I chose Chemistry instead of History which I preferred at Higher because I wanted to keep both languages and sciences open as a university possibility. So I did a boring, but sensible set of five Highers - English, Maths, Chemistry, German, French.
However, my sixth year choices were completely silly. I had decided by then to go to uni to study for a French and German MA. I had received an unconditional offer from both Glasgow and Edinburgh based on my Higher results and so I decided to spend my sixth year doing CSYS (aka Advanced Higher) French, German and Maths. French and German were reasonably sensible because of what I was going on to do and gave me a good grounding but Maths was insane. I chose Maths because I was great at Maths. The problem was I found Maths unimaginably boring and totally useless. Given I already had a Higher, doing the CSYS wasn't going to give me skills I'd need for later life. I probably should have decided in 6th year to supplement two CSYSs with something useful but less academic such as doing an 'O' grade typing (I can still only type with six fingers, even if I can do it fast!) I could have taken up something I enjoyed - like History which I hadn't done at Higher, or I could have crashed something interesting like Biology Higher. I could even have done something I was terrible at, but enjoyed such as an 'O' Grade Art. I'd have struggled to scrape a 'C' given my lack of talent but it would have been fun. My pride wouldn't let me take a subject at a lower level than CSYS because I wanted to prove to me and everyone else I was capable of working at the highest school level, so I sat for six hours a week counting the seconds till the end of that year in a class with four of five guys I barely knew while my friends enjoyed themselves better. I didn't have the confidence to let myself underachieve, as I saw it. Given I felt I was too young to go to uni (because I knew my course necessitated a move abroad in the third year), I should have taken my foot off the accelerator and learned to enjoy being me.
Of course - CSYS Maths would have been completely sensible had I not had an unconditional, but as I had one I would love to go back and advise 17 year old me that it was ok to do something fun for a change and that no one would think me less intelligent for not doing it! I've spent my whole adult life writing books on a computer, so typing would have been much better for me than Maths!
Interestingly it was Marcel's wisdom that made think about this. He was saying how much he was going to push himself in 5th year (which he starts tomorrow), with a view to studying a little of what might broaden his mind in 6th. I guess I must be an ok parent, to have such a wise little boy!
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