Sunday, 25 December 2016

Merry Christmas!

Hello all or, rather more fittingly with today's festivities, Merry Christmas!

Indeed, this festive season has finally motivated me to return to this beloved blog, which was rather cruelly abandoned just days before I picked my GCSE results in August earlier this year. In case you assumed that my results didn't go to plan as I had literally spent the whole summer hoping - as I'm sure that you wouldn't want to hear a teenager having a meltdown about failing all of her subjects (and using the Internet is often regarded as a leisurely activity, not one which makes you want to reach for the nearest bottle of wine!) - my GCSEs did go well and I maanged to get into my chosen sixth form, an all-girls grammar school which has recently been recognised as the best performing state school in my county. Yay!!!

However, I didn't initially feel thrilled with my results when I got them because 1) I got lower grades than I expected in English Literature and Sociology (both were A grades instead of my coveted A* - please don't think of me as being 'greedy' and 'selfish', yet I had rigously revised for these exams and had genuinely believed that my exams had gone in my favour!) and 2) several days after picking up my results, I realised that my RS result was incorrect (unfortunately, the exam board regarded my GCSE as half-course when, just three weeks before the exam, I had upgraded to the full-course, so I was mistakenly led to believe that I'd achieved an A* in the subject when, in fact, my true grade was an A).

Before I knew it, I was plunged into the vicious and demoraling world of re-marks, which I demanded for English Lit and Language, Sociology and RS. Without going into ridiculous amount of detail (as I'm sure that you want to eat your Christmas dinner before Easter!), my former school created numerous barriers with  regard to even paying for my re-marks - as far as they were concerned, they only cared about the fact that I'd achieved B grades and above in all of my subjects (the only B grades were in Core Science and Maths, the latter of which would have been an A if Edexcel hadn't increased their grade boundaries by a crazy number of marks - hopefully the same exam board will be more forgiving with my AS Level English Lit!).

Nevertheless, I got the last laugh by having my English Literature grade moved up to an A* thanks to an extra 11 marks being found across both of my exam papers - one of the re-marks that my former school wanted me to pay for! Unfortunately, my other re-marks were unsuccessful, yet to this day I am grateful for my English Literature grade because, from the moment I found out during a free period at sixth form, my confidence in studying A Level English Lit has increased. And, more than three months into studying my A Levels, I'm feeling prouder than I nitially did with my GCSE results, especially as the 2016 exams were difficult!

Anyway, I've settled into life at my sixth form which, despite being challenging at times (ah, the lovely nature of A Levels), I really enjoy. So far, I've competed in a debating competition, in addition to being a jury member for a bar mock trial competition, while I'm currently waiting to hear if I've been selected to be a mentor for some Year 11 students who are studying Romeo and Juliet (which I genuinely miss studying - long gone are the days of watching the Leonardo DiCaprio film in my English lessons!). Although I would regard myself as a naturally shy person, I'm glad that I've pushed myself to take part in various activities because, as is the case with all things, you only live once - and, before I've even had time to blink, I'll (hopefully) be starting at university!

Talking of university... It will only be a matter of months before I'll start applying for universities - even just thinking about it makes me feel like I'm having an out-of-body experience! Surely, I can't be approaching the age to move onto higher education and be an adult?! In fact, I'll officially be an adult - at least in the eyes of the law (not so sure about at home; I might still have to ask if I want to buy an 18-rated film) - when I turn 18 in February, which is only a couple of weeks away. So many responsibilities come with getting older, some of which are good (such as choosing which clothes to wear) while others are more unappealing (cleaning my en-suite remains a chore that I utterly detest doing on a Sunday afternoon)! Still, as far as I'm aware, I won't be kicked out of the house anytime soon (a joke which parents love to make with their teenage children, though I'm not always sure about whether they are kidding or are actually serious!), so things shouldn't be changing too much in 2017.

Furthemore, I'm just doing what I do best at Christmas right now, which is: chilling out and enjoying the festive ambiance in the air. Honestly, I'm just so grateful to have a break from revision, especially as mocks are around the corner (good luck on remembering all of the sociologists' names in my Sociology paper!), which Christmas perfectly caters to (pardon the pun). As ever, I got several books - including a copy of Twilight in French which, to my delight (and can only be understood by fellow A Level French students, is not written in the ghastly past historic tense - and several clothes, all of which are from the delightful H&M (definitely get their jumpers if you want a bargain and something cosy and fashionable!).

I'm hoping that, whether you are and whatever you are doing (such as flicking through all of the TV channels in the hope of finding something semi-decent to watch), you have a wonderful Christmas and a very happy New Year!

Meanwhile, I'm counting down the minutes towards Christmas Dinner being served... Nothing new there!

Monday, 22 August 2016

Quick Post: The 3-Day Countdown

Just in case you were beginning to assume that I'd firmly ventured back into the wilderness that is better recognised in society as adolescent life and had therefore turned my back on blogging duties for the present time, I've somehow been lured back to this all-too-familiar site as I await the arrival of Thursday. Not quite sure what this Thursday represents, asides from pizza being served for dinner (as it appears to be the case in my household)? Only just scrolling through student forums at a Usain Bolt-inspired speed would instantly tell you that Thursday will confirm what many teenagers like myself have both been dreading and looking forward to (albeit not in the 'I-can't-wait-to-go-to-Disneyland' kind of way) for months: GCSE Results Day.

