Here is my column from last weeks Examiner’s Feelgood supplement. As it’s exam time I’m sharing how important the Leaving Cert exam was in my life…NOT.
Exam season is approaching but of course you knew that. There are two things we can be sure of this time of year, one being that the clouds will lift and the sun split the stones and the other, that every one alive who ever sat the Leaving Cert will take a deep breath and think “Thanks be to goodness I don’t have to sit that again.”
What other exam in life have we ever sat which has continued to haunt us throughout the years? I can’t tell you the number of nights sleep I’ve lost over the past many decades, waking up in a sweat because I’ve spent the past few hours of what should be peaceful sleep, sitting freaking out in an exam hall where I’m sitting my French Leaving Cert paper having arrived expecting to do maths. It’s always the same, I open the paper and feel that tightening in my chest as I scan the paper for figures and diagrams only to see it’s French and I can’t read a word of it.
Thankfully I’ve survived not only my own leaving but three of my children’s. Genetics was kind to them which meant they took after their dad and had a different approach to the exams then I did. By ‘different’ I mean they studied.
Looking back I can’t imagine how my parents coped with my rather relaxed, ‘I’m couldn’t care less’ approach. Even when I spent time studying I limited it to the two subjects I loved, English and History while sometimes pursuing a third great interest of all teenagers, sleeping. What a surprise when come results day I’d fallen short. I would not be a nurse.
Of course that was rubbish. After repeating my leaving cert, at a time when the country thought there was something wrong with you for even dreaming about repeating, I got nursing and three years later qualified. I’d love to say I achieved that because I’d learned a great lesson in life from my leaving cert disappointment, but that would be a lie. I learned nothing at all from the experience.
I think perhaps my relaxed attitude is a personality trait of mine first identified in secondary school. It was revealed to me during a religion class when a nun was speaking at length, for some unknown reason, about climbing mountains. I was less than interested and perhaps it showed on my face as she turned to me rather crossly and said, “Well, what would you do miss if you came to a mountain? Climb it or walk around it?” I didn’t have to think at all as it seemed obvious to me. “I’d walk around it Sister.” Oh my goodness what a rage my answer inspired. “Typical! I knew it. Always one for the easy road you.” I was less than impressed with her at the time, but perhaps she was right?
During my three years training I always wondered at those who worked tirelessly to achieve the highest grades. Myself, I was perfectly content with a fifty seven if the pass grade was fifty five. My logic was we would all be nurses and no one would care how high my grades were. All these years later I’m still not sure I was wrong.
So as I watch those poor unfortunates troop past my door in the next few weeks to sit their exams I don’t envy them. Ahead lies a lifetime of post leaving cert nightmares. But I am also reminded of something my son said when he was aged five, “Wasn’t it great you didn’t do good in your Leaving?” Puzzled I asked him why? “Because you went on holidays, met dad and then you had me.”
Yes, perhaps there really is no such thing as a bad Leaving Cert?