Friday, 4 December 2015

the undying impacts of a constant

As an eleven-week summer departed, I collected my thoughts, in "the final few hours of endless days and starry evenings, fuelled only by prospects and ambition", writing that "I hear the rain at the window, and comforted, my mind bloats with sincere content".

I returned to school in September to find this sincere content tainted with an unfeeling sense of amiss. 

I had written in my journal sometime in the summer- undated, 'academic expectations terrify me, a curse only of one's making. What if A-levels aren't for me? What if my essay skills are decrepit, figurative fabrications - full of great sentences without great analytical meanings?'. Well, to some extent, it rang true.

I am shaped by my own complete dependence on my one constant: academia. My constant is synonymous with my own identity, two indistinguishable parts, each too deeply invested into the web of the other to escape from.

Yet two days of sixth form had pervaded me with a sense of unease, a feeling of not quite fitting in. My constant had quite suddenly become not so constant. 

I strive for academic achievement in the most archaic form; letters and numbers on an ink-pressed page, the slow infusion of authorised fulfilment. I have an inherent need to learn, to immerse myself in education. Academia brings me the relish of an objective praise - though a very subjective objectiveness, it feels me with a certified achievement of some sort.

Perhaps our constants do not objectively exist either - but instead are subjective, a creation of our own wills and desire.  These moulds are not innate, but extrinsic, and are something created out of nurture. I thought that A-Levels would sustain my constant, but I didn't fit. 

Perhaps the dichotomy truly lay in the knowledge of another path, another mould, another lock. My school also offer the International Baccalaureate - an international qualification comprising of 6 subjects, a core study, an extended essay, and an extra-curricular programme. 3 subjects are studied at higher level, and 3 at standard. The programme requires you to study a course in language and literature, language acquisition, individuals and societies, the sciences, mathematics, and the arts. I had debated IB V. A-levels in post-16 choices, but ultimately decided against the IB - self-doubt reigning paramount in science, maths and language (French). However, my GCSE results, culminating with my initial experience of A-Level classes, directed me into speaking with the head of sixth about possibly transferring across to the IB.

I transferred, temporarily, and my journal reads of the 12/09, 'a deep terror rises within me, nauseating pressure shutting me down.  I am a knot of questions and self-doubt. This fear, clouded by self-doubt long awakened, quickens my pulse and my chest hums with unsolicited anticipation, a sharp intake of ambiguity'. 

3 weeks passed in a blur, every few days switching back to A-levels or back to the IB. I found myself in a state- sleepless, nauseous, drawn into a downcast spiral of the unknown and fear of the future. I was distraught; empty; a meandering morass of questions and fear. 

"And I see myself, flat, ridiculous, a cut-paper shadow"Tulips, Sylvia Plath

In this void I lost sight of the facts, and it seemed the dilemma itself was hindering me more than the counterparts of the dilemma. My constant was no longer a constant, and the fear of committing to a new, uncertain mould of the same constant plagued me. 

My heart rested in A-levels, in my dreamy creations - in my own subjective objective academia. But this is a paradox, and does not work. 

My heart was in the dream, leaving no heart in the pragmatic reality. 

Thus, 3 weeks into school, I made the final switch in a meeting with one of the heads of sixth and my parents. I was exhausted, a shadow of my former self, a manifestation of fear. My constant had plagued me.

I had to let go of my A-Level dream. 

Now, 3 months into the IB, and I live without regret. I study English Literature, history and philosophy at higher level, and environmental systems and societies, French and maths at standard level. 

Often my doubts reign paramount; a fearful, figurative choking on the gruel of ambiguity. But my mind is focused and my body no longer despondent, my thoughts now fulfilled. 

I am swamped beneath an endless to-do list. I have little free time, and, once again, my academia has become the focus of my existence. Perhaps it never relented, but it is back, anew, and I am shadowless; a stronger, more resilient self. I needed the challenges of archaic academia, and it is through the IB that I think I have found it. 


Often the line between reality and belief becomes permeated with so much expectation that we are indoctrinated to fulfil it, leaving us cast with self doubt. Often I don't know where personal hopes end and expectations begin, and it is at this point that I don't know what to believe, and I find my myself at a loss.

It is in this fateful juncture that you must confront the roots of the constant and control them. You must tend to your foundations just as much as the walls built upon them. When my constant faltered, I found that you cannot build on an unstable foundation without disaster.

The dilemma now exists as memories lost to dreamy distortion, words caught in my throat, the undying impacts of a constant. Perhaps it was not such a revelation or an uncommon realisation, but a calling of my constant to re-assess, to widen my eyes and dispel naivety.

As the wind howls in burnt autumn leaves, I leave behind the season of my faltering with my thoughts and hopes carried in eggshell veins. Delicately, I hurl myself through this one window of opportunity, simply hoping to land.

I guess sometimes we forge our own path, our own mould, our own lock. In throes of reflection, I'm reminded of Frost's poem, The Road Not Taken. I suppose that surmises my thoughts right now.

Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.


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