Since 12:30 on Thursday 13th June, the birds started singing and the sun began to shine once again for me. My very last leaving cert exam had finished (I hope!). As I walked out of the school doors one last time, I felt an immense weight being lifted from my shoulders. I consider myself quite lucky to have started and have finished in a turn around of 8 days (including that lovely, cram-filled weekend). I felt every emotion possible during the that week: panic when I didn’t understand the ‘seanfhocal’ on Irish Paper 1, tears of joy pricking in my eyes when I saw Elizabeth Bishop on English Paper 2. That’s the experience, I suppose. But all of these feelings don’t just start in June, the whole 9 months of the “leaving cert year” are emotive and they’re effects manifest themselves in different ways. For me it was crying at Rana’s death on Coronation Street back in March. Interesting, I know!

Let’s be real, every leaving cert student has been told that this set of exams doesn’t define you, which is definitely true. But, it’s hard to feel like they don’t. There’s a real pressure to do well, that most of the time we put on ourselves. It’s a highly pressurised situation, I felt like I had 2 to 3 hours to emit everything I’d ever learned in 6 years. And what happens when you don’t feel particularly academic or struggle to study for whatever reason? What about the important things I’d learned throughout the last 6 years that wouldn’t be on exam paper? What about the important things I’d learned about myself in the last 6 years?

If you are a good studier and put in a lot of effort, well done & you do deserve each and every point you receive in August. There’s no doubt about it, and I’m not trying to invalidate that effort. But there are some of us who find it incredibly difficult to do. I absolutely love learning but I hate studying with a passion. I hate re reading and re writing and drawing 124241419 different mind maps in hopes that it will stay in my head. I would argue that this is something that a lot of us feel. It has nothing to do with laziness. It has to do with how we learn and how we understand.

The reality it is a hard situation. It’s as simple as that. And no one knows where we are going to be 12 months from now whether the leaving cert goes well or not.

But I think we need to take the good from it: think about the memories you have, the friendships you have forged, the things you have learned (academically AND personally), the opportunities that will come your way in the future. Mind yourself and give yourself space. Understand the person you are when you are not studying every minute of the day and not going to school everyday. Reflect but most importantly move on.

For now though, I’m off to binge ‘Killing Eve’, completely quilt-free for the first time in months!

Congratulations Katie! From all your friends at Shona x

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