Over the past few weeks or so, when people aren’t talking about Euro 2016, or the UK’s EU Referendum, I have seen various mentions of people doing their exams, hoping for good results to help them progress on to a new stage of their life.
This led me to look back on myself 8 years ago, back in 2008 when I took my GCSEs and then 5 and 6 years ago when I took my A level exams, to compare myself then to now.
Another way of referring to this is “reflection“, defined as “serious thought or consideration” or to “think deeply or carefully about“.
I personally believe that people underestimate the power of reflection and what it can do. You can use reflection to:
- Learn from your mistakes
- Learn what you have done well
- Helps you to help others
- Gives you perspective – Over what you perceive to be important, and what actually is important
Admittedly, always looking back to the past isn’t beneficial as we all live in the present and can shape our own futures, but sometimes, it can be useful to reflect on what has happened to get to you to this point in time.
Back in the 2007/2008 academic year, I think I was quite a different person compared to who I am now, although I had also changed a fair amount just before that with a lot of support from a few people at Frome College, due to my disorder, Asperger Syndrome. A couple years prior to GCSEs, I was very introverted, serious and suffered with a lack of self-confidence. After a lot of support from support workers, I began to “come out of my shell”, and enjoy life more when with others as a result of an improvement in social skills and at this point felt I could maintain a relationship / friendship.
When I took my GCSEs in May/June, I remember believing I had failed miserably and not feeling good enough in life. As it turned out, I went on to do very well, and due to the support I had received and the familiarity of Frome College, I stayed there to do my A levels.
I look back on A levels both in a positive and negative fashion, but at the same time believing it was during this time that I began to mature and where I learnt valuable life lessons.
The first year (2008/2009) was a time where I struggled to cope with how much more difficult A levels were compared to GCSEs, where apart from a coursework based qualification in I.T the year in academic terms was mainly a write off, failing most of my exams and eventually changing my subjects and starting most of the first year all over again.
In the 2nd year (2009/2010), due to a lack of self-confidence combined with my academic failings of the previous year, I believed I had failed my exams again even though I felt that I was doing well all throughout the year in my classes. Luckily, it turned out that I did much better and went on to do the 2nd year of my A levels albeit I was there for a 3rd year.
Due to a breakdown in key relationships / friendships, my final year (2010/2011) was one I very rarely enjoyed and I was miserable throughout until about 2 months before my final exams, when after confronting the issues I had been facing, I found my “spark” / my motivation to succeed and then done so in my exams, achieving the sort of grades that I had very much wanted.
At this point, I was at a crossroads. I realised part way through A Level that I wanted to work in I.T , but didn’t really know how I was going to get there. After finishing my A levels, I knew I didn’t want to go to University as I decided that I was fed up with taking exams, and learning theory about things that didn’t seem relevant in life.
I eventually managed to get an apprenticeship in I.T via Bath College, where the placement was with a private company called Mouchel Business Services, where they were providing I.T Support for Bath and North East Somerset Council. I started in September 2011, and at the start wasn’t sure whether I had made the right decision, because although I seemed to be getting along with other people very well, and a select few took me “under their wing”, some of the work I was doing was more administrative (grouping Mobile Phones by make and model ready to be disposed of), changing people’s IT Accounts to reflect their true office location, which wasn’t something I was majorly enjoying.
However, as the apprenticeship progressed, I progressed also. I started to set up I.T accounts for new employees, went onsite with other members of staff to learn from them, and even was given a piece of project work which although was simple (It was basically PC Maintenance), it meant that I could get my teeth stuck into something, and it meant a lot of onsite work, where I needed to learn the various office locations in the Council, and involved contact with many other employees of the company. Also, after being very against it, I did eventually agree to provide phone lunchtime cover on the IT Helpdesk, and that turned into having set days on the Helpdesk.
There were some fun times during my apprenticeship!
By the end of my years apprenticeship, I was offered a permanent position as an Operations Technician, by which point I felt a strong sense of accomplishment. I had just earned myself a permanent job in I.T where I was going to be a part of a very skilled and experienced team of people that I had huge respect for.
I continued to develop my skills, and during a restructure about a year ago, I managed to get a promotion to senior technician… Something I partially feel is deserved, although I do sometimes wonder whether I am ready for that sort of role, especially as it involves having leadership skills which at my age and point in my career I’m unsure whether I actually have.
However, I believe I now have become an important part of what is a very different team compared to the one that existed when I first started. People have moved teams, people have left the company altogether, and with the faith others have in me, and with the knowledge I have accumulated over the past few years, to the point that I am now very much a trusted individual as long as I keep on the straight and narrow path.
Outside of work, there have been ups and downs as well. There has been me trying to understand the relevance of Aspergers Syndrome on my life, meeting my biological mother, trying to understand the effect early life has had on me, and my battle with depression, where with support from friends and counselling through the NHS, I have managed to change my mentality, my thought processes, and my opinion of myself.
This is the point in time I am at now. When I look back on myself, I can identify how much I have changed, from being a shy, quiet lad to now being a more confident, and happier person who can identify my weaknesses but also my strengths in work and in life.
As I said before, it isn’t good to just look back at the past as we can’t change what has happened, and we live in the present where we are able to help shape our own futures. But I personally believe that it can be good to reflect on the past to identify our mistakes, to realise what we did well, but also to see whether we have progressed, to give us as people the chance to either be proud of how far we have come or alternatively to identify areas where we can improve. When I look back, I definitely feel a sense of happiness for just how much I have changed, whilst needing to remember that life is a journey and I haven’t finished yet!!