I knew when I chose my GCSEs I’d hanker after everything I didn’t choose, and envy anyone who chose differently to me. I knew I’d regret what I did choose, in the end. I found it incredibly difficult, but in the end I settled on Business Studies and History—boring, perhaps, but the most useful to a general academic not stretched in any particular direction. (Writer, mathematician, marathon runner, musician, lawyer, bridge master, director of a large financial company, fluent speaker of ten different languages, iconic movie villain, film director and screenwriter…I fancied myself as at least that many things. Stupidly arrogant, isn’t it?)
Now it’s worse. Well, it’s what I feared. A friend asks me for help with her Biology homework and I’ve never even heard of half the words she throws at me. But then she asks for help with her French and even though I don’t understand any of the vocabulary I’m using I can still construct a grammatically-passable sentence. Sort of.
Yet we’ve only had five teaching days (yes, I began this post three months ago). Soon I won’t have a clue. And that’s partially good, because I will no longer be plied with questions by people who don’t even care about what they’re supposed to be learning. It’s a relief.
And also a torment, to relinquish so many disciplines in one fell swoop.
I’m overly jealous and competitive, I suppose. I want to do things by the whole. Know everything, or know nothing.
SO WHAT DID I CHOOSE?
English Literature. Although it’s not said to particularly increase a writer’s chances of whatever, and loads of writers never did study English Literature, I thought I might as well take it. It could teach me a few things, and is so well-respected it certainly won’t be a waste of time whatever I end up doing with my life. And my sanity requires a creative outlet. Couldn’t forget that. It must be said I preferred Lang at GCSE, but Lang involves speaking, and that doesn’t appeal! At the beginning of the year I had no friends in my English class; it’s good now, though. I prefer strangers, because I’m interested in how they prejudge me, and gratified when they do on the terms I try to impress.
Philosophy and Ethics. Now, I wanted both this and Psychology, because they both interest me, but Philosophy and Ethics won out in the end because as a religious and idealistic person, I want to learn about theories and concepts relating to the Big Questions of this universe. I want to learn how to form and argue a point of view, and I’m hoping to procure story inspiration from this subject.
How is it in practice? I’m not sure whether I made the correct decision. I already knew all about Plato the dualist, his Cave, his Republic, his everything. In the first month I learnt nothing. And the teacher seems slightly ‘clueless’. She didn’t know whether ‘A priori’ and ‘A posteriori’ were Latin or Greek—and it confuses me why anyone wouldn’t look at them and immediately desire to know! (Latin, by the way.) But I’ve already told that story.
On the first day I also found myself sandwiched between two hardcore atheists, which both excited and unsettled me. Both of them are old friends of mine, fortunately, and the one I used to delight in teasing for his atheism has moved seats since I reminded him of my religious views. Honestly, we can’t have a conversation without his thinking I’m trying to impose my awful Catholicism upon him. Recipe for disaster, it seems. The atheist on my other side has a hyperactive influence on me, so I can foresee Philosophy being a rowdy lesson.
Three months later… Philosophy is my comedic relief of the day. Crazy class. At first I thought it was really difficult to get the marks; now I ‘get’ the technique it’s going better. I still don’t know how useful it’ll prove to be, since most of the theories we’ve studied have already occurred to me in one form or another over the years. But yes. Crazy class. We have a book of the random things that have unwittingly (or otherwise!) been said between us.
Finally—and these the two subjects I knew I’d take even before I took my first GCSE exam in March 2011, aged thirteen and a half—I’ve chosen Maths and Further Maths.
It either surprises people or it doesn’t. Usually they make faces so hideous I know I can never justify my enthusiasm in their minds. This subject satisfies my ambition. Not wholly, but sufficiently. It tides me over. I couldn’t do without the challenge, the stress, the impression.
