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I may never have read Chaucer - but Trinity, here I come


Dearbháil Clarke - Exam brief

Dearbháil Clarke - Exam brief

Dearbháil Clarke - Exam brief

It Is incredible how much we can change in short periods of time. I'm vividly recalling a day in mid-September of last year, when I was sandwiched into a school bus on the way to the annual careers fair in the RDS.

I was apprehensive, as I often am. I was sitting alone, with my knees crossed tightly. I was scribbling notes and questions into my pile of prospectuses. I was even wearing a neat matching scarf over my school uniform, to afford it the sense of private-school class which it sorely lacked. I was busy creating a persona of aloof professionalism to hide in.

I've always wanted to study English Literature in Trinity College - ever since I was a country-bumpkin child gaping up at its imperious library. It's always been a lofty desire, beaten back by common sense and rebuke. It always felt like something that was above me, something which was unachievable.

Even last year, I felt like I had to pretend to be someone else to stand a chance there. Whenever I imagined studying in Trinity, I saw myself being leapt on for never reading Chaucer or not knowing the first thing about Old English.

I baulked at the thought of getting over 500 points. That was just unreachable. That wasn't me.

It's so easy to be woefully insecure when you're trapped in the secondary school system. You're at the mercy of teachers and the State Examinations Commission, so you can never feel fully in control.

The courses are so large and wide-ranging that there will inevitably be something that you are bad at, and you will inevitably take that to heart.

You cannot quantify yourself like that, though. I didn't end up with my first choice of English and Philosophy by wearing scarves and reading Chaucer.

I got here because I put in hard, sustained effort and decided that I wasn't afraid to aim high. I'm not a child prodigy - I'm not even sure what I'm doing most of the time - but that doesn't mean that I can't achieve my dreams. It just takes work.

Who I am today is almost the polar opposite of who I was last September.

Instead of being well-dressed and prim, I'm lounging about in a tracksuit. Instead of withdrawing from others, I'm celebrating our successes together. Instead of being crushingly unsure of myself and my choices, I'm beamingly proud and excited for the future.

What caused the change? I made it through the Leaving Cert! No exam will ever come attached with such a build-up of anxiety, doubt and national attention as the one we've just fought through.

No matter what comes next, you should be so proud of yourself for achieving this.

My congratulations, everyone. Life begins now!

Dearbháil Clarke was the Irish Independent Leaving Certificate exam diarist for 2015. She is a former pupil of Meán Scoil Mhuire, Longford

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