I honestly can’t remember what results I got in my A Levels. Kinda worse still, I can barely remember what A Levels I actually took. If it helps, I can’t remember my GCSE results either.
I never went to university. Never really liked the idea of it. I liked the bit where I had friends who went to university so I could go up and meet them and we could go for a night out at Rockworld or tootle off to a gig or something but the full time education bit? It wasn’t really me. Not like that, anyway.
Thing is, I was one of those teenagers who didn’t really see much of a future. Even now, I sit here as a relatively old man (by making indie videogames standards) and think “fuck me, I got past 21 alive. How did I manage that?” To be honest, I don’t really know the answer to that either. I just sort of did.
But y’know, it was the eighties and despite the current fad for painting everything in a sort of soft focus neon glow where everything was about the future and powergloves and grids with mountain ranges and The Hoff and stuff, that wasn’t really how the eighties went for me. The eighties for me was marked by people on the news whose voices were obscured or dubbed over lest they hypnotise me into terrorism or something, it was marked by riots, bombs and most of all unemployment. Lots of unemployment.
I grew up in one of those towns with industry on the decline, a small town centre with just enough shops to think “well, I’m not totally fucked if I need a job” and the general idea that if you wanted to get anywhere in life, you needed to get out of the town to manage it. And sure, for many, A levels and onto university was their way out. Maybe if my home life had been less complicated, I’d have saw things differently but when your mum has been seriously ill for a few years now? That’s awkward. Leaving home is harder then.
Luckily, I found jobs but jobs were a way of paying for going out and forgetting about life for a while. First I went into secretarial stuff, the pay was OK, my typing speed helped make sure I got a few nice temp contracts here and there that were usually reserved for more mature women but it bored me senseless. Stuck in an office or a typing pool, copying letters and mailing stuff? It wasn’t for me. But it paid for life and so you just sort of do it. But already, these things were getting thinner on the ground, harder to get a foothold in. The contracts were getting further between, no good that. So I went to retail and did OK, sort of. I wore a suit and I don’t do suits, I didn’t even wear a suit to my own wedding and all that.
And I bumbled aimlessly. I’d fell into a job that did me OK. That sort of went a bit awry when relationships soured so I went off and used my experience from that job to tumble into another. Then life happened and it happened roughly. It’d take an entire blog post or twenty and a lot of humiliating tales to explain away ten years but sure enough, ten years passed and for a good five years or so, no job, no home, not much hope either. I didn’t realise at the time but I’d switched off after my ma died. Thing is, you don’t notice you switch off, life just happens around you and then you’re like “oh”.
At some point later, I ended up with Mrs B and settled down and things chilled out and here I am. A fully grown adult doing stuff far away from conventional work, putting hours in that’d have made old me think “fuck this, I’m off” but the difference between then and now? I’m doing stuff for me, I’m doing stuff for Mrs B, for the kids and on. And that’s kinda OK.
I’m not sure if there’s a moral to this tale, really. Life is kinda weird and weird things, unpredictable things, happen in your life. The one thing I’ve learned the most of over the years is that you can never be too certain about the ground underneath you. My life is so much different now to what it was all those years ago, I’ve lost relatives, gained new relatives, I’ve nearly snuffed it twice, I’m here as a middle age dude with a beard when I didn’t think I’d see 21, never mind past 21. And I have a family who I love very much and friends I treasure both in real life and across the internet. I read more now, educate myself on things more now than I ever did when I was younger. Well, I used to read but I’m not sure a pile of computer mags and 2000ADs really count so much.
I care. Not just in a moral or emotional sense but that’s what I do, that’s what I am when I’m not making videogames. I’m a person who cares. And it’s fucking awful at times. Awful hours because you don’t get time off, you don’t get days off, you don’t get warnings and it’s go around the clock and if you sleep, I want you to know I’m jealous of you and can I have some, please?
Yet, it turns out this is me. This is what I enjoy doing. This is what’s important to me. And you don’t need A levels to get someone else through the day, you don’t need amazing grades to make someone else’s life a whole lot better, more comfortable than it would be without you on hand. That’s not to say they won’t help you get somewhere but you know the other thing I’ve learned from life so far? There’s always another chance to find your way to somewhere you want to be, to somewhere that makes you happier. Even when you think it’s all fucked and done.
If you’d have told me age 16 I’d be sitting here now, happily writing videogames around caring, that I’d be about to throw a game out onto one of the major stores that sells videogames and I’d have the chance to get a game on consoles too? I’d neck my pint, stick Suspicious Minds on the jukebox and laugh. “Bullshit”, I’d tell me. Because I always used to think I knew better. If I told me I’d have the chance to talk to and work with some of the people I grew up in awe of their works? I’d have span round on my barstool and walked off, nevermind. Yet here I am, a grown man getting the chance to do that.
So if you didn’t get those grades you wanted? It’s not the end, it’s not even the beginning really. It’s a thing. And you’ll get so many more chances and shots at things in the future, promise. More chances to get to a place you’re more content. And maybe that’s taking your A levels again in a few years when you’re in a better place to do just that, maybe it’s never looking at those grades again. Who knows?
All I know is that no matter what the grade, you can always find yourself in a place where you can be a better you later, doing something you’re happier doing. Grades or nay. And maybe, unlike me, you won’t have to go about it all the hard way either. I hope that’s the case, anyway. But then, I always hope everyone can be the best they can be, y’know?