A rant of sorts about the trials and tribulations of the Leaving Cert.
The study is going wonderfully, thank you for asking. For the hundredth time. Is that the answer you would like me to give? I don’t see how much my answer could have changed since the last time I spoke to you though. It’s not the answer I would like to give. My most satisfying reply would be, “Absolutely horribly thank you for asking. Each time I try to memorise the Active Site Theory I find myself wanting to do a Sylvia Plath on it and edging closer and closer to the nearest cooking unit. I seem to have forgotten every word that exists in French except for the horribly obscene ones, which would make for a delightful conversation in my oral. I couldn’t find the radius of the mandarin in my Maths question. I’d be better off speaking Mandarin than trying to find the radius of one. As you can see I’ve been working diligently since I last saw you.” However, I’ve found that this sort of reply typically winds you up in your guidance counsellor’s office where you’re handed a packet of tissues and a leaflet entitled ‘Stress Management for Dummies’. A happy medium between these two replies is “Grand, thanks.” And so, that has been my reply. For the past six months of my life. But I don’t feel grand about my study. I don’t think there is a single person in my year right now who could sincerely answer that question and use the word grand. Yet it is our only reply. Am I trying to shield everyone else from my pure inadequacy, or am I just lying to myself?
I feel like I’m four years old again, when I covered my eyes playing hide and seek. If I can’t see them, there’s no way they can see me. It’s the same logic. If I don’t look at the amount of work I’m supposed to do, then it doesn’t exist. That’s all fine and dandy until you’re sitting in your pres, staring at an empty answer book. Do you know what’s even worse? When you actually have studied, yet you sit down to your exam realising that you should have just sat on your couch watching Spongebob Squarepants like you wanted to, because there is still no way you can answer these questions. In the case of Maths, you could truly let me bring my book into the exam and I still would not be able to find you the inverse of the trigonometric function Sin when x is equal to the square root of pi. And I’m happy to admit that anyone who could is a superior person to me. I provide you with the anecdote of the pres because I have just sat them. Well to be honest with you, I am in the middle of them. To be even more honest with you, I have an Irish exam in about 9 hours. Yet I sit here, writing this piece of work that I’m sure to send to my recycling bin tomorrow because I’m annoyed. I’m sick of sixth year, I’m sick of conversations about the Leaving Cert which have become as banal as discussions about the weather, I’m sick of studying, I’m sick of feeling ill every time I realise how close the month of June is, I’m sick of feeling guilty every time I sleep in on a weekend, and in case you haven’t noticed, I’m sick of people asking me how my study is going.
It is at times like these, times of frustration and anger, in which people use their ambitions to get them through it. They think about their dream of being a doctor, or a teacher, or a marine biologist or a scuba diving instructor, and it makes them sit down at their desk with a little less bitterness than they had moments before. Unlike Martin Luther King, I do not have a dream. I don’t know where I want to be in a year’s time. I don’t want to be a doctor or a nurse or a teacher or a marine biologist, and however cool being a scuba diving instructor would be, I haven’t seen the CAO put that on their list of courses quite yet. Another thing I’m sick of. The CAO. The Child Anxiety Organisation. After all, at seventeen years of age, I am still a child, and I feel anxious to say the least when someone mentions those three ominous letters to me. Like I said, I am a child. I do not have the right to drink a bottle of Coors Light. I did not have the right to vote Mr D. Higgins into the Áras. I’m barely allowed to sit in the driving seat of my mother’s Ford Mondeo. Yet now is thought to be an opportune moment to expect me to decide where I want to be for the next forty years of my life. All of my other friends seem to have a decision made, however ambiguous it may be, it’s better than nothing. But I may as well put bartending down as number one on my list of choices, seeing as it’s the only course that has managed to capture my attention for more than five minutes. I have come to the conclusion that I shall end up homeless on some street, after failing to complete any kind of college course, or any achievement in general. This as I’m sure you can imagine, is no encouragement whatsoever to study for my exams. However, instead of relieving pressure from me, it seems to only add an extra stress upon my life. Not only do I have to do well in my Leaving Cert but I also have to decide where I want to be in a year’s time. And fast.
One cannot possibly understand the trials and tribulations of sixth year until they are in the midst of it. Even someone who has just finished their Leaving Cert no longer truly understands. The brain attempts to suppress the pure lunacy of sixth year, and does so somewhat successfully. What I feel now, I won’t understand this time next year. I’ll think back on sixth year as a trivial event, one that I survived and seemed so much more important at the time. But for now, I am stressed, I am busy, I am tired and I am lacking in a social life. I would go as far as to say that the Leaving Cert is eating my life. So the next time you ask me how my study is going, I would like you to think back on what I have just said, and try to imagine a world in which I do not have to answer that question. The next time you ask, you may not get such an amicable reply…