Exams are over, and now it all seems so long ago. That morning I woke up with intense nausea, wondering how I would be able to sit through a whole test. I was met with mostly kind eyes: my mum (whose eyes betrayed a hint of trepidation), the intensely lovely exam coordinator (who somehow managed to give me special attention despite having to organise all the school exams), and the gentle-voiced exam invigilator (who oversees you doing the actual exam). I was extremely fortunate to have such kind people coax me into that little classroom.

During the exams, I sat right on the edge of my chair, ready to leap out at any point. It was only when I read the questions and knew I was capable of answering them that I started to calm down. Those days were a mix of elation, nausea, clammy hands, relief, relaxation, and contentment. In the end, I didn’t despise going back to my old school, the one I left because it overwhelmed and scared me.

Some memories came back. I saw groups of people in the halls, girls I had gone to school with every day. Maybe they didn’t recognise me—maybe they didn’t want to—but I didn’t get many greetings. I suppose what had once been a thick rope tying me and them, me and that school, had now become a single, thin thread.

All those eyes made me glad I wasn’t back for good. Eyes that glare and judge and hurt—even if they are not trying to. The smell was also overwhelming—it was the same as it had been throughout the seven years I was a student at that school—and it brought a rush of more memories. The teachers’ faces made my insides twist with familiarity. I remembered choosing navy school trousers that had to have a pocket for tissues—my year-seven innocence now makes me feel sick. That’s when a sea of fear started to drown me, a sea that eventually swallowed me. Hatred that drove me away from other people, entwined with anxiety so strong that it’s blurred all my memories and blocked me from any belonging I might have felt.

When the young Naomi walked down those corridors, did anyone ever guess what she was going through? When I walked through those exact same doors last week, did I experience a taste of nostalgia that felt foreign on my tongue, half-wishing I was still there?

It doesn’t matter now, I am sure of that. I only have to go back one more time to get my results, and then that’s it forever. I think I will be glad I won’t have to think about it anymore. That school existed with me, it existed without me, it shall exist for many years to come—but I don’t have to give it one more thought. And all the bad feelings I had while I was there—it can keep them. I’m letting them go.

Anxiety makes everything seem impossible. But that is a lie—one example among many of the warped vision of the world that anxiety gives you. Anything is possible, even things you have held tight in your head for a long time. Anxiety made me think that there was no way I was going to do my exams, but I did them, and I did well. Realizing that perception is not reality helped me through. Positive thinking isn’t something tangible, something you can hold on to—like nervously clutching the seat of a safe car or hands around a warm cup of ginger tea or watching Murder, She Wrote in the safety of your bedroom—but it doesn’t hurt. Doing exams gave me a good feeling that can spur me forward. Now I can let go of the bad school feelings that held me back. ♦