Just take the example of my Higher results (rather topical this week, given that this year’s Higher results have just been released here in Scotland and are “the best ever”). I should confess here that out of all the academic exams I’ve ever sat, I only once dropped to a B grade – and that was in my Higher maths. Now, most sensible people would be very happy to have only one B, but being the self-confessed sad perfectionist that I am, that blinking ‘B’ still haunts me to this day. Try as I might to forget about it, it is always there, lurking in the back of my mind.
And my mathematical misery is not completely alone in my murky cerebral recesses, because keeping it company are the failed cycling proficiency test (the result of my far-too-busy farmer father’s failure to fix the brakes on my bike before the test and a crushing blow to any 11-year-old!). There is also a skulking lone German word “Nelke”, which had the audacity to pop up in my O’Grade German exam (bear in mind that we’re now talking 34 – thirty-four! – years ago) and which, Ach Du Liebe, I did not know. My agony was made infinitely worse upon emerging from the exam hall, when my arch rival in the German class informed me smugly that he had known it meant “carnation”. I’m ashamed to admit that ever since that moment, I’ve struggled to subdue a wholly unreasonable resentment towards this lovely, unsuspecting flower species.
So that is what the next 12 months are going to be about: changing my paradigm as I flail through my fiftieth year – putting myself to rights. That means I’ll be cutting down on calories (and yes, that includes my favourite cocoa bean derivatives), forcing myself to tackle the mile-high pile of paper on my desk (and the kitchen table and the coffee table and the sitting-room floor …), and stop punishing myself perpetually for things that happened a very long time ago and that were never really that important in the first place. It’s not going to be easy – nothing that’s worth doing in life ever is – but luckily, I’ve never been afraid of hard work. In fact, I have something to say to you, “Oh 50th year of my life,” (I knew that vocative case that I learned for my Higher Latin would be useful one day…): “BRING IT ON!”