Recently I’ve started thinking about the pressure put on teenagers, pressure from teachers to do well at school, pressure from parents to do well in life and the age old pressure from their peers. Last night, I was speaking to a family friend’s sons, their ages are all different at 16, 14 and 10. It was fascinating to listen to each of their problems, the 16-year-old was terrified about his GCSE results next week, the 14-year-old was nervous that he wasn’t going to make the right GCSE choices for next year and the 10-year-old just wanted to learn how to play snooker. The latter was the only one I slightly envied.
As we grow the decisions we make become more important and I’ve always wondered why at the age of 16, we are forced to start taking some of the most important exams of our lives and making the most important choices too? Weren’t we always told not to grow up too quickly? At 16 my main focus was boys, my friendships, starting going out and having a good time. These spirits dampen when you have teachers breathing down your neck explaining you will not get into sixth form and therefore will not go to university. At the time I had bigger things to worry about, I had spots, hormones, fights with my mother and I was going to the cinema with a boy on friday night, so where would I fit in my coursework?! By 17 things slightly change, the first serious heartbreak, the first time you get really drunk, the problems worsen and so do the exams. A-levels were the toughest exams I ever did and there’s no half-arsing it, it’s all or nothing. I didn’t work very hard during my a-levels and just scraped it to get into university, but sixth form was probably the best time of my life. The nerves on exam day did however finally kick it into gear for me that I needed to work really hard! If I could go back and speak to my 17-year-old self, I would say to work harder at school, the people who are so important to me that I wouldn’t remember their names and not to worry that boy who broke my heart would get his just desserts. To be honest though, I probably wouldn’t have listened.
The mistakes we make as teenagers make us who we are as they teach us valuable lessons. If I had worked harder at school, I would never have been so nervous on exam days, if I hadn’t crashed my car into a tree, I wouldn’t know the value of wearing a seatbelt and if I hadn’t thrown up in my dad’s car, I would never have learnt I can’t drink tequilla!
Growing up half an hour from Stratford-Upon-Avon has been a blessing for me as a Shakespeare fan. I see the most amazing productions of some of the best plays ever written on a regular basis and I enjoy every minute. As a child I took drama lessons and therefore had Shakespeare’s words drilled into me from a very young age and I enjoyed analysing every quote and finding different and hidden meanings in his words. I was therefore skilled in the art of his rhythm and rhyme very early on and probably understood the meaning of ‘iambic pentameter’ far too early in my life. However, with all credit to my parents who pushed me to go to drama lessons and my teacher, Mrs Jasper for putting up with my childish behaviour during her classes, I learnt an incredible amount. For a young girl of around seven sometimes it got a little confusing but I distinctly remember reading a series of CGP learning books that explained it in easy to understand ways. My love for Shakespeare has lived on throughout the majority of my twenty years and I do believe he single-handedly chose English as my degree.
During my GCSE’s I fell out of love with my dear William for a little while, I started to realise it was no longer fun to analyse his plays when it was every single line for around three hours a day. It also started to dawn on me that I was very reliant of my notes I’d made to find we couldn’t take our books into the exam. It was down to this man and a play I had never read to get me good grades, thankfully A Winter’s Tale was kind to me and I did do well. So when it came to my A-levels and I started reading Chaucer, my love grew back and Mr Shakespeare was a very welcome relief.
To my delight this year, one of my module choices was called ‘Understanding Shakespeare’ and the plays that were to be studied were Macbeth and Richard the third. My father went to the Royal Shakespeare Company the next week and returned with tickets to see Macbeth, three different written versions of Richard the third, including a manga novella and a bright pink t-shirt which read ‘Team Capulet.’ I’m very thankful to have parents that do share the same interests as me and support my love affair with a certain playwright’s words.
As a student I’ve been feeling a little hard done by. My sister recently got married and I found myself cringing whenever somebody asked me what I did for a living. I realised somewhere in between my third and forth questioning that my automatic response had turned into ‘Well, I work for an estate agents whilst I’m at university.’ This way I was being asked about my job as opposed to my studies, so why was I embarrassed? This I still have to figure out myself, I think a multitude of factors were involved. My sister has a number of friends with particularly well-paid jobs and I think that by working whilst studying showed I work just as hard as they do and therefore cannot be belittled. Also, I wanted to show that I wasn’t just getting myself into debt, showing I had sense with money (F.Y.I. This is something I have yet to figure out!) and I think I enjoy just having a general sense of ‘Oh look at me the overachiever!’ I found myself querying these theories for a while after, why was I ashamed of being a student? After all parents save for years so that they can afford to send their children to university for the best possible education in the hope that they will succeed and achieve the best paid jobs. Are we no longer seen as the future generation and are we just perceived as dossing about for three years blowing tax-payers money?
Well I refuse to feel this way anymore just because we have all been tarred with the same brush. We are now seen by the general public as louts. We are the ones that urinate on war memorials and we are the ones in the pubs downing pints mixed with beer and vodka, whilst 24 of our nearest and dearest chant ‘DOWN IT FRESHERRRR!’ Actually most of us aren’t, as with all walks of life the bad ones have ruined it for the rest of us. I can promise you that most of the people I know from university are incredibly bright and the types of students that are found in mass crowds screaming in pubs are in these groups because they have to congregate as no other student wants anything to do with them.
So when I was at my sister’s wedding and I did turn down free shots at the bar and I wasn’t dancing on tables by the end of the evening, I found everyone was referring to me as sensible. This is a word that doesn’t often occur when I’m being spoken about and came as quite a surprise to me and I have to wonder is because I told people I also work or am I just growing up?