Ugh, the horror of opening what will be the most important envelope that you will ever come across in your life (until the even more dreaded AS Level results are received the following year - after Thursday, I'll have the not-so-delightful honour of attending another two Results Days) in a room crowded with equally terrified individuals catalyses such panic within myself, which is clearly not helping my sleeping patterns. As embarrassing as it sounds to those who suffered the Result Day woes long ago and probably cannot even remember what grades they achieved (such a possibility seems absolutely impossible to me right now - long will I anticipate the day that my Physics grade will slip out of my mind like an important, yet uncompleted chore), I've pretty much spent the past three or four nights lying in my bed, panicking over which grades will greet me or slap my horrified cheek on Thursday morning.

Such torture of this kind isn't even fair - the first half an hour or so of going to bed should involve my reviewing the scenarios that have taken place in the programmes I've been watching on Netflix then, in true fantasy style, place myself in those situations for my own past-bedtime entertainment. Believe me, fantasising over being situated in the same city as Mitchell from Being Human would be plenty enough to soothe me of any pre-envelope opening nerves (because, like a true worrier, I am concerned over whether I'll easily open my envelope or will require some assistance like a three year old asking their dad to tie their shoelaces up - a.k.a. my 17 year old self!), yet my stupid exam results have deprived me of such a luxury...

In a strange way, I suppose that a sense of calmness has finally descended upon me from today onwards because, at long last, I can finally utter the words 'this week' when discussing Results Day (RD) without fear of deluding myself. As a result, such dreams of being placed in hibernation until Thursday morning are slowly beginning to subside, which probably come as a huge relief to my precious cat, Bart, who has reigned supreme on my bed all summer - any time in which he has been barred from resting on my bed has been utterly devastating for his oh-so-poor self, hence why my hibernating this week would have deprived him of yet another sleeping spot! Also, the grade boundaries for the exams I sat will be released by all but one of the exam boards on Wednesday midnight which, if my maths skills have not yet completely died, is only thirty-six hours away; at least knowing the number of marks I will need to achieve various grades will distract me from my ever-growing pile of nerves on Wednesday, which will be more than ready to explode by the time that Thursday morning rolls around.

Honestly, I can speak for all expectant teens that the summer-long Waiting Game has been absolutely tedious - and way too long than anyone can reasonably tolerate! If people are of the knowing sort who can accurately predict what grades they will get, I would imagine that they wouldn't be too worried with regard to waiting an entire summer to discover their results, yet I constantly and repeat doubt myself because I really don't know what my personally-addressed envelope will contain. Such uncertainty - in addition to my unconfident attitude because, in my opinion, cockiness can backfire big time if grade boundaries or harsh examiners play any role in determining your future (and who is to know who will be marking your paper?) - only increases my worries because, until I finally find out my results on Thursday, I won't be able to take a deep breath and relax.

OK, that isn't to say that I've been completely depriving myself of a break this summer - otherwise, what would be the point of working hard during the exam period to only greet myself with yet more work? - but there is only so much 'relaxation' that I can do without turning my attention towards exam results. Additionally, being in scarce possession of patience has not helped me at all either and, now that I'm closer than ever to receiving my results, praying for the sake of developing a yet-to-be-discovered patient streak in my nature seems rather pointless!

Nevertheless, I will probably find myself praying that Netflix will list an addictive show that I can rapidly sink my teeth into (as was the case with discovering Being Human last week - suddenly, the idea of developing so much body hair as a werewolf seemed far scarier than getting a D in my Maths GCSE) as I start to count down the hours towards Thursday morning. Sod it, I'll leave it to Google to calculate the hours because my frazzled little head will be way too stressed to figure it out independently!

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Panicking Like Mad Over Results Day

As is the case with thousands of teenagers across the country, I'm currently awaiting my GCSE results which, within eleven days' time, will be released to my increasingly impatient self: a moment that will mark the very beginning of my future. Terrifying, is it not, to have my future determined by one set of exam results that, despite sitting the very last one of all nearly two months ago, seem so separated and unfamiliar in my life - well, I suppose that my post-exam cocktail of Netflix, books and continuous playtime with my four cats has certainly helped me to forget that Pythagoras Theorem once played a prominent role in my academic alias earlier this summer!

In fact, a KitKat-sized chunk of myself (thanks to my clever creation of a fat-free Greek yoghurt ice cream with - you've guessed it - bits of KitKats mixed through it) is even wondering whether I sat my GCSEs this summer because I've completely lost track of time in the sense that my newly-plucked eyebrows wouldn't even rise in surprise if years had passed since I cantered out of my final exam (bolting away from the hideous first question on my Physics paper, of course!).

