I got 94.2% in my class 12 board exams.
It took me a week to get over the disappointment.
Now, before this statement becomes a meme-worthy one, let me clarify that I almost always stood first throughout school, and great expectations were pinned on me. Throughout my class 12, the path before me was set – I would be the school topper, and my name would appear on the Roll of Honour. It just seemed like the most obvious thing, given how serious I was about academics. I could feel that expectation mounting on me – from my school, my peers, and eventually, myself. I slipped to the fifth position, and the marks of the other four students were much higher than mine.
And that is exactly why I could not stop my tears when I saw the screen before me on the day of the results. It took me a whole day to stop crying and a whole lot of counselling from my parents for over a week for me to smile again. And now, I am writing about what I had been through after having completed my bachelor’s degree – three years later – for those who might be going through the same thing as me, now that the board exam results are out.
I write about this because I have realised over the years that there are many people like me who fell short of what was expected of them. There are words of motivation that come from people who do well, and no dearth of articles about how marks are not important in the journey of life, to rightfully soothe those who have not done well. But people like me who fall short of expectations cannot take recourse in either of these discourses. Our status quo does not fit into either of those binaries. It is somewhere in the middle – something that is incomprehensible. Very few people understood what it was like to be in my position on that day three years ago. My percentage was not low. It was not good enough – not good enough to satisfy what was expected of me by my school, and most importantly, what I expected from myself. It was the latter that hurt me the most.
Everybody was deliriously putting up Facebook statuses mentioning their percentage. All my close friends were ecstatic about their scores. Some had not expected their high percentage. And here I was, refreshing the results page online in utter disbelief. I had written all my exams well. And yet, I fell short of my expectations in each and every subject by a few marks. I had to smile and talk over the phone when congratulatory calls came in from curious relatives. I used smileys copiously while congratulating my ecstatic friends. I was doing all of this while choking up. An hour later, I burst out crying. I cried my heart out to my mother through the afternoon and continued to have bouts of crying in the days that would follow.
Common statements I heard from everyone who was trying to cheer me up were:
“But 94 is such a good percentage, people have done worse.”
“It is not going to affect your college admissions.”
“In a few years from now, no one is going to care about your 12th standard marks.”
“Apply for revaluation.”
And none of these made anything better for me. It did not feel right to entirely reject the importance of marks as a consolation to make myself feel better when I had been working hard all this while to get good marks. After all, however much we may want to debate about the current education system, good marks, at the end of the day, are seen as the epitome of academic achievement. Yes, other people could have done worse, but this is my journey and it was my own expectations that I had been falling short of. Everyone had a fairytale ending to their school life, except me. I felt like the one left behind, like a loser. This was not how my glorious years at school, replete with the constant appreciation of teachers and peers, was supposed to end. I was sad, dejected, angry, and felt betrayed. It shook up my image of myself – was I the student who was hyped for no reason at all?
But, there was light at the end of the tunnel. Two weeks later, I found out that I had gotten through my dream college in the first waiting list. I had even got admission into the course of my choice in the local colleges that I had applied to. To make things better, I was nominated as the class all-rounder for performing well through the academic year.
Now, I am at the threshold of beginning my master’s degree. It has been three years since my board exam results came. As I look back, I realise that luck plays a role at every point in life. It might not be in favour of you now, but that should not discourage you from putting in the required effort. The only thing that gave me respite through those days of sadness was that I had not slackened in my efforts anywhere. Luck was not on my side. I decided not to apply for re-evaluation. I did not want to fight out what is maybe not mine.
This is not to paint myself as a champion who came out of a crisis. Each time I think of the day my board results came, I still feel the pinch. Things could have gone a lot better, given how hard I worked through the year. I am still in the process of making peace with it. It is not easy. It shook me up to my core, made me introspect, exposed a side of me that I thought did not exist, and made me bitter for a while.
So, to those of you who are going through the same thing now, all I want to say is that it is OK. Give yourself time to handle these emotions. Cry it out. Talk it out. Go through the experience of what it feels like to be bogged down, and consequently what it is to come out of that feeling. Do not let it ruin your confidence. Board exams results are a combination of luck and hard work. And sometimes, luck may not be on your side. It’s OK. There will be pleasant and unpleasant surprises, not just now, but in life here on. You only learn much earlier, what life teaches everyone eventually.
Finally, to answer that million dollar question- “Are marks/board exams important?”
I would say a big YES.
Yes, they are important, but only for two reasons:
Either way, you win, because, in the long term, it is the application of lessons that you have learnt from life that matters and not those you learn from academic books.