I'm not one for looking back. My focus tends to be on the present or the near future - it's where the action is, after all - and I don't much recollect or reminisce.
But I was clearing a cupboard in a bout of clutter-removal and I found a box full of photos and letters. Man, I used to write and receive a lot of letters. Anyway amongst them all I found an old A level submission. The date at the top informed me I'd handed this particular car crash over in January of 1989, six months before I was due to take the final exam. I scored 51%. (Curious, btw, to see anything other than Maths marked in percentages but that was evidently the thing back in the day...) What struck me most was the teacher's neatly pencilled comment at the foot of the piece. I don't remember the teacher in question, but the comment began like this:
"When are you going to start taking this seriously? Your situation is desperate."
It goes on for a few more lines before concluding, "it's a good job marks aren't subtracted for errors or misunderstandings or you would have achieved a negative score." Having marked more than my own fair share of A level work in the thirty years since, I've gotta say I'm impressed by the snarky chutzpah on display here. I don't remember having any concerns or stresses about my studies at the time and I can only assume I took this portentous warning in my stride... which suggests, I guess, that the accusation was fairly levelled.
All of which makes me reflect on the person I am now. I have the draft of a novel due for submission in six weeks or so. Am I, like the eighteen-year-old version of me, blithely swanning on, oblivious to the stress and pressure whilst those around me tear their hair out? No I am bloody not. I'm one-part sleepless to three-parts cacking myself while colleagues and friends assure me everything will be OK. Meanwhile, my inner drama-queen wakes me at three a.m. to remind me my 'situation is desperate.'
Just when the tables turned I can't be sure though I'm guessing it was sometime in my thirties.
The only consolation? Well, I might not remember much about sixth form college, but I remember the grade A I got six months after this particular wrist-slap. Let's hope it's a sign...