I’m just going to point out that whatever I’ve written here has been from my own experience and isn’t the same for everyone. Just because it worked for me doesn’t mean it works for everyone else, it’s just a personal insight into my experiences and perhaps can help guide or make some people have that a-ha moment about what they’re going through. Additionally, for non-Australians- VCE means the Victorian Certificate of Education- which is what the majority of students in their final year of high school undertake.
It’s been over a year since I got my VCE results and I’m sitting here reminiscing with songs that remind me of my final year of high school (well, not really). As much as I loved school, the people and the opportunities, I could not wait to start university. Some of the most valuable lessons during VCE were the experiences themselves- not the actual content (the content was still good though, don’t worry). These are the sort of things that I’ll not only be carrying with me during university but also for the rest of my life and I think they are a couple of notions to keep in mind.
How not to worry:
In the years prior to year 12 you’re going to hear the constant “they expect *this and this*” or the “you’re not going to get full marks if you don’t do this” in year 12. The teachers pump you up for what everyone says is your most difficult, stressful and enduring year of education and more often than not, you’re going to feel overwhelmed and stressed out- big time. I did- but not in the common way.
From my personal experience, the beginning of year 12 saw me slightly worried at the fact I wasn’t worried. I was confident. I walked in feeling like I had myself all sorted and was ready for that 90-something ATAR. Fast forward to March and there was my first sign that something wasn’t right. I was sitting in an English SAC when 15 minutes in, I started having trouble breathing. I felt like the walls around me were closing in and couldn’t think straight. Luckily, when I took a few deep breaths, I recollected myself and finished the SAC with five minutes to go. I didn’t think much of it but I knew I had had a panic attack. I just brushed it off and carried on. A couple of weeks later, I was on a flight to Canberra for the National Schools Constitutional Convention and long story short- I was quite sick. My parents just put it down to nerves and I brushed it off.
Come the end of May and I suddenly felt my health deteriorating. There were three days where I was basically unable to do any studying because I was that sick, and the following week I had 5 SACs to complete. That’s when everything changed for me. I had this uncomfortable burning sensation in my stomach. I went to the doctor and he said it was because I had excessive acid retention or something of the sort and gave me tablets to sort it out. As the curious hypochondriac I was, I decided to WebMD more about the issue and saw that one of the causes was stress. I mentioned it to dad and it all suddenly fit.
Even though I wasn’t consciously freaking out, pulling my hair out and having emotional breakdowns, I was stressing subconsciously. Turns out that when I get stressed out, it affects my digestive system in particular. I feel nauseous, endure acid retention amongst other things and I was desperate to find a way to get over it. I decided to talk to my student managers about it and their guidance helped me immensely. I went to see the school counsellor and ended up going to the stillness sessions (which I had spent the last two years dissing and claiming they were a waste of time). Honestly, if I didn’t attend those stillness sessions, I don’t know if I would have overcome the excessive stress.
Basically, year 12 is nothing to worry about. Work hard- yes. But if you don’t get the marks you want, so what? You can get into courses through alternative routes. Year 12 isn’t the end of the world and it’s definitely not worth your health. Yeah, it does help you get to where you want sooner, but when it gets to the point where you’re health is affected, it’s time to reconsider your priorities. Grant yourself leeway, figure out different avenues of reaching your target and most of all, look after yourself.
It gets better.
There are going to be moments in year 12, as in life, where you’re thinking- what in the world am I doing? You’re going to have moments where you’re like- I’m a failure. I’m not going to get anywhere. I’m going to be stuck in a rut. And you’re going to have moments when you’re sick where you’re like– oh dear, I’m never going to be a healthy person again.
Yeah ok- I’ve been susceptible to all of the above thoughts more than once. Yes, me. The one who always seemed to have everything together. Truth is- nobody has it all together. And if they say they do, they’re either lying or they’ve got an odd idea of what that concept is. The reason not many people knew about what was happening was because I was always one to just keep it on the down-low. Only those closest to me knew just in case a problem would arise and they’d have an understanding of what was happening. So from that, I guess I can say that you should never just assume what someone is going through.
A perfectly timed end of year holiday to Croatia and Italy helped me relax and get back on top of things properly, allowing me to get back to my normal self and boy, was I thankful or what.
To sum it up, it’s not going to last forever. You’ll get over it. You’ll be fine. Just calm down and do what you have to do.
I think I’ll keep this point short because it’s pretty self-explanatory. Prioritise yourself. Prioritise your health. Don’t put yourself at risk for marks. Mental health is not like physical health in my opinion. It’s not like you’re putting your body on the line, throwing yourself into a goal post as you prevent the opposition from getting a goal that could lose you the World Cup. I mean, by all means go for it, but personally, I don’t think it’s worth it in the long run. There’s generally no glory- there are just endless struggles and problems.
Things don’t go your way.
Sometimes you don’t get the marks you desired or the ATAR you *think* you deserved. You bust your gut and sacrifice so much just to get a top mark only to fall short. Personally, I already knew that sometimes, no matter how hard you work, you’re not going to get the outcome you desire- be it because of a bad day in the office or you’re just unlucky. What was different about VCE was that quite often, these results were in the hands of the marker on the day. What you consider to be an excellent piece could be mediocre to the marker, especially if they do not agree with your opinion. In sport, it’s generally up to you and your performance. If the referee makes a bad decision, there’s often the opportunity to redeem yourself afterwards. But in VCE, once you’ve handed a piece of work in- that’s it for that piece of work. Another thing I found was that teachers would guarantee that you would achieve the marks you want if you worked hard. That’s not true either and I feel like that’s one of the major reasons I’m writing this point. More than anything else, it taught me a more general understanding that the actions of others can impact you and most importantly, no matter what happens, you are the ultimate controller of your destiny. These people are just obstacles. You can’t let them prevent you from getting where you want to go. And to be honest if you’re successful, you can make as many snarky comments as you want by saying “oh yeah, not too bad for someone who wasn’t good enough to get this and this mark for that and that unit”.
Be organised. Block out your studying. Don’t just go full speed ahead with studying sessions that last until 2am. I mean, if that works for you then good on you. But for the average person, it’s just going to be a huge detriment to your health. Find what works for you and stay organised. There’s going to be a tonne of trial and error and you know what? That’s fine. You might find what works, you might not. But don’t be stagnant and just complain that what you’re doing isn’t working. Find something that will. Be smart about what you do. Don’t stay up until midnight if you know that you’re just going to be moody and unproductive the next morning. Organisation is key. If you’re struggling, I’d suggest to look up how to work smart on Pinterest or Google and there will be plenty of options there- it’s just about figuring out what suits you and sticking with it.
GET HELP IF YOU NEED IT:
What VCE taught me the most was that if you need help, no matter what it is, get it. Go see your teachers, your student managers, counsellor, parents, friends, other trusted people- go to them. Tell them what your situation is and ask if they, or anyone they know, know how to help you out. I can almost guarantee you that there will be someone there that does and I cannot stress (no pun intended) how useful and beneficial it will be to you. It’s not just for VCE, but anywhere. If you need the help, get it because it is going to make your life that little bit easier.