It’s going to sound stupid, but Year 12 isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Yeah, you’re the kings of the playground, you wear a special tie and if you’re lucky you get to add ‘prefect’ to your resume. The following is a letter to myself, which I honestly wish I had in my hand during Year 12.

Dear Alex,

Your biggest worries at the moment are what part of the Business Studies Syllabus you’ve forgotten and if you’re going to go to Anna or Davo’s 18th this weekend.

At the moment, you think that that number will dictate your future. You’ve spent 13 years of your life studying, all in the lead up to one number. So, if you take nothing else from this letter please know that your ATAR means fuck all. A week after they are released, no one cares what you got. The only bloke who gives a shit is that one kid at O-Week who is still having a tough time letting go.

You’ll wake up one morning in early December to a flurry of calls from family members demanding to know what you got and they can get fucked. This mark isn’t for them, you’re the one who spent hours studying for that one mark. It’s for you and you alone; whatever you want to do with it is your choice. However, before you decide to use that number I’ve just got one request for you. Travel.

In a few months from now you’ll find yourself in Portugal, sinking beers on the beach coming to the sudden realisation that everything isn’t as bad as it once seemed. You got your mark, and you’ve forgotten about it, you haven’t thought about it since December 17th. You’re going to meet a group of new mates and for the first time you’re going to understand true happiness – not the quasi happiness you think you’ve been experiencing for the past few years.

As You Can’t Always Get What You Want begins to echo out of the speakers at the Rolling Stones headline set at Glastonbury, you will finally realise that it honestly doesn’t matter. The past two years were stupid beyond all comprehension, those late night study sessions, the anxiety and stress all for one stupid number. You spent all this time worrying about meaningless shit, however it’s this realisation that will alter your perspective on life. You’re finally free, go enjoy it.

From the boat parties in Budapest to the nights out in Amsterdam, travelling is going to change you for the better. You’re going to be put out of your comfort zone, from sleeping on the beach to sitting in police stations in rural Hungary, there will be good times and bad. Travel isn’t perfect, but it’s worth it.

At the end of your year in the Northern Hemisphere, you’ll have a clear conscience and a better idea of what you want to do with your life. If you want to go to uni, start an apprenticeship or continue travelling – you’ll understand that it’s your life and whatever you want to do is okay. The problem with many young Aussies is that we don’t realise how much the world has to offer. A degree in economics from a top uni is pretty sweet, but if it’s not your life calling you’ll just be left with a sheet of paper and tens of thousands of dollars in debt.

Everyone around you right now will continue to berate you with statements like ‘your ATAR will determine your future’ and ‘if you don’t study, how will you make it into university.’ They say it with such conviction that it seems like you have to attend uni. But what school doesn’t teach you is who you are as a person. Before you decide what to do with your life, you should find out who you are first. Get out of home, get out of your comfort zone and you will find who you really are – and trust me, you’ll have an incredible time doing it.

Enjoy the days of Year 12, they’re great times. But just remember that there’s a big, wide world out there and soon enough, you’ll be able to experience just how good it is.

ben

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