It’s one of those days in England when lives change: students receive their A-level results, which decide where – and whether – they’re going to university. Opening the envelope (or these days, opening the email) means joy, Heartache, or the breathless scramble to try and find an open place somewhere.
It’s impossible to say to those who are just 18 and whose entire future feels like it must hinge on the grades they receive, but for most it won’t matter a jot in the long run, especially if they want to become writers.
Let me tell you a story. I didn’t receive any university offers. Not a single one. I came very close to a nervous breakdown over it. I was bright but rarely did well in exams. In the end I achieved A-levels in English, History, Economics, and General Studies, along with a Special level in English.
Don’t be impressed; the grades were nothing remarkable. In the end I went to teacher training college for a year, just because I felt I should be in some form of higher education. The quick realisation? I didn’t want to teach. And the course was no challenge at all.
I left. And I’ve never regretted it. I was writing even before I went there, and I continued after. Lots of writing, lots of reading. That was my apprenticeship, my university. Like most writers, I could have paper a wall with my rejection slips. But somewhere inside I was learning with each one.
The year I turned 40 I took a deep breath, quit my job and decided to try and make a living as a writer. 22 years later I’m still doing it. And you know what? It’s the most satisfying – and gruelling- job I’ve ever had. I make just enough to get by. But I’m doing something I love. I had to grow into it, the proverbial late bloomer.
So, in the end, I’m grateful for my A-level results. If I’d done well and gone to university, life might never have been so much fun.