In the past few weeks of this newly sprung blog, I have been lucky enough to have ideas drop at my feet, nearly fully formed, awaiting nothing but words to string them together. This week, inspiration is as late as Alice’s white rabbit (how rude) and I am starting to remember those vague first hours of trying to write an essay, where you finally force yourself to type in desperation and pressure-pushing awareness of those minutes ticking past. I, along with many others, am fast-approaching that dubious first week back in class. It’s been a long time (17 months, to be precise) since I made any form of notes, pushed myself to think of much more than what I would have for dinner, or learned a language by reading a book – rather than the much more amusing method of attempting to speak it disjointedly and heavily accented with helpful locals. I have missed studying a lot, the utter necessity of having clear goals is never more easily ascertained than when you are in some form of education. You know that revising for something is hard, but the reward from it will feel good. Simple. This year, in which I haven’t studied or been graded on anything for the first time in my life, has been valuable to me for many reasons but one of the most important ones was the realisation that real life won’t give you an A for working hard for 12 weeks. At least, not often. Success in life isn’t measured by scoring well in essays because, as I have found this year, 6 months out of education will leave you scratching your head as to which novels you had even studied for your ‘best result ever’, let alone what insightful things you managed to come up with. My little successes this year were measured differently, for the first time ever using my own score sheet, the values of which I haven’t finished defining yet but I which I will spend the rest of my life striving towards. Rather than feeling reassured at my own progress from a higher test mark, I was left to the slightly daunting task of coming up with my own little success markers – such as surviving a doctor’s appointment in a foreign language, walking into a classroom and acting like I was in charge (the last time I did this was a drastic improvement on the first), arguing against an incorrect electricity bill. These aren’t the kinds of things that immediately spring to mind as a measured success, and you have to congratulate yourself, which seems difficult and egotistic. These also aren’t the kinds of things that will necessarily be included on your CV, but I bet they’ll be the experiences which give you the confidence to hand that CV in for a job you really want, but aren’t sure you’re good enough for. I am feeling the pressure already from the prospect of the academic year ahead, as well as feeling over the moon that I will be back in the classroom again soon as a student rather than a teacher (hardest job ever. I have so much more respect for teachers after attempting to be one for a year), but I am also determined to keep everything in perspective. Obtaining good grades is important, it always has been a big goal for anyone who chose to go into higher education, but don’t limit yourself to the classroom. You’ll outgrow it before you know it. The grades which matter the most are the ones that we give ourselves as a result of the experiences which make us appreciate or realise our own capabilities and talents. They also make us different. It’s a big achievement to get an A in an exam – I never seem to but I know it is possible. However, it takes a certain knowledge to appreciate and reward yourself for your own, private challenges that aren’t in the school syllabus. I think this is my new strategy for coping with first day nerves. It would seem that it never actually gets any easier whether you’re aged 5 or 20. Except of course, a 20 year old has the option to go to the pub after getting a bad grade… I suppose getting older isn’t always such a bad thing.