Monday 23 October 2017

Years of toil boiled down one moment -- and it was so sweet

Gavin Cooney

AFTER a surprisingly relaxed build up, it all hit me yesterday morning.

I rose early and was in school before nine o'clock, queueing with the handful of others who reported early for D-day duty.

Every ounce of study I had put in over the last couple of years, every morning I dragged myself out of bed bleary-eyed and pulled on that school uniform, every class I went to, all of the (admittedly few) sacrifices I made came down to yesterday.

The culmination of all of those painful study sessions I endured, when the sun was shining, or there was football on the television, was enclosed within that A4 envelope. As the queue got shorter the butterflies in my stomach were loosened.

I was handed the envelope by my (former) principal and, after shaking her hand, I was on my own. I wandered around looking for a quiet corner to open it. My peripheral vision felt blurred, people were opening their results around me but I was oblivious to them. Eventually I found an empty chemistry lab and steadied myself.

Eventually it was time. I slowly opened the envelope and took out the sheet. I read it again and again. Then it was time for the all-important number crunching. I tried to still my shaking hands as I took out the calculator. Cue the explosion.

I was never allowed into a science lab on my own before, for obvious reasons. Any previous encounter with the equipment usually ended in flames. So god forbid I would ever wander into a whole lab unsupervised: the creak of the door as I entered would be like a death knell for the school's infrastructure. Yesterday I did cause an explosion. However, it was one of joy and relief. For those who are interested, I somehow managed to get 540 points, which hopefully will get me through the Trinity College door to study English and history.

Just as relieving was to see smiles on my friends' faces, as everyone seemed happy with what they got. Everyone was buzzing with talk of college. We still face a nervous wait until the offers come on Monday, but for a short while at least we can bask in the afterglow of our achievements.

Driving home, I remembered what I wrote back in June. In my first diary I quoted Aristotle: "The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet." They tasted bitter for a large portion of the last 12 months, but my, they tasted pretty sweet yesterday.

Gavin Cooney was the Irish Independent Leaving Cert exam diarist 2011. He was a pupil at Mercy Secondary School, Ballymahon, Co Longford.

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