Sunday 23 October 2016

Exam Diary: I've learned more about myself than grammar

Dearbhail Clarke

Published 16/06/2015 | 02:30

Dearbhail Clarke
Dearbhail Clarke

'Inspiration' is a word that's been rattling around my head a lot lately. It's an incredibly powerful insight on human empathy: that we can take strength and instruction from the admirable actions of others. It gives you hope.

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Take, for instance, the recent coverage of Alicia Tobin, the young woman who is going through her Leaving Cert exams despite being diagnosed with leukaemia. Alicia is an inspiration, a testament to the resilience of young people once we're focused on a goal.

But it doesn't just end there. Alicia isn't just this solitary achievement on a news headline - she's a girl, the same as I am. She's a multi-faceted human who relies on the daily support of her family and doctors and friends, as they rely on her for her level-headed attitude, for her determination.

No man is an island. Every achievement doesn't just belong to ourselves: it belongs to the people who supported and inspired us. I'm exiting this academic milestone as a far stronger person than I entered it, and for this I can thank every person along the way who stopped to help, or be helped - however big or small the deed.

Yesterday's physics paper made reference to Nikola Tesla, the admittedly eccentric inventor whom every sci-fi geek holds dear for his passion for technology and the future. I'm not much of an engineer, but Tesla and I share a core belief: that the world can be deciphered and improved upon gradually by the weight of human innovation.

This is our duty. We can learn from the great minds of the past. They've built the mechanisms for us to improve upon. We owe this to ourselves, and to our loved ones and our teachers. We must make the world a better place in whatever way we can.

That's the thought that inspires me, that's driving me forward without the cocoon of secondary school around me. I've been given this education, and I have a clear duty to build upon it.

Even with this firm belief inside me, I'm not looking forward to the reality of Spanish and chemistry today. I've come down with some horrid infection which, combined with the sluggish humidity of the weather, has my brain working at a decidedly less-than-optimum speed.

My Spanish grammar rules and my organic chemistry rules are jumbled up and my translations have been filed in with my titrations. My brain and my bedroom are in the exact same state: horribly messy, with towers of discarded textbooks, jumbles of paraphernalia distracting me from the necessary information.

Still, there's no point in getting into a flap. At this stage I've pushed back the worries about whether I'll get the points for my first choice or not. It's hardly relevant. I've given this year my very all from start to finish, and it has taught me more about myself than it has about grammar rules. I've learned to trust myself. Regardless of what happens today and in September, I will make the most of it.

I urge you to do the same.

Dearbháil Clarke is a pupil at Meán Scoil Mhuire in Longford.

Irish Independent

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