Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from ACM, which has more than 100 mastheads across Australia. Today's is written by Southern Highland News journalist Briannah Devlin. This week, thousands of graduated Year 12 students will be waiting in anticipation for their final results. For some, the results are a summation of 13 years of schooling, determining their next move to university and for others, it is just a set of numbers. There will be a mix of reactions ranging from being ecstatic, indifferent, disappointed and devastated. I graduated in 2015 and want people to know the stress and pressure is not worth it. I got up at 6am five days a week (a thing of the past) to study and get to school early, I spent my weekends revising constantly and blew off my friends to focus. They barely saw me. Why? Because I was my own worst enemy (let's be real, I still am), an overachiever and wanted to aim as high as possible so I would have more options when I decided what degree to pursue. I hung my self-worth on a number because I always did well at school and wanted to achieve my best. Below ninety in tests was not good enough for me and second place at the time I thought was "beneath" me. I aimed for 91 for no particular reason and I got exactly that. And when I saw the number, I was overwhelmed and exhausted and felt a tad indifferent. I know how ridiculous and privileged that sounds now, and knew that then. I know many would love to achieve that. What I am trying to say with all of this is that burning the candle at both ends for a number that I barely think about was not worth it. What I do think about is not letting myself live my life at the time. Sure, I had some great times with my friends, enjoyed my subjects and loved my teachers, but they're not the first things that I think about looking back. I know it is easier than done to say this with years of hindsight, especially when I did extremely well. The HSC is a moment that students start preparing for from Year 10, picking subjects that they enjoy or are "good at", or being strategic with what scales better. From Year 11, students are told they have to be an example at the school and should start cementing study habits for the following year. Then it is all systems go and the slog begins. The HSC is an insular experience and that bubble popped when I finished school. It did not prepare me for anything and I just look back on it as a lesson and try not to approach my life like that. I thrived in the parameters of the school system with exams and studying and that very system is not a measure for success and is not for everyone. To those who know someone who finished year 12, be gentle and kind. Do not let your first question be about their results - tell them you are proud of them for finishing 13 years of schooling and see how they are feeling. If they do not want to talk about it, it's okay. Be encouraging - let them know that they do not have to take the traditional route and they can work their way up to it, or find a new way in altogether. Let them know that they can create their own path, as long as they are happy and fulfilled. Assure them that there is a big wide world beyond the confines of their school that is ready for them to explore and discover who they are. Most of all, just be there to listen and do it without judgement. If you just finished school and you're reading this, I am proud of you and your life is only just beginning. I am proud if you did not get what you wanted, exceeded your expectations or do not even care in the slightest and want it all to be over. And for those who are going into Year 12, be kind to yourself and give yourself a break every now and then. Yes, do as much preparation as you can, but don't let it be at the cost of you having a life beyond studying. Balance might be an overused word, but it is very important. Don't do what I did.