Strangely, I somewhat feel as though I've already embarked on the rocky and riotous road that university hopefuls have endured on their quest to A Level success thanks to completing the transition packs that my first-choice sixth form gave me, which has further aided in my brain's mission to completely purify itself of GCSE Bitesize, GCSEPod and MyGCSEScience (basically anything beginning with a G and ending in an E!). Still, would I have the faintest clue on how to answer questions on specimen papers for my selected A Level choices? Unless I'd managed to find an intelligently hidden bottle of vodka in the house (which even Nancy Drew would know does not exist) and I swapped an evening of PLL-bingeing for revising my specific subjects like my life depended on it, I probably would be an odds-on favourite to not be able to write an introduction as an answer, let alone actually answer the question itself! Hmm, hopefully I'll be able to look back at this in a years' time and laugh like a hoarse evil witch at my present inability to cope with A Level work... or cry with morbid shame if little has changed over the next twelve months!

Anyway, I suppose that living in limbo - which is pretty much the institution to which I've been moved ever since my exams were over because, until 25th August rolls around, I cannot even guarantee my place at the sixth form of my heavenly and oh-so-perfect dreams (although gut instinct, when able to burst through my niggling doubts and sea-deep worries, tells me that such a fantasy is within reach) - has created this barrier of isolation from my exams and the future ahead of me, which is quickly approaching. Seriously, I will living my future by this time next month at sixth form - though I cannot definitely say which one I will be studying at, which frustrates me all the more that, in comparison to last year, Results Day is being held much later in August.

Whereas last years' cohort received their results on 20th, I, along with thousands of fellow worriers (surely I can't just be the only one who is enduring Results Day hallucinations?), have been condemned to an extra five days until our doom - or, if I want to inject a bit of positivity into this post, paradise - is revealed. Honestly, my heart breaks for those awaiting their A Level results, which will be released next Thursday, because peoples' lives depend all the more on their A Level grades - it could make the life-changing difference between going to or missing out on university. Therefore, getting results a few days earlier make all the difference; exam papers can be remarked sooner, which could ensure that students won't lose out on offers from universities, while universities could provide more support before they are no longer able to offer places.

Obviously, one could say that students were unfortunate to have to wait a bit longer than usual this year - believe me, I've been wishing that my GCSE results didn't have to coincide with a leap year, which is the reason why results days for all students have been pushed back - but every single day seems as lengthy and slow as a year right now, regardless of how close I already am to receiving my envelope and ripping it open in less than a fortnight's time.

To make matters worse, my English Language result has already been released because it came under the iGCSE qualification, whose results day was this Thursday, yet my school refuses to release it to me until Results Day on 25th August. Honestly, thinking that an envelope containing my grade is only eight miles away from my clutches drives me around the bend whenever the thought pops into my head, haunting my fragile emotions. And, of all of my subjects, I'm most nervous about English Language because the exam board is an absolute joke - well, obtaining a D in a mock exam seems rather unlikely for an aspiring English teacher, doesn't it? Without a doubt, I'm not settling for anything less than an A* in English Language, yet it pains me like a blade stabbing my heart to consider that, if my school bothered to provide its students with usernames to access their iGCSE results online, I could have found out what I obtained by now. Hence why I'm trying to avoid using the internet when possible because most iGCSE candidates have been discussing their results on student forums and social media - meanwhile, I feel like an outsider peeping into something that I am entitled to be part of!

Nevertheless, Results Day will finally be in sight from tomorrow onwards because I can say that I'll getting them next week - certainly much better than the two months that they once were, isn't it? Undoubtedly, what will be will be, but I just hope that my results will be exactly what I've been hoping for. Life has taught me to never expect things to go the way that you cannot stop yourself from expecting them to because it only leads to self-disappointment, which is the bitterest flavour to wash away. Alas, I'm trying to prepare myself for obtaining grades that may not be in line with what I would like because, as is the case with strangers and examiners, I trust absolutely no one - especially when these grades concern my future, which is as precious and important to me as life itself.

Well, I'd love to be gushing and crying happily (without my waterproof mascara budging one bit!) on 25th August, but I'm so worried about getting myself tangled in a web of disappointment if I indulge in these ideal fantasies, which seem way too good to be true! In the meantime, let's focus my attention on escaping the worry-inducing wrath of social media over the next eleven days...

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Discussing My NCS Experience

After nearly a month's break from my blog-writing duties, I have returned - how I have missed typing Blogger into the search engine and arriving at my prime destination of writing glory, which is always as uplifting as indulging in one of those cheesy feel-good films that even the so-called 'hardest' person secretly likes. Well, plenty can happen over the course of a month - particularly during my extremely long post-exam summer (bet you were guessing how long it would take me to utter the E word, huh?) - and therefore I'm bursting like an overfilled cupcake case to reveal all that has happened. 

On the last occasion that I wrote here, I was just a week away from beginning my NCS adventure which, until that point, I hadn't really thought an awful lot about. Why? Bearing in mind that I'd booked my place on the programme as far back as January - I suppose that my New Year's Resolution of banishing my lazy, can't-be-bothered attitude was seriously playing with my thoughts at the time - I'd somewhat had the ideal excuse to forget all about it up until a week or two before I started it, especially as I wasn't in a position like some people to sign up at literally the last minute. 

