I want to start with an entry from my diary.
“3rd of June, 2014.
Night before my Leaving Cert. Really trying to stay calm even though I know it’s only English Paper 1. I feel really nervous. Nervous that a title I’ve prepared won’t come up…. Nervous for many things really that I’m just not sure how to put into words right now. I just really hope I can say that the first will be okay and then I’m sure I will be okay… Ugh, regardless of all the leaving certificate students saying it’s grand… They have completed the exams, this is just so terrifying in the moment.”
I remember at the start of the Leaving Cert in school I promised myself I wouldn’t let it get to me. I wouldn’t let it get me down. I wouldn’t let it take over my life. To a certain extent, it inevitably did. I have always loved music and playing music is my solace and expression and as I continued through the mayhem of it all, I forgot what I really loved. Music.
I stopped playing with the band. I’m not even sure when we stopped, that’s how bad it was. All I know is that we did somewhere along the lines and that I wish it was different. When I think back now it was a bad decision to do this. During a year of great pression and stess you need an outlet. Of course, I wasn’t the only one, but if there was one thing I would change, I wouldn’t have stopped. Your mental health is invaluable and as a person you need to respect your body and give it the respite it needs. Whether this is music as it was for me, sport, reading, writing or even sitting down and taking an hour to watch absolutely nothing on TV, do it.
After I finished the Leaving Cert, I realised the things I had loved to do and I stopped doing were all suddenly very difficult to get back. My mind was warped into feeling guilty, thinking that I needed to study every second of every day, and even when I was studying I felt an immense pressure of what was to be done. Even now, as crazy as it sounds, I still think I have some chapter of biology to revise or some french verbs to go over, and that is really just not normal..
Don’t underestimate how fast the year goes by. From September to Christmas it will all seem very slow and then suddenly you are catapulted into your orals in April. What my point is is that you should try to divide your time out evenly and make sure what needs to be done one week is done that week, don’t leave it fall into the following week. Study hard when you are supposed to be studying. Whatever you do, do not fall into the trap that there is always cramming to turn to. Biology was one of my favourite subjects that I studied in the Leaving Cert and I studied each and every chapter inside out. Yet the night before my Biology exam, I also had to study for Irish Paper 2 which was also on the following day. (Don’t ask me what genius put those two exams on the same day….) Long story short, I took Irish for granted attending a Gaelscoil and suddenly I had the whole course to revise the night before. I planned to revise biology first, yet when I opened the book my mind rejected everything I was trying to recite. I experienced a complete brain freeze and pages I had studied for months and months, I had suddenly forgotten and could not even recognise. It was a horrible experience and so I could not study neither biology or irish that night and it is certainly an experience I would not risk at all costs. Luckily for me I work very well under pressure and I was able to pull myself together the following day with the help of two close people to me in my life.
I’m not sure why I wrote this blog. Maybe it’s because you are suddenly supposed to forget about a year that took so much from you so quickly. Leaving Cert doesn’t end when the last day of your exams finishes. It drags its way back into your life again and again, be it the exam results, cao offers, course swaps, general conversation or in your mind. That’s why it is so important that you look after yourself both physically and mentally. Sometimes when I got home from school I would run, other times I would nap. What I’m saying is that it is okay to run or nap and feel the journey.
It’s indispensable that you consider your college choices carefully. Do not be fooled by a course name – study the modules in detail and ask yourself will you enjoy studying these on a daily basis. So many of my friends have switched courses already! It is really worth thinking in depth about your future and what you actually want to study and want to become. This idea may seem very basic but you would be surprised how many people get it wrong.
Finally, the Leaving Cert isn’t the be all and end all. There’s a life outside it if you look closely enough. It’s all around you. Remember that your results don’t define you and they are not your person. You are you, not the Leaving Cert, and that won’t ever change.