A couple of weeks ago I got a call from my mum. She works at a local primary school and had experienced an unusual situation where she had been able to draw upon my experiences to assist a young man who was struggling with an issue.
This particularly boy had just found out that he hadn’t got a place at his first choice of school following the release of the results of his 11+ examinations. Understandably he was upset about this and it left him unsure on exactly what he would do.
It bothers me that at ten or eleven years old we are forcing kids into these high-pressured situations and putting so much fear into them that it matters. That is what made what my mother said to him all the more remarkable. She explained to this boy that sometimes things don’t go entirely to plan but that you can always find another way of dealing with them and that these things can work out. She told him that people fail their 11+ but can still go on to amazing things. They end up being a big fish in a small pond. They do law degrees and walk deserts and publish books. She was talking about me.
I was surprised how emotional the conversation made me feel. I’ve taken a number of knocks since I was told I wouldn’t be going to whichever of the Grammar schools it was I was planning on attending. I thought about what she had said for a number of days and then suggested the idea of sending him a copy of one of my books to possibly inspire him.
I’m suddenly reminded of the episode of Friends where Phoebe tries to perform a completely selfless act. That’s what I thought I was doing initially but I soon discovered, just like Miss Buffet, that there is no such thing. I wrote a letter to this boy to accompany the book and soon realised I was actually covering off something I had been holding onto for nearly twenty years. The response is as follows. Whether I get the go ahead to send it to him and if he ever becomes aware of how what he is going through reminds me of how important personal development is…
I understand you recently found out you didn’t get the school you wanted to following your 11+ exams.
When Ms (or as I call her, Mum) told me about it I remembered how upset I was when I found out I didn’t get into the school I wanted to. I know this was about seventeen years ago but the feeling remains the same whenever I find out I didn’t get something I wanted.
I just wanted to write you a little note which I am hoping you can use as a reminder when these things happen in the future. You will unfortunately find that you can’t always get what you want, that there will be things that stand in your way but the things that bother you today, or for this week certainly won’t be bothering you in a month or in a year. There will be some things that will continue to bother you like girls and money, but we need both of them.
I guess what I am trying to say is that no matter what happens, things will always work out and you can find anything you want and get by any of those obstacles. I didn’t get into the school I wanted when I was your age but I went to another school where I made friends with the best friends I have ever had, I worked very hard to prove to everyone and to myself that I could do it and I did well in my exams. I went to college and I went to university where I had some of the most amazing experiences of my life so far.
I became a writer which not only involves a lot of hard work but also a lot of people telling you that you aren’t going to be able to do what you want to do. There is always a way of doing what you want.
Ms told me that you might be interested in reading some of my work. While a lot of it contains content that you might still be a little young for, I have enclosed a copy of my book Yallah! which is about when I travelled to the Sahara desert in Africa last year.