In fact, in the months, weeks and days (luckily, hours and seconds were not included!) leading up to my starting NCS, I'd received numerous phone calls, texts and emails with regard to inviting friends to sign up - aided with the offer of £25 to spend at Nandos which, for non-British residents, is the chicken-flavoured equivalent to Pokemon Go (for those unfamiliar with the adorable Pikachu, British teenagers are obsessed with Nandos, otherwise known as Chicken Heaven!). If I'd known any friends who would have been remotely interested in signing up for NCS, I definitely would have invited them because, what with having last gone to a Nandos for my 16th birthday last year (for the first and so far the only time - unfortunately, my family don't really like chicken that much, so perhaps my next trip there will be toute seule), I have some desperate cravings for spicy chicken dishes and vanilla-flavoured gelato! Still, I suppose that life goes on - regardless of whether your dreams are tainted with images of chicken thighs soaked in mouth-burning and eye-watering spices...

Anyway, skip forward to around a week and a half later - at which point my NCS adventure was firmly over. And, in case you begin to wonder whether your Specsavers glasses have just tricked your eyes into seeing a word that you cannot believe is appearing on your desktop screen, you can firmly relax - I did quit NCS! OK, I genuinely had an understandable reason for leaving NCS halfway through my first week because of a family bereavement, which instantly established to me that I had to return home, albeit my home was over 120 miles away from the resort I was staying at. 

Typically, the first week of NCS involves staying away from home at an activity/adventure camp/resort (a group of considerate angels had blessed me by ensuring that I was not camping for the week - the heavens would have felt the wrath of a million moaning and irritated teenagers from just myself if it had been so!); therefore, I was staying at an activity site which, had it not been for too many people signing up in my county, would have been situated at the one just up the road from my village. Well, the angels could surely have not blessed me with the luck of a saint by setting my first NCS week significantly closer to home - in fact, I probably could have carried having my meals, showers and even bedtimes in the comfort of my home if my local activity site had been assigned to my group! 

Nevertheless, I only had two full days of NCS life before I withdrew from the programme for the above-mentioned personal reasons, yet those two days have already washed all previous fears and concerns with regard to starting at a new sixth form next month (no longer so far away from the beastly A-Levels now, am I?). To my delight, I befriended a pair of twins who only came to England two years ago yet, like one of my friends at my current/former school (kinda feel like I'm in limbo until Results Day!) who originates from Portugal, they speak English so well - in fact, I initially wondered whether they were born and raised here because they speak ever so eloquently and comfortably! As a result, I'm no longer feeling concerned and worried about making friends because most people in my NCS group will be attending the same sixth form as myself, so hopefully I'll recognise a few faces in my classes, which will help to put me at ease. 

In many ways, I'm glad that I took part in NCS - albeit only for two days - because I proved to myself that I can make friends with people whom I've never met before which, despite sounding a little tad stupid and ridiculous in print (because how else have I or anybody else struck up friendships in the past?), had been a concern of mine whilst attending my previous school as I didn't really trust the people there, who could have painted a visage of initial pleasantness before revealing a mask of cruelty. For the past two years, I've struggled to trust my 'peers' at the two schools I've attended because, in particular, many of the girls were less sophisticated replicas of Regina George - as if I wanted to be on the firing line of a hard-faced bitch! Yet, almost immediately, I sensed that these girls embodied the warmth, kindness and humour that I've always wanted in a group of friends - but why should these qualities be such rarities in other educational institutions? Nonetheless, I will be eternally grateful for attending the same sixth form as these kind-hearted and intelligent people because at least they do not resort to the bitchiness that strongly defined the culture within my former school. 

However, the NCS programme was ridiculously restrictive - to the extent that I often wondered whether I had returned to playgroup because literally every minute was controlled by the managers who ran the activity resort! Rarely did I have a spare moment to return to my cabin (which I shared with five other girls - believe me, organising showering schedules was a delightful inconvenience!) and chill out with my friends; the only time that I had to do so was at bedtime, at which point I was so exhausted that all I craved was to fall into an eternal sleep (impossible thanks to having only one flat pillow in my bunk bed!). In all honesty, I don't see why staying at various sites over the course of the NCS programme is necessary because teenagers like myself who are on the verge of entering adulthood - in my case, within six months' time! - want to hang out without being dictated as to what they can and cannot do. Therefore, it is fair to say that I'm relishing the idea of meeting up with my new friends over the next few weeks because at least none of us have to be forced to climb ropes or participate in activities that do not interest us. 

Besides, most of the costs attributed to funding each person on the NCS programme can be blamed on paying for stays at these activity resorts, which certainly don't come cheap! As a new government settles into their new roles, I'm wondering whether the NCS programme - masterminded by the former PM David Cameron - will survive the changes that are bound to come about over the next few months and years. If NCS is investing so much in its advertising campaign yet still fails to gain enough participants (even one of my friends dropped out of it, along with a few others in my group before the week began), a significant amount of money must be lost somewhere along the lines, which could be better invested in helping schools employ qualified teachers, afford a vast range of GCSE/A Level courses and maintain an adequate standard of education for the millions of students across the country. 

Still, I suppose that everyone has different views regarding NCS and may see it in a completely different light to myself, but at least I gained something completely precious from it - new friendships. And, as everyone will know, friends are utterly priceless!

