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One exam doesn't define you

The end of the year is so close you can almost smell the Christmas trees, taste the ham and you have likely pulled the shorts out of the back of the closet. It's exciting and everyone is in that pre-Christmas frenzy.

Then there are the students about to sit their end of year exams. They look frazzled, kept up at night from the stress of worrying about their results. Anxiety about Covid-19 tests adding to their already high-stress load. Why do we let these poor kids stress so much over exams that DO NOT define their life? There is always another way if the day doesn't go to plan.

I remember being stressed about my exams as well. I wanted more than anything to become an Officer in the Royal Australian Navy and I had worked my butt off in high school to get excellent grades in tough subjects. I wanted to be accepted into Naval College and nothing was going to get in my way.

I got the good marks, I had the physical fitness. But something still got in my way. I failed the medical examination because I have an underactive thyroid. Just like that, my dreams were shattered. I had no idea what to do. My friends were going to university so I signed up for a forensics science degree, purely because I had enjoyed chemistry at school and didn't really know what else to do.

I lasted 4 weeks at uni. I actually didn't really attend for most of that time anyway but preferred to skip class and sit at the tavern, or even hide in the library with a good novel. There was no way I was going to stick this out. I left uni, signed up for some hospitality courses and then threw on a backpack and hit the ski slopes of New Zealand.

When I came home my mind had settled and I joined the WA Police Force as my 'alternative' to the Navy. I loved the Police and I was exposed to many different areas, interviewing victims including children, and chasing prostitutes down the street. When Dad became sick however I decided to get out of shift work and spend more time with him. I fell into the corporate world of insurance purely because I needed a job. I enjoyed the challenge of workers compensation, the technicality of legislation, the differing jurisdictions. I enjoyed making my clients happy. I still didn't have a degree.

It wasn't until 6yrs into my career in insurance that I went back to university. I wanted to study for a psychology degree and this time I was ready and willing to learn. It took me 6yrs of part-time study, whilst working full time to get my Bachelor of Psychology and I relished the joy of learning. I adored curling up with a textbook and a highlighter to read. It was a very different experience from my post-high school university days.

My insurance roles took me around the country and around the world. I travelled nationally and even had trips to Singapore and Fiji. I got to explore underground mines, open cut mine pits, aged-care sites, hospitals, printing presses and see the back-end of many businesses. It took me interstate, to live in Melbourne and it gave me many many friends. I have since moved into a sales role that is not 100% insurance and I love the challenge and the satisfaction of helping clients understand how we can save them time and money with our technology implementation.

All my roles have a theme of 'service'. I enjoy serving my clients, I enjoy adding value to their roles. I feel good at the end of the day when I have served. I have stepped into many different industries and roles since my high school exams, and I have loved every one of them.

It’s almost 20yrs since I sat those stressful exams in high school. I wish I could whisper in the ear of my 16yr old self that the result doesn’t define you – The hard work that you have done in school will bring you success, regardless of what happens on exam day. If you don’t get the scores you need – you can do a bridging course. You can take a year off. You can do something different. What you take away from school is more than an exam score. You take away the love of learning, you take away amazing friends, you take away independence, you take away the confidence to step into the world.

May your final exams just be the end of one chapter, and the beginning of a new one.

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