Monday 27 January 2020

Repeating the Leaving is not the end of the world

It feels like there's nothing more miserable, but it's the best thing I ever did.

Pupils of Marian College, Ballsbridge, Dublin sitting their Leaving Certificate Examination which began yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke
Pupils of Marian College, Ballsbridge, Dublin sitting their Leaving Certificate Examination which began yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke

Patricia Murphy

Seven years ago, when I was 17, I clearly was a dreamer.

Waking up early to collect my results on a sunny August morning, I seemed to think that a laid-back year spent watching the clock tick by in afterschool study and indulging in Home and Away on the sly was enough to get me through.

In hindsight, my routine was never going to be a recipe for exam success but it didn’t lessen my disappointment when I tore open that brown envelope, greeted by Bs and Cs. 

I wasn’t going to be offered any of the courses I really wanted to do but the biggest disappointment of it all was the knowledge that I hadn’t done my best. Nobody was disappointed in me, but I was kicking myself for being so naive.

The last few weeks of summer were spent in a whirlwind of gloom, dreading the September morning when I’d have to slip back on that awful brown uniform and try and integrate with a whole new year of girls.

While I was back in my first week of Leaving Certificate horrors, my friends were brimming with excitement of UCC Freshers’ Week. I was seething with jealousy at all the tales of mischief they were getting up to, while I was back listening to the same teacher drone on and on in double maths.

It was hard and I missed them. A few tears were shed in self-pity but a new found determination was also in the pit of my stomach. I wanted to show everyone my potential, I wanted to ensure that next year there would not be any humming and hah-ing about whether or not I would have enough points. Next year I would be patting someone else on the back in sympathy, I promised myself.

The year flew by as I threw myself into a whole new English course, dropped Chemistry in favour of Agricultural Science. I made a great new friend, who is one of my closest to this day. I began practicing a new exercise... actually studying.

When the exams came along, I wasn’t dreading them like last year. I was excited to get them over with, eager to escape for the summer and know I had nothing to worry about.

The first year, my CAO was littered with Law courses but during my repeat Leaving Certificate I had a lot of time to think about what I really wanted to do. A new course, Journalism and New Media was to begin in the University of Limerick that September and it all clicked together for me. This was what I wanted.

When that morning came beckoning, I ripped open that envelope and I was euphoric. This time I knew I pushed myself to my capabilities and I was so proud I was almost boastful.

I wish I could have bottled that happiness I felt that day.

The extra year allowed me to prove what I could achieve and also opened my eyes to what I really wanted to do. I had some of the best years of my life in Limerick and made some of the best friends and it all wouldn’t have happened had I not repeated.

I thought that my friends would drift away from me as they moved into their college bubble, but they didn’t and seven years later my best friend and I are perhaps closer than we ever were in school and throughout university.

I thought that repeating the Leaving was the worst thing that could happen and the most miserable way to spend a year.

To the contrary. It was the best thing I ever did.

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