Monday, 4 July 2016

Looking Ahead To The Summer

In case you were wondering whether I had been dragged by my still relatively oil-prone hair to the woods in the middle-of-nowhere (which I seriously think is very close to where I live - let's hope that no bears will be queueing up for their lucky dip at the local corner shop anytime soon!), I've just survived quite a manic and mayhemic week - still, I would definitely define it as a piece of cake in comparison to sitting my recent exams!

Honestly, I've been meaning to find time to write here of late because, like all the teenagers who have recently completed their exams (whether it be GCSEs or more devilish A-Levels), we have been duped into thinking that the world is literally ours to claim for an unlimited space of time. Indeed, for months (and possibly years) ahead of my exams, I always believed that summer would literally last forever and I would be inundated with time to do whatever my little heart pleased - well, surely I deserved such luxury after enduring absolute hell literally from the very beginning of Year 11 last September?

Sadly, such fantasies are eventually discovered as complete allusions: sometimes, determination and willpower can blind you from recognising the facts that, if you were not so distracted and consumed with other tasks, you would otherwise instantly see. Not even wearing the most eye-catching cat-style glasses (whose lenses can make the world more defined and richer in style for myopic people like myself!) can help you overcome this 'blindness' when your mind is psychologically situated on another planet! Therefore, I'm gradually coming to terms with the fact that summer - the one true amazing gift to be received after pushing myself through paces that I never want to re-experience (until AS-Levels creep into my life from September onwards!) - does not last an eternity.

Whether this fact will soothe the soul-destroying blow or not, I'm not so sure, yet I suppose that, deep down within my Oreo-loving heart, I have known this for quite a while. For starters, my mum drastically alerted me to the fact that, due to attending various induction days (more on which later) and starting NCS next week (I only have one week until I'll be waving au revoir to Netflix - sob!), I wouldn't have enough time to fit in the work experience I'd intended to do at a nearby primary school because there were no weeks in which I would have been available.

OK, the week following the end of my exams was pretty much consumed with bingeing on Pretty Little Liars and conducting Zumba lessons in my living room because exercising outdoors with vile insects chasing after me is pretty much a massive no-no during the warmer months of the year, yet I had to attend my school's leavers assembly on the Friday. Surprisingly, it was worth the sacrifice of a precious lie-in - not least because every student was offered free cans of soft drinks and KitKats - and I was really glad to have gone along because it was probably the last time I will see most people, particularly as I doubt many people will turn up at 10am (the earliest time) on Results Day.

However, last week and this week feature induction days at my two chosen sixth forms which are not only essential to attend, but will give me a further insight into sixth form life. Unfortunately at what I shall now be referring to as my old school (because I haven't applied for their sixth form due to their stupid decision to drop French - quels salauds!), I never came into contact with the sixth formers because the sixth form and lower years were literally segregated from each other, which I thought was pretty unfair because studying A-Levels or BTECs do not automatically make you God-like or amazingly powerful!

Anyway, these induction days would have interfered with my plans to gain work experience at the primary school, which meant that I had to abandon my plans. In a way, I'm disappointed that I won't be able to visit the school because work experience is greatly appreciated on UCAS applications, on which I should be making a start within the next few months (scary how time flies!), and I quite liked the idea of being surrounded with innocent, sweet and unaggressive children, who would have been the polar opposite to some of the students at my old school! Nevertheless, I'm hopeful for the opportunity to gain work experience during my time at sixth-form over the next two years because I'm sure that such opportunities are greatly encouraged.

Besides, what does a revision-mad, knowledge-hungry and mindmap-obsessed teenager need after surviving a massive chunk of exams? A BREAK!!! Although I wouldn't have been joining in with taking spelling tests and the like at the primary school, I would have still been working, which I seriously don't want to do until I commence my AS-Level studies in September (only two months until September - I guess that A-Levels are no longer an out-of-reach fantasy...). Hence why I signed up for NCS all the way back in January because I wanted to participate in new experiences, meet new people (which would help me feel more confident when I start sixth form because I probably won't know anyone) and have fun, of which my life was seriously deprived whilst I was sitting my exams.

In many ways, I'm glad that I cancelled my work experience because I truly needed the past few weeks to clear my head, give a little thought to what I want to do in the future (without thinking that I'm skipping ridiculously far ahead - in fact, these next two years will make me feel like I'm already at university what with all the preparation I will be doing for it) and relax - just the perfect reason why I signed up to a month's free trial of Netflix! Sadly, I will missing out on nearly a week's worth of the trial because I'll be starting my first week of NCS this time next Monday, so I'm in urgent need of finishing my viewing of the French Twin Peaks-esque drama The Returned (which somewhat counts as AS French revision!) and Pretty Little Liars, which I view as Desperate Housewives set in high-school (and without any husbands or sexy gardeners!).

Moreover, I'm looking forward to the week ahead because I'll be going on an induction day to my second-choice sixth form which, if I failed to meet the entry criteria for my first-choice, I would go to in a heartbeat. Although French is not taught on site, transport would be provided so that I could study it at another nearby sixth form - quel soulagement! However, my heart is set on my original sixth form choice, which offers all of my preferred courses (English Lit, French, Sociology and Media) and is home to such bright, pleasant and welcoming students. Hopefully, if all goes well, I will be going there from September onwards with my friend who has also applied there, which would make me feel a bit more comfortable in different surroundings. Still, I'm not one to get over-confident because, unless I put the hard work in (which, believe me, I definitely have!), I don't expect anything as life only rewards you if you do all you possibly can to achieve your best. Nonetheless, I do feel that some good results will be coming my way on 25th August...

