The fear in your eyes every time you see a meme about results day. The way you feel queasy and uneasy when someone asks how you think you did.
You envision the midsummer madness, the horror that could come from within that envelope. Name. Candidate number. A stream of letters and numbers down a sheet of paper.
Whether or not your grades are what you hoped for, they trigger the teenage crisis before you even see them. It starts with the near future: the envelope. It ends with your future years down the line; if you go to Sixth Form or college; if you go to university or do an apprenticeship; the job you get; if you end up happy at all with your decisions. Before you know it, results day has arrived. A moment bringing you to tears either with relief or an accentuation of the fear you had leading up to it. Then the question that overpowers all others: "What am I doing with my life?"
Calm your mid-teen crisis. We're preconditioned to feel stressed over our futures rather than acting in the present. There's so much pressure and responsibility to make choices constantly through secondary school and further education. Responsibility your teachers, parents and school peers tell you will impact the rest of your life. Who's to say you aren't making the right choices the instant they're thrown at you? Results, good or bad (usually subjective and depending on how the individual feels about them), are a definite learning curve for the future you're looking towards.
Surviving GCSEs is significant, and grades don't always reflect work ethic. It doesn't mean you can't go to college or into an apprenticeship. It doesn't mean you won't be leniently accepted into Sixth Form. Surviving A-Levels is an immense achievement, regardless of the grade at the end. Not everyone who starts A-Levels finishes or copes with rolling out of bed to sit the exams. Doing them with the cards you were dealt is something exam boards don't reward, but something you should proudly recognise. So long as you put in the effort, that's good enough. Dreading the outcome is less productive than pragmatism. Sit back and rejoice during your break, and consider researching alternatives to swimming down the typical Sixth Form to university stream.
Maybe you can't shake that uncertainty surrounding long-term goals and what career you'll have by the time you're thirty-something. Or, maybe you're certain you'll study the degree at the university of your dreams and do the career you've thought about before you were even born. In both instances, one thing is the same: nothing goes exactly as planned. You could get that medicine degree and end up specialising in neurology rather than dermatology. You could study English and find yourself working at NatWest. You could rediscover your passion for the violin and leave your maths degree behind altogether.
Maybe you'll work through life with nothing. No GCSEs, A-Levels or a degree to show. Einstein was expelled at sixteen, Maya Jama left college, and Alan Sugar has only one GCSE. Scientist. Presenter. Businessman. Why freak about grades when they were successful without following conventional routes? Who needs a teenage crisis questioning the future? If you want something, go get it. You don't need a crisis to halt your progress.
When I was younger, I thought a mid-life crisis caused a turbulent spiral in your fifties. Now in my late teens, I could debunk the theory five-year-old me had about not having a crisis until fifty. Five-year-old me was certain she wanted to be a vet, an author, even a bus driver. She could never have imagined the rocky road I've been on trying to discover what I truly want to do now. Eighteen-year-old me just wants a burger (without the side of crisis), and her life plan is a work in progress. It's getting somewhere, and it’s coming soon. Whoever you are, forget the teenage crisis. Focus on your present. Go get your burger. The only question left now is: "What are you doing today?"