Halfway through year 11, I had a mini-breakdown.
The intense pressure I put myself under to be ‘perfect’ academically became too much and coupled with what turned out to be an iron deficiency, I crumbled.
I blame maths.
I hated maths in year 11. I’d always done well in it up until then, but it didn’t come to me naturally like humanities subjects did.
I had to work hard at it and it stressed me out. Not just a little bit, but an overwhelming lot. I was a mess.
My mini-breakdown made me reassess. I poured over the VTAC guide looking at prerequisite subjects for every university course I was even remotely interested in. Maths wasn’t listed for any of them.
After lots of tears and feelings of guilt and failure, I did something that up until then was very unlike me. I decided to drop maths.
It was one of the best decisions I ever made.
Not only did I drop maths, but in year 12 I decided to only do four subjects (I’d done the fifth in year 11) – all humanities, except for Biology.
My decision received mixed reactions from teachers.
A couple (thank you Mr Barnes and Mr Sweeney) were incredibly supportive. A few others told me I was making a big mistake.
“You know the humanities subjects are all marked down so it’s going to be much harder to get the score you want,” one science teacher told me.
“I think it’s a really bad move,” another said.
But I stood firm.
Instead, I picked subjects I was passionate about. Subjects I loved, like Human Development, Legal Studies and English Literature.
In year 12, I had 10 free periods a week. I used them to work hard so that I wasn’t under as much pressure to study at home.
Year 12 turned out to be the least stressful of my entire high school years. I was a different person.
The change in me was so significant my parents quietly worried (so they told me afterwards) that I’d chosen the most important year to slack off.
I hadn’t. My ENTER score was 97.35.
This was a turning point in my life, not because of the score I achieved, but for the powerful lesson it taught me: Do what you love.
Not what you ‘should’ do. Not what you ‘could’ do.
Do what you’re passionate about.
Do what you love and you’ll try harder; do better; be happier.
Instead of worrying about pleasing other people, I had finally focussed on pleasing myself.
Rather than doing what other people expected of me, I did what was right for me. And it paid off.
My score was well above what I needed for the Journalism degree I wanted to study and some teachers suggested I consider changing courses to Law instead – but I was adamant.
I knew what I loved; I knew what I wanted to do; and so I did it.
The lesson I learnt in those 18 months as a teenager still guides me today.
Do what you love; love what you do.
Pre-mini-breakdown: Sixteen year-old Leah with a wax statue of her hero, Nelson Mandela.
Leah Mether is a communications specialist, professional speaker, and director of Methmac Communications. She works with businesses, organisations and individuals to help them improve and deliver their communications, and step up for success.