Whether this will be my last entry before I embark on my four-week long NCS adventure next week, I'm not really sure because I'll definitely be enduring days in which all I'll want to do is relax and enjoy the privilege of using Netflix for free, but I'm enthusiastic about making the most of the summer while it lasts. In my ideal fantasy (which I'd like to translate to reality), I would love nothing more than to look back at this summer in a few years' time and view it as the one in which I blossomed in many ways - being surrounded by fellow like-minded people, trying new things (though I would firmly decline the chance to do rock-climbing on NCS because I probably wouldn't know how to get down!) and looking forward to whatever the future holds. Not to say that I'm not already blossoming, but I suppose there is a reason why everything within the world of nature seems more beautiful and vibrant during the summer!

Adios, if my basic Spanish is correct - perhaps I may be fluent in the language by September if Google Translate continues to be my saviour!

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Slaying Stress Like A Kick-Ass Slayer!

As I reach the halfway point during my first week without the likes of half-lives and half-equations (which the drunk teen-loving AQA exam board will happily introduce to you on their Science syllabus) occupying a single second of my time, I suppose that returning to Planet Normal is still a work in progress. OK, I might have finally discovered why Netflix has such a mesmerising hold over a significant proportion of the teenage population since signing up to a month's free trial on Sunday - all thanks to watching the American teen drama Pretty Little Liars which, despite being complete with heavily and rather irritatingly overused cliches (such as a pretty girl falling for the wrong guy - never amiss in the world of teen drama, is it not?), I've rather fallen head over heels for. Well, being immersed in a universe complete with girls possessing perfectly curled hair and pencilled-in eyes (which, unlike my mediocre efforts, don't make them resemble pandas rebelling as goths) is certainly more enchanting than watching countless videos on YouTube about simple molecules and direct currents! 

However, today's entry will not be entirely devoted to pouring over a fictional reality which, despite perking up my Tuesday afternoons big-time (especially as literally 90% of TV programmes at the moment are either dedicated to the Euros or tomorrow's EU referendum), has not had any significant impact on my life of late. In fact, I'd rather take the time to discuss a matter with which I'm sure many others - especially of my age group - will be familiar: stress. 

Wrapped up in layers of self-hatred, coated with lashings of fear and baked in piles of panic, stress can present itself in a variety of situations in, as you have probably already guessed, numerous ways. Apparently, a little dose of stress is supposed to be harmless - and could indeed be perceived as quite good, if you are one of the fortunate types who can channel it into adrenaline and an unquenchable thirst to succeed. In an ideal world, stress would never dare to present itself as a problem because it would merely motivate us during the occasions when it would help us, such as exam season. Believe me, if I was a lucky resident in an oh-so-perfect utopian society, stress would definitely guarantee me a collection of A*s - thus eliminating any fears that I have over my impending GCSE results. 

Unfortunately, one has to face reality at one point or another - regardless of how devastating it is to accept that none of Versace's dresses will ever be reduced to £10 in a sale at TK Maxx, which is obviously the last sort of news that any fashionista would like to hear! Bearing this fact in mind, stress is definitely capable of having a detrimental effect on a person - and, instead of motivating one to push themselves further in order to achieve their aspirations, it can serve as a barrier to making their dreams into a living reality. 

To my sheer relief, stress never threatened me from surviving my recent GCSE exams; in fact, I began to adopt the view that, if I wasn't feeling a bit stressed, perhaps I was being too overconfident, which could have been a sign of bad luck. Obviously, some people don't believe in superstition and generally I would dismiss it because, when it comes to exams, only yourself can determine your future - hence why exams are based on your knowledge, not your so-called 'ability' to predict grade boundaries or questions that could appear in the paper! However, I do reserve the belief that cockiness can have a wicked way of biting one in an unpleasant part of the body (not literally!) because I would rather underestimate myself then put my entire heart and soul into the exam, which motivates me to carry on working when, if I simply assumed that I would only need to write my name down on the paper to achieve an A*, I probably would have given up long ago. Thus, if I allow some stress to seep into my bloodstream, I'm proving to myself that I care about my future and ultimately myself, which reiterates my determination to lead the best life that I can possibly lead. 

Nevertheless, I have a tendency to bury any anxious emotions and feelings I may have under imaginary piles of clothes which, as my anxieties increase, simply grows: indeed, my stress levels must have been vast enough to fill an entire warehouse during the one week in which I sat seven exams! And why is that, you ask? Just as it is capable of helping you, stress shares an equal ability to mark a spiral into self-destruction - which I thought would only arise if I allowed it to be felt. Undoubtedly, there were so many occasions when I felt like crawling into my bed and never rising from the covers during weeks in which I had exams; as thrilled as I was to finally get the 'beasts' out of the way and progress to the next part of my life, I felt so powerful and powerless at the same time as I knew that my every waking second determined whether I will be able to enter my chosen career path. 

