Sunday 22 April 2018

Exam Diary: Three essays later and I switch from grumpy to chuffed

Dearbhail Clarke
Dearbhail Clarke

Dearbháil Clarke

The only downside to documenting my Leaving Cert experiences is that I can't really turn my back and mutter "I don't want to talk about it" to an entire newspaper.

We all have those days. People often get grumpy and tired, and I am in an age group predisposed to grumpy tiredness. It's our resting state, until something better comes along.

Inevitably, something better does come along. On Wednesday night I attended the book launch of my biggest role model, the local author Belinda McKeon.

I was so surprised and overwhelmed by the support I received there, not only from her, but from the assorted characters of my childhood: neighbours, friends, the old schoolmaster who had always encouraged my writing, even Irish Independent readers who I didn't know.

Moments like that make you consider everything in a new light. No matter how much we grimace and want to escape our dingy little hometowns, they will always have a hold on us. There will always be some corner of the world that stores your memories for you, quietly packing them away, waiting for you to come back.

And you will come back - once you've scrubbed away the teenage resentment for the place and once you've escaped from the constricting tedium of your life there. I'm sure that once I've run free for a while, my hometown will feel more like a comfort than a cage.

The next day I had to erase those grandiose thoughts. I had to forget that there's a whole wide world out there and squirm back into the confines of my uniform for the art history exam.

And I got grumpy about it. Art history is a terribly broad curriculum that's never allocated enough time in class. The exam papers are always confusing, unpredictable messes, and the marking schemes, if they exist, are erratic and whimsical from a student's perspective. You can never feel prepared enough, essentially. Well, I didn't.

I was sitting alone in my hall just before the exam, frowning deeply. All of those study notes, all of those practise sketches and gallery visits and essays were just going to go to waste, because in that moment I could not remember a thing about art history. It was a horrible feeling, borne of nerves and uncertainty.

Well, it had to be done. I opened the paper, circled some familiar questions and started writing. And continued writing. I scribbled furiously to the very end.

I don't know where he came from, but apparently there's a shy little art historian in my head who retained every necessary piece of information. He covered the facts, and I put fancy vocabulary and drawings around it.

Together, we wrote a surprisingly passable three essays. Then he toddled back into my subconscious and shut the door, and I handed up my exam booklet, suddenly chuffed.

Have faith, that's what I learned today. If you're feeling utterly foggy and hopeless, have faith in your abilities, and in the kindness of others. The feeling will always pass.

Dearbháil Clarke is a pupil at Meán Scoil Mhuire in Longford

Irish Independent

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