Exams. Ironically, I've learned more about them from the school of life than I did when I actually sat them. I completed my last formal exam in 2007 before spending the next three years going through various ongoing assessments before getting my letters and my life back. At least that's what it felt like at the time. As a youngish, single person with few obligations beyond work and study, exams and their results took up a disproportionate amount of my energy and life. I don't regret this but I do think much of that focus was both part of my personality and also unnecessary for the final result.
Perspective, it's a beautiful thing. If I knew then, what I know now....
I'd have quit obsessing about results and revision 24/7 and made myself completely switch off from study. I'd have gotten out in the garden more, attacked an out of control hedge with gusto, raked some leaves and then been able to return to studying with a clearer, more focused mind. There's something about being out in the garden that calms and soothes. The freshness in the air, the green, the sounds of nature? All of the above, for me.
I would have been less life and death about failing. It really was the case of 'not making it this time' rather than 'not making it ever'. That never giving up and picking yourself up off the floor both just had to be done.
Or, to paraphrase a great meme I saw recently, 'Doors shut and then you open them again, because that's just how doors work'.
Those failures weren't great times in my life but I eventually learned a few things from them. Firstly, that they literally were just exams. That I have so much more in my life and I am much more than a pass or fail.
Secondly, things happen the way they do for a reason and that trust should be placed in the God's (possibly deeply hidden) plan. Those setbacks earlier on in life and in a relatively minor area at that taught me about resilience, patience and empathy. My own experiences made me able to give something beyond plain sympathy to colleagues who ever needed a bit of support and encouragement from me when faced with similar challenges.
In my own life, the strength I found within myself would later be put to good use in areas I never knew could every get complicated or overwhelming back in that exam defined period of my life. I sometimes wonder where all those exam induced histrionics even went.
For the most part, I'm a lot better with the perspective thing. I've also learned to give something 'a rest' when it's not going so well and switch my focus over to other things that give me more joy and fulfilment. It's not about giving up or quitting but more about stepping back to give myself time to regroup and refocus.
All in all, though. I am mighty glad not to ever have to sit another exam again.
Have exams taught you anything about life?