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An Exam Season Reminder

Hello, shouldn’t you be doing something else just now? Like writing essays or equating equations? Exams began yesterday, remember.

Of course, I don’t mean that. No, really, please stay.

If, like most of us, you’re trying to wade through deadlines just now, attempting to guess what might come up in exams, or struggling with essays that just won’t be written, there may be a thousand questions currently doing somersaults through your head. Aside from how you’re going to do the task itself, what’s going to happen if you mess it up? Will it mean a re-sit? Or just a low score? And, wait, what about next semester, next year, and beyond?

It can all be a bit of a nightmare, and at some point it just gets too much. I know I get to a stage where I can’t process anything clearly, as if the cogs won’t stop spinning. And when I finally get back to some calm, I wonder sometimes, should we really be putting all this energy into chasing an academic grade?

ID: a half chihuahua, half yorkshire terrier being really cute with a squeaky toy

Often, my response is to go straight back to writing the essay, and personal development gets brushed aside. It can wait until after next week. Except that next week never comes. And, you know what, I really can’t help but think that this just isn’t the best way to do things.

Now, of course, only you can arrange your own priorities. But isn’t life too diverse, too wild, too beautiful, to be confined solely to academic goals? Aren’t growth and development organic? Don’t they have an uncountable number of forms, of which every one is worthwhile?

Well, it’s hard to believe this sometimes, when so many years of school seemed to teach us that, above all else, we needed a stable career, and for that we needed high grades. It’s hard to believe when you receive incessant emails, comments, phone calls from home, and so on, reminding you to read this, finish that, and not forget to submit the next thing. While I’m nobody’s idea of a life coach, I just feel like all this pressure creates a damaging frame-of-mind. It’s not healthy. It’s not realistic. And perhaps worst of all, it ignores completely our sense of self.

Because this, really, is something that can’t be developed through grades alone. As whole and diverse beings, we shouldn’t be expected to pin everything on achieving high scores. All the things that we enjoy doing, in fact, from the books we choose to read to the places we choose to go, the nights spent cooking to those spent going out, a day curled up on the sofa to a Sunday solo adventure – all of them help us to decipher our identities, and, well, to learn to love ourselves.

ID: a baby highland cow in melted snow

If this is true for everyone, then it’s especially true for queer people. So many of us missed out on years’ worth of development, because we’d been told to follow a narrow path, a path that we just couldn’t fit down. So we’ve had to forge our own; to find our own people; to find our own selves. That doesn’t change just because it’s exam season – it’s a daily reality of being queer. And, yes, it’s hard sometimes to keep growing and developing, but seeing the results of what you’ve taught yourself, and getting to know who you are at heart, can be some of the most amazing learning there is. True, it doesn’t come with a little feedback form, and you can’t exactly put a number on it. But, you know what, I reckon this sort of learning is just too important for such things.

Of course, if you’re looking for advice on either academic success or personal growth, please don’t take as gospel the words of a lost, dysphoric sub-Honours student, who has a week to write three essays and is currently trying to meet a blog deadline... Every being has their own needs and priorities – and if you’re struggling with any of them, then please get help from someone who can provide it better than me. I just want to remind you that, this exam season, as ever, you are more important than your grades.

So whether it means doing the things you enjoy the most, taking some time to grow, or just being kind to yourself, remember that you deserve more of your love and attention than any assignment ever could. You are more important than any score could ever be. Because while degrees can be marked out of twenty, your own worth, frankly, could only ever be described as infinite.

By Clio (they/she/he)


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