As a teenager, gaining these responsibilities during what feels like such a short space of time is petrifying - at this age, who truly wants to be held accountable for possibly slamming shut a door that could have a major impact on your opportunities and life chances? And it didn't really help that, during this period, my head was swimming with statistics over life chances (which are worsened by failing or doing badly in GCSEs) for my Sociology exams...

Despite my rather well-executed efforts to ignore my feelings - hence why anyone who communicated with me during the exam period might have recognised certain similarities between emotionless robots and myself (pretty much the only way I could resist the urge to scream with heartfelt fear during my Maths exam!) - my body, on the other hand, had other ideas. For starters, the idea of indulging in a bit of chocolate - which never fails to boost my mood thanks to the feel-good endorphins that it releases (exactly why eating something sweet before an exam is a good idea) - no longer seemed appealing to me as I began to feel uncomfortably uneasy ahead of sitting an exam. Indeed, if an exam was scheduled to be held in the afternoon, you can imagine - or probably have experienced - the somewhat hunger-induced panics over surviving the exam whilst force-feeding a sandwich down your throat as a means of preventing a fainting fit during the exam itself. Not precisely my idea of fun (which would be a thousand miles away from anything exam-related!), yet that simply demonstrates how demonic stress is: it can limit you in ways that you had previously never considered were possible. 

Due to still being around - and officially free of exams (until my AS-levels next year, yet I'd rather paint that thought out of my mind for the next few months!) - I guess that I managed to quench my stressful woes because, as many have endured, it can either crush you or provide a platform for making you into a stronger person. My advice? Let it out when you need to - but keep a lid on it. Like Pandora's box, you don't want to open your compressed can of stress too much because, if you do, it could provide too much of a distraction from what truly matters above any of your fears: surviving your exams, or anything else that is the primary source of your worries. The night before my Chemistry exam last week, I craved nothing more than to sob over how I would never comprehend the formula for producing crystals. And I eventually did sob, except that I refused to give myself an eternity to do so; in fact, letting your emotions run wild can make you feel even more stressed as you may be worrying over unimportant matters. As if you really need to be thinking of anything else during that time! 

Also, another way of beating stress is to maintain an ordinary and regular routine as best as you can. Although the time I spent for revision obviously increased like mad during the exam period, I still went to bed at my usual time, ate dinner with my family as always and logged onto Facebook for a little while every day after school. Maintaining a sense of normality was vital for preserving my sanity during exams because sitting 19 exams (if I remember the figure correctly) within the space of several weeks was anything but normal! Over time, I've read numerous articles about people abandoning Facebook and staying up until the early hours revising for exams, which I personally don't think benefits you; when faced with stress, you want to indulge in comforts that calm you, which I suppose is your mental armour for battling against anxiety woes. I truly dread to think what I would have been like if I swapped my relatively early bedtimes for extremely late ones the night before I had as many as two exams the following day - no way would I have been living in my house, let alone still eating meals with my family!

Lastly, remember that your stress exists for a reason; no such feelings appear out of nowhere because your mind randomly wants to feel pressurised and uncomfortable. And, because of that, constantly think of that reason - your stress is present because you want to do well and make yourself proud, for which no one can fault you! While the source of your stress is present, you feel that it will never go away, but believe me, it does... and you'll probably find yourself wondering why you never relaxed more afterwards!

Sunday, 19 June 2016

The Return of the Exam-Free Teen

For the first time in three months - a time during which literally 99.9% of my time has been dedicated to revising, studying and trying to discover the importance of knowing how a series circuit works (two days on from my Physics exam, I am still no closer to realising it!) - I have plucked up the courage to return to my virtual safe haven: this personal and perfect blog that I'm proud to call my own. 

Until my browser loaded the Blogger page several minutes ago, I hadn't even dared to consider the length of time that had passed since I had posted my last entry. Well, I suppose that, the longer that you have been away from something, the more terrifying it is to return to it - who knows, maybe I might have returned to this blog and suddenly decided that it no longer served any purpose in my life? Thankfully, I don't think that will be an issue! 

Indeed, my life of late has felt very dream-like - albeit not in an oh-so-perfect, Disney-style manner if you really want to know (as if Cinderella would be caught revising the quadratic formula at her extravagant dinner table) - and out-of-place thanks to being caught up in the whirlwind that were my GCSE exams. Notice how I used 'were' instead of 'are' just there? Since twelve minutes past ten on Friday morning, my GCSEs - which I had spent months (OK, that's a lie - let;s say years) revising and planning for as though my life depended on it (which is certainly true if I want to get into my chosen sixth form) are officially over. Like N'Sync splitting up, GCSEs are no longer part of my everyday life because, as is the case with all great things (though one would be seriously deluded to place the words 'cosmic microwave background radiation' and 'fantastic' in the same sentence), they have reached their natural end. 

And, without a single doubt in my mind, I am relieved that I am completely and utterly finished with them!!!

