The Leaving Cert does not define who I am

THIS is a strange piece to write. It feels as though I’m about to intertwine both an ending and a beginning into one messy, emotional jumble. 

It’s odd to think that nearly two years ago I sat in my room, apprehensively writing about what I thought fifth year would be like. Right now, though, I’m smack dab in the middle of my Leaving Cert. In fact as you read this, I’m done, and about to sprawl shamelessly out under the sun.

Compared to the last 10 months, the Leaving Cert itself was a little anticlimactic. I’m not even going to think about saying it was in any way easy, but I didn’t have to fight off lions with my bare hands while conjugating irregular Japanese verbs like I assumed on some subconscious level I would. It was an exam, one I prepared for and took seriously, and will (hopefully) do OK in.

I have measured out my self-worth with my grades for as long as I can remember. If I got good grades, then I was acceptable as a human being. I’ve been grappling with that mentality this year though, mostly because of how mind-bogglingly unfair the Leaving Cert is. All those thirteen-hour-long days of study could come to absolutely squat if the exam paper is, for want of a better term, mean. If I panic on the day (and believe me, I did) and half the information I had in my head jumps out the window, then what? Try again next year?

I started sixth year with the intention of having absolutely no regrets. I watched a lot of my friends get where they wanted to go last August, and I wanted to make sure that I would be in the same position. I have probably worked harder this year than I have any other school year, in fact probably all of them combined.

However, that doesn’t mean I’m not going to fail a subject. It doesn’t mean I’m going to get the points I need. It just means I tried to.

And that’s a scary thought — because I’ve put my very best effort into this year, if I “fail”, then my best wasn’t good enough. Honestly, though? I think I’m okay with that.

I’ve matured exponentially these past two years. It’s been difficult; I feel like I’ve challenged every moral I possess, I’ve learned about people and about myself, I published an actual piece of writing in an actual newspaper, and now I’m (fingers-crossed) about to start college. I look back at myself from six months ago and barely recognise who I see. It’s phenomenal.

The Leaving Cert, and my grades, do not define who I am. I’m going to be a writer even if I can’t do a decent five-page essay on TS Eliot. This is not the end.

That said, this is my very last article in this column, so it kind of is the end. But I hope we all get the new beginning we’ve been hoping for. Good luck guys.

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