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Blissful liberation now that first exam is under my belt

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Ben Nolan and Luke Henry after sitting Leaving Cert English at the Institute of Education in Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney

Ben Nolan and Luke Henry after sitting Leaving Cert English at the Institute of Education in Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney

Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

Ben Nolan and Luke Henry after sitting Leaving Cert English at the Institute of Education in Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney

Hope is wriggling into me, in the same way that the classic Leaving Cert sunshine is shouldering its way through the rain clouds. Now that the first-exam ice has broken, everything feels a little more possible.

I pulled on my stiffly starched convent uniform yesterday morning and thought about how prim and intimidating it used to seem. Now it's just a worn relic, a Babygro that we're all slightly embarrassed to be seen in outside of school.

However, thanks to the economical minds of Irish mammies, it's still a size too big on me.

I share my exam hall with only four or five others. This means I'll be taking a good few exams alone. Perhaps a daunting thought to some, but heaven to me. Just me and my thoughts as usual, nobody there to question me beforehand or dissect the paper afterwards. A solitary end to a crowded three years.

I was in good spirits when English Paper One reached my desk and almost scoffed when I saw the presiding theme: Challenges. Yeah, you're telling me. Funnily enough, when I flicked and scribbled my way madly through the paper in those first five minutes, it didn't strike me as challenging at all. It was a lovely paper, with no tricky questions and a composition to suit everyone.

Perhaps I had a chance after all! I took the popular choice of Bono's graduation speech for Question A, and waxed lyrical about Bono's punchy, idealistic writing. Not very critically minded of me, I know. I think my happiness at the paper's simplicity was leaking out on to the page. Sorry, Bono. It was a good speech.

I was almost triumphant when I flipped over to my Question B. Write an article telling young people how to write a good short story, after spending three long years figuring out how to write a good short story? Of course I will! I ranted madly about what made 'Dubliners' great and about Chekhov's gun and 'show, don't tell' until my hand cramped in protest. I opted for the personal essay on endings, after all that, but I'm proud that my short story efforts weren't in vain.

I left my friends who are taking Home Economics behind to mutter amongst themselves about iron and fish and other such witchcraft. I strolled out of there in the knowledge that I'd never have to worry about Paper One ever again. It was blissfully liberating. The exams are easy - it's the worrying that cripples you.

When I went home I was welcomed with coffee and scones.

My mother and I ate in the wavering sunlight. I watched my dumb ginger cat hopping around the garden after bees and thought: there are much worse places and times to be in than this one.

Good luck with English Paper Two, my friends.

Dearbháil Clarke is a pupil at Meán Scoil Mhuire, Longford

Irish Independent