If anyone had been in possession of a camera back on Friday morning after my final exams - the ghastly Additional Physics, which was definitely my worst exam of all (even if the stupidest of idiots of all instinctively know that, if you can't answer the first question within a minute of staring at the blasted page, your dreams of breezing through the paper are as non-existent as Poundworld selling authentic Chanel handbags) - they would have thought that I had totally lost my mind. The reason why? I was cackling like the Wicked Witch from The Wizard of Oz as I dumped my blazer and revolting pleated skirt (which I constantly had to roll up as it always threatened to fall down my waist due to being at least two sizes too big for me - always a great distraction during an exam, of course!) into the school bins, giddy with delight that those horrible garments would never be placed on my skin ever again! 

In many ways, I kind of wishing that someone had been filming me because, at least in British schools where wearing a uniform is the norm, nothing feels as liberating as getting rid of an outfit that I have always associated with conformism: a societal norm that I have long regarded as an absolute bitch. At my school - or should I say 'old' as I haven't applied to go to their sixth form in September? - I detested being treated in the same way that was reserved for those who never tried hard or fooled around which, of course, didn't apply only to the uniform, but other areas. Therefore, I never really felt like myself whilst wearing the uniform because it rebelled against the identity that I openly express in other areas of my life, such as blogging - still, I guess that I've become so used to wearing it that the prospect of being free to wear whatever I want (within a certain range as skin-tight dresses barely longer than a belt are certainly unacceptable) will take me a while to get used to!

Anyway,  I'm now taking the time to return to Planet Normal - which, to my relief, does not feature any quadratic equations or diagrams of plant cells (pretty useless to know when I always shy away from all things related to gardening!) - and shall be doing so for the remainder of my summer, which lasts around ten weeks until I hopefully start at my chosen sixth form. How will I mark my descent to Planet Normal? As literally everything in my life has recently been the spitting image of craziness - what with sitting awkwardly on my bed with the company of my cat, Bart, whilst cramming as many facts about acids and alkalis into my head as possible and panicking over failing my Science exams - my norm of late, I've somewhat forgotten what 'normal' actually is! 

However, I've got my NCS programme lined up, which starts on 11th July and will last four weeks; as I've heard so many people describe what brilliant and life-changing experiences they had from participating in it, I absolutely can't wait to start! Although it presents the prospect of meeting new people - which, like lots of others, slightly makes me want to retreat and hide in the cupboard like my cats do because I'm naturally a shy person - I'm looking forward to overcoming these little fears and become more confident around a range of different people, which will truly help me cope with making new friends when sixth form begins. Luckily, one of my friends is also doing NCS on the same week as me, so I'm glad that there will be at least someone I know who will be there, which I'm sure is an equal relief for herself, too. 

As for everything else, I've decided to adopt the 'come what may' attitude as my new ethos; for the first time in months, I don't have to plan every single second of my day around revising, sleeping or completing 150 sit-ups because what controlled my routines has abruptly ceased to exist, which has submerged me into a universe of complete and utter freedom. Will the GCSE fairy scold me if I decide to watch four back-to-back episodes of True Blood in an entire day when, just a matter of weeks ago, I would have spent that time completing piles of past papers and creating flashcards? Unless she is willing to haunt those who either didn't turn up to their exams or were caught breaking exam rules (such as the fool who was disqualified for using their phone during my English Language exam - such foolishness within people never dies, huh?), I don't think so! 

Even though yesterday - my first proper day with absolutely no revision or exam panic clouding a second of my time - made me feel like I had wandered into an alternate universe because it suddenly dawned on me that I now have so much free time without my studies, I'm slowly but gradually adjusting to life beyond GCSEs. Although I always knew that this moment would come - because, if it didn't, I might as well be living a prison sentence! - I was so focused on getting through my exams that I had forgotten about life after them, yet I don't think that any amount of preparation could have made this transition process any easier. 

Undoubtedly, I could not be prouder of my efforts and hard work over the past two years and, fingers crossed, Results Day on 25th August will be a day filled to the brim with utter joy and elation - in fact, I seriously think that my teachers are more impatient to find out my results than me! Of course, not everything was as flawless as everyone secretly hopes and wishes life would be - especially as Maths and Science have long been my weaker subjects (hence why I respect and admire anyone who flourish in them!) - but now I have done my absolute hardest and will have to wait two months until my future is officially confirmed. Honestly, what is the point in worrying over grades when there are numerous factors that are unknown, such as grade boundaries, number of examiners and numerous other possibilities? Still, part of me cannot wash away the feeling that I'll be waking up at two in the morning two days before 25th August, cursing myself over my horrifically awful Physics exam...

What now, you ask? That, I don't quite know - and, in some ways, I don't really want to find out yet because, like all magnificent tales, they simply happen without being planned. Maybe I might write a novel after being inspired whilst having a shower, or I could decide to become fluent in Spanish - which, no matter what, I will learn to a certain degree this summer. Or, better still, I might go shopping for some new clothes - well, who would begrudge me such an opportunity? Fortunately, I have a month-long free trial of Netflix to try out, so perhaps I'll create a list of all of the TV shows (and films!) to watch within the space of four, screen-dominated weeks. Ooh, maybe I'll...

No matter what, I guess that the list is endless - and that is exactly what I want this summer to be. No barriers. No rules. No self-suppression - just lashings and giant-sized spoonfuls of unrequited freedom and liberty. Well, what more could I ask for?

Meanwhile, I will myself to lock my AS-level past papers away in a box up until September...