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Exam diary: At last, I can worry about crossing precarious bridge from my teens to adulthood


Dearbhail Clarke

Dearbhail Clarke

Dearbhail Clarke

Something that you spend a lot of time worrying about, on that precarious bridge between 'teenager' and 'young adult', is identity.

To be fair, I only started worrying about it yesterday, when I had some free time to think about the future. Once fifth year started, I delved into the books and strove to forget everything else.

It's a common case among the studious, and those like me - who are desperately trying to be studious. Studious or not, the Leaving Cert sucks your life away from you. You start to lean on that.

The Leaving Cert is so feared by the Irish public that it becomes an excuse for everything.

"Would you like to go for drinks?"

"No, I'm doing the Leaving Cert."

"Would you like to leave the house?"

"No, I've got to pretend to study."

"Could you wash the dishes for once in your life?"


The worst part is that everyone entirely enables that attitude. Once you drop the bombshell, old ladies shake their heads and mutter "Oh, you poor peteen…"

On more than one occasion, I've heard acquaintances asking my parents when my exams are starting, with a pitying surreptitiousness, as though it were my death sentence.

Now we're dragging ourselves one by one out the other side of our death sentence, wondering who on earth we are and what on earth we should do.

It feels like every other teenager has that sussed out already.

I was starstruck when I went to Dublin for grinds and met my metropolitan peers.

They were all six feet tall, with beanies and colourful jeans and chemical equations written on their skateboard decks.

And there was I, dressed like a businesswoman in her thirties and showing actual interest in the classes.

What are my interests? Oh. Going to orchestras, the theatre, cooking, reading the classics … Oh dear God. I'm actually 30 years old. How will I fit in?

I'm continuously having to remind myself that, even if most of my future colleagues think I'm a boring old fart, there will be at least one who shares my interests. That's all that matters. Finding your own little support group. And you will.

Nobody's expecting a fully fledged person with incredible social skills and firm ideals on the first day of college. We'll fumble awkwardly, but our fellow first years will fumble awkwardly too.

We have so much to look forward to. A new life, with new people and new experiences.

At this point, I feel I should admit that I know nobody taking Classics, Latin or Construction Studies.

If you're out there: I'm very envious of your interesting subjects, and I hope that yesterday's exams went well.

To those of us who still have exams, let's try to stay focused. I admit that I spent most of my day watching the show 'Firefly' and lamenting the discovery that I'm actually 30 years old, but we all have off days.

I'll be finished after I tackle chemistry and Spanish on Tuesday. Maybe I'll watch 'Breaking Bad' in Spanish today. That'll do.

Dearbháil Clarke is a pupil at Meán Scoil Mhuire in Longford

Irish Independent