But…maths…! My passions work together: mathematics and writing. Without one I lose the other, as happened in the summer when I couldn’t write for fear of it driving me insane. And without writing I lose my creative outlet and lose sight of my aspirations. I can’t solve equations if I can’t write. They’re totally the opposite pursuits, but that’s just why they work. There are two sides to me and for nothing would I give up either.
On Tuesday someone asked me what my favourite subject was. I answered something senseless and unprepared, but in truth, I can’t take a broad view like that. They’re too different; they each fulfil a different need in me, and each as important as each other. I have no favourite; I like them for different reasons–and mayhap I can apply that to a whole spectrum of collectives.
I tried to blog, but other writing got in the way.
I tried to do NaNo, but life got in the way.
So it seems I must attend to life for the present, since it demands such.
I’ve had another pitch idea. ‘She’d rather sabotage the family restaurant than tell her parents she doesn’t like food.’ How’s that sound? YA Contemporary, I suppose. Any preconceptions of such a story to help me craft the plot?
Life? I arrived home to an empty house one evening to discover that my parents were in hospital eighty miles away. (They were okay, I just missed a memo.)
On Tuesday my school won a team maths challenge—the regional final, so we beat all our local rivals, to the immense satisfaction of the head teacher team, and got in the local paper (misquoted, of course. Watching the reporters write in shorthand, despite appealing to my inner linguist, rather explained why). I’d post the picture were it not so horrendously fish-eyed.
The first round, the group round, consists of ten questions to be answered in forty minutes. We work together well; we got full marks.
The second round is the crossnumber, basically a crossword with numbers instead of letters. Two of each team take the across clues and two the down, and we’re not permitted to communicate for the forty-minute duration of the round. A killer pair of simultaneous equations rather messed it up, but fortunately no one else did that well either.
Finally the relay, whereby the first question answered by one pair produces an answer T which is then passed on to the other pair in order to answer the second, then third, then fourth. There are four of these relays, and bonuses are attained by answering right first time or within a certain time. The other pair in my team missed ‘T is the sum of the digits of (a+b)‘ and read only ‘(a+b)‘, which cost us nine marks, but since we still won, and bought cake afterwards, it made no difference.
We get to go to the capital next year for the national final (we being myself and three boys superior to me in all appropriate respects, but oh well). When we won the junior version in Year 8 we got several days off school, watched a somewhat gruesome film in a decent-sized cinema (our local one has six screens, and the smallest only thirty seats), and stayed in a four-star hotel.
Besides the maths, of course. Which is obviously the best part. We’ve been practicing in all our maths lessons and free periods. No more practice till New Year now, so I Have Time.
I am learning bridge. I’ve wanted to learn since I was twelve, when I read Louis Sachar’s The Cardturner. A game of pure logic, maths, cunning, impassivity—in short, skill. It exactly appealed to me. After many failed attempts to join clubs, my old Chemistry teacher started one at school. I found it completely by accident.
Let’s just say I was having a ‘bored’ day. I balanced a pile of folders on my head in the corridor, which put the Geography staff in fits of laughter (and made me blush scarlet for the first time in a while), had a disgusting cold, et cetera et cetera, till it got to my free period and I lost control…smashed a plastic water bottle against a wall. Someone tried to restrain me, I slapped him, then completely zoned out for the next half hour, and ended up in the place called ‘games club’ by nerdy social pariahs in the lower forms. And there my old Chemistry teacher was teaching a bunch of boys in Year 9 and 10 the game of contract bridge. I thank God.
So on Thursdays these boys are my friends—surprisingly mature, most of the time, all very bright and banterous, and fun to observe.
I’ve been mooting. To those of you who’ve never seen that word before (I hadn’t), it’s basically presenting a legal argument to a judge on behalf of a client, competing against an opposition.
And since it’s December, carol services and concerts are at the forefront of my mind. My brother’s bass trombone, ‘Mr Rusty’, features predominantly—at my command! 🙂
I don’t think I’ve talked about my Sixth Form subject choices before. And I ought. In-depth post to follow.