told me not only was I worth a good letter on my work, I was worth dying for.
I’ve learned that whilst being proud of a good mark is healthy, defining yourself by your ability to achieve in the classroom is not. Whilst I was convinced that because I didn’t excel at any particular sport or hobby, grades were the only thing I could use to show myself worthy of any praise, I’ve realised there is so much more to me than those letters.
I am a friend, a Jesus-follower, a daughter, a girlfriend, a blogger, a laugher, a silly-dancer, a bad-joke-teller, a hand-letterer, an encourager, a Taylor-swift-lyric-knower, a flower-appreciator, a friends-watcher, a great tea-maker. I can do eye-liner in a moving vehicle. I can bend my thumb back at a weird angle.
Ok, so none of these things will contribute to my CV but they do contribute to me, and that was something I’d forgotten for a long time. Your quirks are important. If you asked your friends to describe you, it’s great if they can say ‘Does well at school,’ but I’m pretty certain that’s not all they’ll say and it certainly won’t be what they think of first.
You are so much more than a few letters. They reflect hard-work and you should be proud of yourself for doing well but they don’t reflect you; just how hard you worked and what you achieved in a certain season of your life.
Education is a marathon and we work and strive to do well enough to get onto the next stage. Perhaps Uni or work is your end goal and you feel like all you’re doing is enduring each set of exams so that you can then move onto revising for the next set. SATS, GCSE’s, ALEVELS, DEGREE. That was my journey. The letters I achieved at each level enabled me to pass onto the next one (sorry for this rather depressing video-game-like analogy). What those letters will never do, though, is reflect who I was at each of those stages, my character, the friends I had, the experiences, the struggles and the things, other than those grades, that made me feel proud.
As we head into exam season remember to work hard, stay focused and motivated but never allow yourself to believe that if you don’t do well you aren’t good enough or talented. A fail in Geography doesn’t make you a failure. A disappointment in Music doesn’t make you a disappointment. You are a beloved child of God with the opportunity to have access to education so use it well, trust in Him, but remind yourself of this truth: You are not your grades.
Photo cred: meandmyphotomachine