Leaving the Leaving
After months of aching anxiety, serious stress and gnawing of nails - I made it. I have officially completed my leaving cert course and I have accepted my place in college; and thank fudge for that!
I have tried to hold my tongue on the whole leaving cert topic thus far because for one thing, I wanted to finish it (and know that I wasn’t repeating it) before commenting and I just didn’t want to fixate on the negatives of a situation that I had to continue to endure. Yes I know, cue the violins - but it really is an endurance test for all those who sit it every year and it really does take it’s toll.
I would like to speak for all those who took the exams this year, but everyone’s experience is different, so I guess I can only speak for myself. I worked from the first day of fifth year, all the way up until the last day of my exams. The number of hours of study just built and built and built until it literally came to the point where I was doing over 8 hours a day - and feeling guilty for every moment where I wasn’t sitting in front of a book. (Keeping up with personal hygiene became my new version of a study break)
In the midst of the torture trial of the Leaving Cert, I think I hit rock bottom. I had two exams the following day and I studied from 12 in the day (starting just after another exam had finished) until 10 that night - literally rocking back and forth on the floor reciting notes to myself, swathed by blankets and supervised by my mothers worried stares.
This isn’t me looking for pity or a pat on the back but the truth. I know that I wasn’t alone in the dramatic intensity with which I was studying - but it is just the fact that any of us had to be subjected to that. I don’t like to call the system into question if I can’t offer a solution, but I would like to say that I have enough first hand experience to know that this can’t be right. Particularly if after all the hard work, some people still don’t get what they want. It can be mind boggling.
I emerged from my exams looking like many of my peers - absolutely exhausted, and frankly, quite ill looking. Then the worst is over… but you still have to wait two months until you get the results. Which you know, despite the comments of the twitter warriors, do in fact play a part in dictating where you end up in life.
No - it is not the be all and end all because there are many ways to accomplish what you want in today’s world. But depending on where you get to go to college - it dictates the people that you meet, the job you get and perhaps, if you believe in all of that kind of stuff, what you do all the way along for the rest of your life.
I have begun to view it as emerging from the fiery pits of hell to be allowed to get on with the rest of my life. But should we have to burn?
So yes, I emerged, largely unscathed, and I get to do what I want in college. But what about all those who weren’t accepted but worked just as hard as I did? What about those who have to accept their third or fourth choice - or perhaps those who have to subject themselves to the whole process again to try and get what they want?
I like to remain positive - I think it’s just part of my personality - but exam stress stripped away a few layers of that positivity because god damn that was hard.
Good luck to all those who have to endure it - because somehow the education system still thinks it’s okay to base your life off how you do in one exam…
(also, since I am sure this whole thing will haunt me for a while - I'm sure that this won't be my last article on the topic!)
First seen on Tralee Today where I write weekly articles :)