The appropriate amount of f***s to give: ATAR Edition

Just about a year ago, thousands upon thousands of Year 12 students received their ATAR scores, and I was one of them. It was probably one of the most nerve-wracking things that I’ve experienced in my life… It was also one of those things that was more blown out of proportion than it should’ve been. I’m not sure if this will help anybody, but maybe it’ll make somebody feel better for a second.

The thing is, when I received my ATAR, it wasn’t a bad score. It was actually a good score. Except having been blessed with Asian genetics, I had these unrealistic expectations of myself and legitimately thought that this number determined the outcome of my life. It made me think that if I had tried that little bit harder, maybe in the future I would become some genius mad scientist who would find a cure for Cancer and make a zillion dollars that I would give away to charity.

So, isn’t it a little stupid? Thinking that one number can change the outcome of your future? In reality, it’s what you do with this number that counts. I know I sound like a typical teacher or careers advisor… but the score doesn’t and will never determine your success. Perhaps you might’ve gotten a 99.95 ATAR, this doesn’t mean that you’ll score well throughout university. Maybe you have a certain dedication and prowess when it comes to academics, but it doesn’t guarantee shit. Even if you get a 65 ATAR, perhaps you took a different approach to your studies during year 12, but it doesn’t mean you’ll do badly in life, maybe you’ll even score better throughout uni than that 99.95 kid.

This is where I get to my point. In the grand scheme of things, this number means nothing. Yes, it might make getting into university next year easier. Maybe it’ll save you a couple of steps in getting into your course. However, I can’t stress this enough. The score doesn’t determine your success, your career or whether you’ll be happy in the future. This is all in your hands. If you really wanted to become a lawyer, but only got a 65, you will find a way to be one. You did not work (or play) for these 13 years of your life to give up because of a stupid number. Numbers are stupid, anyway. The important thing to do is to not let this bring you down. If you want to do something, but didn’t get the score you wanted to do it, then f%^* the system. You’ll go through pathways and all that serious stuff.

Having experienced the whole ups and downs of VCE and all those scary results just a year ago, I can promise you this one thing. Nobody gives a flying f%#*. The number of people who have asked me what my ATAR was during the uni year? Zero. The number of people who I have asked? Zero. If anything, we were all holding each other for moral support as we experienced the stress of first year uni. Now, that my friends, was not fun.

Seriously though, with your results, it’s done and there’s nothing you can do about it. The only thing you can do now is to plan for what you’ll do next… Unless you’re one of those crazies that decide to repeat Year 12 to get an ideal score. The truth is, give or take a month, your ATAR means nothing. It never existed… Neither did VCE… Or high school for that matter. It was all just a tediously long and hazy dream…

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Caught up

Living in quite a fast paced society, it’s often so easy to get caught up in the things that don’t really matter. We cringe about the stupid mistakes we’ve made in the past, we worry about the potential outcomes in the future… and all in all, we just struggle to live in the present. I know for the majority of my life, I’ve always thought and stressed out about the future. I think, ‘will I get ever get a job?’, ‘will I have enough money in the future?’, ‘will I get fined?’ or even ‘am I going to fail any subjects this semester?’ Although these thoughts aren’t outrageously trivial, they’re minor things that consume my life.

One thing I realised these past few days is how futile it is worrying about the things that we can’t change. Every day we worry is another less day we get to be happy. This isn’t some philosophical bullshit, it’s just the truth. When we’re so caught up in negative emotions of the past and in the future, aren’t we just depriving ourselves of the moment? When I take a step back and look at how much I stress out on a daily basis, I realise how unnecessary it is. I mean, our lives are made up of moments. I don’t want to look back at my life one day wondering where it all went just because I was too preoccupied thinking about things I couldn’t control or change.

The problem with worrying is that it does nothing except make you feel really crappy. By worrying about whether you’ve failed a subject, is it going to make you pass? By worrying about whether you’ve gotten a fine, will it stop you from getting a fine? No. It just gives you another reason to feel like shit without actually achieving anything. I mean, if worrying actually had these supernatural capabilities of changing the course of the future, then that’d be excellent – but most of the time we worry, it doesn’t exactly stimulate us into proactivity. Hell, more often than not, there’s nothing you can even do to change the outcomes.

So how do we stop this perpetuating cycle of worrying for all you little stress bugs out there?
Firstly, accept what you’ve done. Once we do things, we can’t go back and undo them. By thinking about what we should’ve done instead or by thinking about how it shouldn’t have even happened does nothing. It may take a few days, it may take a few weeks or even a few months… But, you’ll need to come to terms with the fact that you did what you did, and you can’t change that anymore.

Secondly, think about the worst that could happen and how you could act on that, rather than thinking about how it’ll destroy your life. Not saying that the worst will occur, but as I said before, you need to accept what you did and the fact that you can’t change that anymore. The only thing you can actually do is think about how you’ll cope with any and all of the potential consequences. Although you can’t change what you did in the past, the best you can do is to think about how you would react and cope in any given situation.

Thirdly, live in the moment. There’s a high possibility that there’s nothing you can do right now that will change the outcome. So, after thinking about it, or even writing down how you could cope in certain situations, move past it. For me, I recently came to the sad realisation of how out of tune I was with my emotions because of all this worrying. At times I actually need to sit back for a moment and think, “am I feeling happy right now?” or “am I excited for this?” Which is just crazy since I should know without having to think about it… And I think a lot of this comes down to living in the present instead of ‘re-living’ the past or thinking too much about the future.

Finally, be grateful that the worst didn’t happen. A lot of the times we think so much about the negative things in life that we don’t even pay any attention to the positive things in life. I mean, let’s say I did fail a subject, would that destroy my parents’ unconditional love for me? Would it make my friends hate me? Well, I hope not… Because, then it’s probably time to find a new group of friends. What I’m trying to say though is, instead of focusing on what you might lose, think about the good things that will still be in your life. Things might not always turn out the way you want them to, but some things are there to stay.

If you’re a person who worries about the future like me, it’s bloody hard to stop… But the main point I’m trying to make is that you can’t alter the outcome, but you can alter your attitude and actions in reacting to it. So; appreciate the good things, accept the bad things, plan for the worst, but be grateful for all that you have, especially this moment.