Freedom. I can breathe.
It’s over. Finished.
I feel happy. Taking a deep gulp of air, I smile, slowly, gradually. But the result is the same. I can feel the elation skirting across my bones. The adrenaline pumping through my blood. I could run a marathon. In fact, that’s exactly what I feel like doing. Running. Pushing myself forward; faster and faster. So fast that the air turns cold, blasting against my face as I fly by.
And then I hit a wall. Not physically, but in my mind.
It’s a weird feeling.
Like I knew it was their all along but I keep running towards it anyway. Eventually realising that I would have to stop, but instead I keep going, hoping that I could blast right through it…I mean, they did it in Harry Potter, right?
That’s when the exhaustion hit. Full force. Images of late nights, early mornings, and oh-so-tiring days. Suddenly my eyelids feel heavy, my brain winding down, my steps are smaller and turn into more of a shuffle.
A deep breath.
The feeling…I cannot explain it, really. It’s like suddenly being airborne. By the time you realise it, you’re falling again…and then you face plant.
One word. Not even a word, really.
Just an acronym. Three letters.
“The most important moment of your life, so far…”
“Direct your future…”
Well I’m calling bullshit.
Yep, that’s right. I’m calling you out.
THE BOARD OF STUDIES.
Stop feeding us crap.
Ironic, isn’t it?
We go through life being reassured by our parents, our teachers – hell, even our peers have taken part in encouraging us to “be yourself”
Be original. Like that’s so easy?
So here we are; 17 and 18 year olds. Final year of high school. Practically adults…or so we’re told. And not only are we faced with the challenge of being ourselves in a world that is so desperate to make us like everybody else, but even our so-called ‘supporters’ are backtracking all of a sudden and telling us that we need to participate in a series of exams that compare us to thousands of people all across the state.
What is it my mother always used to say? Don’t judge a book by its cover? And yet, here we are being judged by people who don’t even know us. They don’t know our name, our gender, our religion – only a series of numbers. Thirteen years of schooling and in our thirteenth year something as simple as a name is rejected. An attempt to make it fair, an anti-judgement decision. A movement for the students. Again, I say, bullshit.
You want to make it fair? You want to base it off of an individual’s abilities? Then judge the individual alone. A separate entity. Not in comparison to other students. Because who’s better? You or the girl with the wild auburn curls who studies at a school you’ve never heard of, in a suburb you’ve never been to, sitting with friends you’ve never met?
But it doesn’t matter, does it? Because it’s over – for me at least. But next year the process will begin again, like clockwork.
So, walking out of the exam hall, experiencing the emotional rollercoaster that is the HSC, I think to myself; Really? It’s done? That’s it? That’s it.
In the beginning of my HSC year, a teacher stood before the class and said; “You will walk out of your last exam and think to yourself…that was the biggest anti-climax of my life.”
I laughed at the time.
Such rebellion from within the oppressive circle that is the HSC.
It was refreshing, shocking and down-right amusing.
But she was right.
Something that I had built up in my mind, dreaded for the majority of the year and feared for the weeks that came before hand…had diminished. Nothing more than a memory. Already in the past.
It is then that I realised that it wasn’t the beginning or the end that truly mattered. January, October…they were just months – the bookends of the HSC year.
It was the middle that was of the most importance. Because it’s not only the in-between but it’s what holds everything together. The laughs with your friends, the fights with your parents, the polite and at times strained relationships with your teachers.
I won’t lie. On several occasions – okay, it was more like, on a daily basis that I caught myself hoping for November. Wishing for the 1st of November, for my first day of true freedom.
But the shared moments – good or bad – with my friends, parents, teachers; it’s what kept me going. Kept me striving for release. My release into the unknown, the future or even just my release from high school, I don’t know.
I don’t know.
Three words. Probably feared more so than the HSC – dare I say.
An answer, I’m afraid, to many of my questions this year.
‘What do you want to be when you’re older?’
I don’t know.
‘What do you want to study next year?’
I don’t know.
‘What did you do at school today?’
I don’t know.
‘What is the value of x?’
This one, at least, my response varied from: I don’t know to hell, if I know!
And even though I seem to have more questions than I have answers to, and my experience at high school has been far from ‘the best years of my life’, and I will probably lose contact with a lot of my friends, and I’ll never see my teachers again – not to mention the fact that six years of ‘education’ will be reduced to a squint of the eyes, a scratch of the head and a vague thought: that looks familiar…I think? – There is one piece of knowledge that my HSC year has given me that I could never forget.
“A weak latte with one sugar, please.”
Weeks and weeks on end, trying coffee after coffee; cappuccino, mocha, macchiato, latte; strong, medium, weak; full cream milk, skim milk, flavoured milk. So many options but it all comes down to a single choice. Or really a combination of choices. And maybe that’s what life is, an arrangement of events – or a series of exams that come to narrow down our options and eventually we are able to make a decision.
Law. Medicine. Engineering. Business. Literature. Music.
Either or, it’s your choice the way you look at life, or the HSC, or any other event. But from now on when someone asks me what I thought of the HSC, I’m going to tell them that it was just one big coffee experience.